Sound systems have been pivotal to the evolution of music. These customised super-amplified mobile systems used at the heart of street parties have been an integral part of Notting Hill Carnival, London's annual Carribean festival since 1973, operated by a talented team of MCs and DJs.
The sound system phenomenon is firmly rooted in 1950s Kingston, Jamaica. Huge speakers, generators, amplifiers and turntables were loaded into the back of a van and transported to any neighbourhood corner to provide the soundtrack to a street party. At the time, few people could afford to buy their own records or radios so sound systems became the way people accessed new music. As one of the only avenues through which new sounds reached a wider audience, Sound Systems were greatly influential in shaping new musical movements.
Known for their heavy bass signature which draws in crowds, the configuration of speakers and amplifiers act to immerse audiences in each System's unique sound. Notable people like Tom Wong, Duke Reid, “Sir Coxsone” Dodd, King Tubby, Joe Gibbs, and Lee “Scratch” Perry earned acclaim by playing the local sounds of Kingston, which predated dancehall, reggae, and ska, and winning sound clashes — informal battles between two sound systems set up near each other.
The culture of the sound system was brought to the UK with the mass immigration of Jamaicans in the 1960s and 1970s. Notable UK Sound Systems include Sir Coxsone Outernational, Jah Shaka, Channel One, Aba Shanti-I, Jah Observer, Quaker City, Iration Steppas, Fatman International and Saxon Studio International. The speaker setups became more complex throughout the 1950s and ’60s, but ultimately it was about who had the clearest, loudest sound using a combination of a turntable, mixer, subwoofer, midrange speaker, tweeter, and an echo chamber (an element that provided reverb).
Reggae found its way through India with Reggae Rajahs which was formed in 2009 when Raghav Dang and the like-minded reggae lovers DJ MoCity (Mohamed Abood) and General Zooz (Zorawar Shukla, f.k.a. Mr Herbalist) came together. With a vision to grow the Reggae and Dub scene in India, the crew created their own sound system, called ‘10,000 Lions,’ and helped organize Goa Sunsplash, India’s first reggae festival.
Rewind to 2008, a year before Reggae Rajahs were formed in New Delhi, Hyderabad had its own movement cooking up with Bala Subramanyam AKA who had just returned from Hungary after working at a community radio station in Budapest. Dakta Dub embarked on a mission of bringing Reggae music to his home city of Hyderabad and for the decade that followed, he held monthly residencies across India, gaining national recognition as a harbinger of India’s budding sound system culture.
In 2011, he founded Monkey Radio India, a radio program that spans both local community radio stations and major internet streaming platforms. Through a series of underground parties, Dakta Dub started a music and cultural movement in Hyderabad reviving roots, reggae, and Bass music which successfully evolved into a full-grown collective called featuring rib-rattling, low-frequency dances in the tradition of Jamaican culture, combined with Indian and eclectic styles with local and international artists playing dub to jungle and everything in between.
In 2018, Dakta Dub started his biggest project up to date, the — a Jamaican-style, hand-crafted sound system, the first of its kind in Hyderabad. This 5-way, 14000 watts sound system is hand-built by Taus, a highly experienced British sound system designer based out of Goa. Among all the speaker boxes, the sub-bass boxes tend to be the weapon of a sound system. The hog scoop is the weapon of choice for the Monkey Sound System.
Launched in March this year, Monkey Sound System is ready to shake the ground with sounds of dub, reggae and bass with an upcoming gig happening at the Labyrinth Lakefront - a pet-friendly lakefront cafe in a bohemian-inspired natural setting overlooking the beautiful Gandipet lake in Hyderabad. Artists like Delhi Sultanate, K.lee.t, Skanking Star, Raayal Dub, Ras Man Man and Dakta Dub himself will be seen performing on Vinyl on 27th November.
With the constant efforts of Dakta Dub along with other artists, Bass culture has really bloomed in Hyderabad over the last decade. And with the addition of the city’s own reggae/dub sound system, a new world has opened up for some spectacular gigs on the horizon. If you’re in the city, do yourself a favour; witness the celebration of roots, rock and reggae this Sunday and join the cultural revolution.
You can get your passes here and check out a film on sound system culture in Hyderabad by Roy Dipankar & Dakta Dub below.