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Dub is a music production style that originated in Jamaica in the late 1960s and early 1970s . Roots reggae songs were used as raw material, added effects and remixed. Nowadays the techniques used for this are used by many music producers, especially in the field of electronic dance music .


After the first plate pressing plant went into operation in Jamaica in the early 1950s, sound system operators began to produce acetate records, so-called dubplates , with Jamaican R'n'B from 1957 . The Jamaican patois expression dub , an abbreviation for "to double", originally referred to the process of copying sound carriers. Dubplates are unique items that were initially only intended for use in sound systems and were accordingly rare and in demand. For this reason, the term dub quickly took on the meaning of exclusive, special, particularly unusual. When it became clear that the dubplates with Jamaican productions in the sound systems were very successful, they were released as commercial vinyl pressings on the Jamaican market and soon afterwards also exported to the United Kingdom and the USA for Jamaican emigrants.

Two other important developments are related to the emergence of dub reggae: The emergence of Rastafarian- inspired roots reggae around 1970 and the expansion of the studio technology available in Jamaica.

At the end of the 1960s, it became common practice to publish instrumental versions of the songs on the A-side on the B-sides of rocksteady and early reggae singles. The essential characteristic of dub reggae, however, is not that instrumental versions were produced, played in the sound system and released as a sound carrier - this was already the case with many of the early Ska productions and then with the B-side versions - but rather, that the pieces were further processed in the studio.

A major addition to the home studio of King Tubby , one of the most influential engineers in dub reggae, was a discarded four-track mixer that Tubby bought from a Jamaican studio in 1972. Bass, drums, guitar / keyboard as well as wind instruments or vocals could be recorded separately on the four sound tracks and the volume of the tracks could be controlled independently of one another during mixing. After the dub sound engineers initially remixed original recordings of reggae pieces as dub versions, it became common in the 1970s to have studio bands re-record the riddims of well-known reggae songs. These riddims were then - at least in the early days of dub reggae - improvised live on the mixer.

The 1970s were the heyday of Jamaican dub reggae. Record buyers no longer only paid attention to the singers and producers, but also to the names of the sound engineers, singles with King Tubby versions sold particularly well, and the first dub LPs were released from 1973. After 1980, however, there was a turn away from roots reggae in Jamaica. In the music scene, dancehall reggae replaced Rasta-inspired roots reggae with a new generation of DJs and singers. This also marked the end of the heyday of Jamaican dub reggae.

In the UK, Jamaican music has had a prominent place on the popular music scene since the early 1960s. In the mid-1970s, dub albums such as King Tubby's Dubbing with the Observer were very successful in England . While dancehall reggae and later ragga dominated the 1980s in Jamaica, the roots reggae tradition was maintained and continued in England by sound system operator and record producer Jah Shaka . Between 1980 and 1991 Jah Shaka released ten LPs of his dub-reggae series Commandments of Dub .

The work of Jah Shaka is the reference point for the roots reggae revival in Great Britain in the late 80s with the establishment of new sound systems (e.g. Boom-Shacka-Lacka) and dub projects such as the Disciples or Alpha & Omega. At the beginning of the 90s, the roots-reggae revival sparked over to Germany, where active reggae and dub scenes have since developed in cities such as Hamburg and Cologne.

In addition to Jah Shaka, two other English producers and sound engineers, Adrian Sherwood and Neil Fraser ( Mad Professor ), determined the development of dub reggae in the 80s. Her work is characterized by both the experimental development of production techniques and the stylistic opening of dub reggae. This development was based on personal contacts with musicians from different styles. Adrian Sherwood's activities are not only of great importance for dub reggae, but also for the English pop music scene in general.

The openness to other pop music styles continues on a musical level. In the dub productions of Sherwood's label On-U Sound or Mad Professors record label Ariwa (with the Dub Me Crazy series from 1982) not only a further development of mixed media takes place, but also a conscious stylistic opening.

While the sound engineers and producers of dub were increasingly thinking and working across styles as early as the 1980s, the reception of dub music in the 1980s continued to take place on the margins of the popular music scene. This only changed in the 1990s due to new developments in dance music, whose tonal reduction to rhythmic patterns, their sound design and production method in the studio and on the computer offered new points of contact. A number of dub crossover productions have now emerged. Sound effects and sub-bass melodies in the drum and bass also offered points of contact to dub, as did the ambient and chill-out music, which focused on spatial depth and slowness.

The influence of dub reggae on trip-hop artists , which was initiated in the first half of the 1990s by musicians and producers from Bristol, England ( Portishead , Massive Attack , Tricky ), is expressed both in a dub-typical sound Recordings as well as personal contacts that have naturally transcended stylistic boundaries within electronically produced music since the 1990s.

The Jamaican rocksteady and reggae singer Horace Andy played on Blue Lines (1991), the first record success of the Bristol producer trio Massive Attack. From the second Massive Attack album Protection (1994) Mad Professor produced a dub remix with the title No Protection . This highly acclaimed dub CD is probably partly responsible for the fact that dub is now also trusted by a wider audience.

In the 1990s, a correlation between dub reggae and various popular styles of electronic dance music developed. Since then, dub has often been understood as a cross-style production method that impresses with wide reverberation spaces, echo delays and differentiated sound effects as well as a reduction in the sonic texture (caused by the fading in and out of tracks on the mixer and the simultaneous addition or removal of effects - especially tape - Delay ) and in which a bass line is also the focus of the pieces.


The most important feature of dub reggae since the early dub pieces has been the fading out and fading in of individual recording tracks. While the recording tracks on the studio mixing consoles could only be switched on and off using button switches, the multi-track mixing consoles developed in the early 1970s made it possible to continuously regulate the volume of the individual tracks with slide controls.

While multi-track mixing consoles are usually used in popular music to add additional instruments or sound layers to the existing song through additional recording tracks, dub artists work in the opposite direction: they are concerned with reduction, with thinning out the rhythmic-tonal texture. The sequence of the dub pieces is fundamentally shaped by the principle of subtraction, the removal of individual tracks. Although the formal structure of the dub recordings is quite individual, some form stereotypes have emerged:

At the beginning and the end of the piece, a melody line played by the singer or the winds usually sounds without the accompaniment of bass or drums. After a few seconds, this melody is faded out or disappears into the depths of the room. Now the rhythmic-melodic framework of the riddim of bass and drums sets in, which can often be heard without additional instruments.

As the piece progresses, the instrumental tracks are faded in and out again with increasing flexibility. There are passages in which only bass or drums sound, whereby the bass line is sometimes distorted by overloading. But bass and drums can also be hidden. The rhythm patterns of guitar and keyboard can also be heard in individual passages. The melody of vocals and winds usually only sounds fragmentary. The fading in and out of the individual recording tracks is not always done in accordance with the relatively simple formal structure of the riddims, in which two or three different two- or four-bar patterns are usually repeated and strung together. Rather, dealing with the musical form in dub reggae is very playful. Sometimes the formal basic structure of the pieces is emphasized by the flexible fading in and out of recording tracks, sometimes deliberately veiled.

Digital delay

Another basic design element of dub reggae is the constant change in the sound image of the recordings through the use and combination of panorama control, artificial reverb , echo effects ( delay ) and sound modulations ( phaser or flanger ). Presumably some of these sound effects were already used in sound systems before they were used in the studio context. Thanks to the panorama control, the sounds of individual instruments and entire groups of instruments migrate from left to right and vice versa, by changing the setting of the reverb device from the present foreground to the depth of the room.

Reverberation effects are widespread on hits of the bass and snare drum, in which individual impulses of a hit sequence are provided with different reverb spaces, while other hits sound without reverb. The combination of reverberation device and echo device results in another typical dub effect, in which the echo delays of sounds - for example individual drum hits - slowly get lost in the depth of the room. In many cases, the setting of the delay time creates an additional polyrhythmic level.

The characteristic sound aura of dub reggae can thus be described as the interaction of several dimensions: the rhythmic heaviness and sonic warmth of the roots reggae riddims, the bass-heavy sound, the slow tempo and the fundamental laid-back feeling of reggae -Rhythmics is reinforced by a strategy of reduction, fading out individual instruments, thinning out the rhythmic-tonal texture. At the same time, the effects mentioned create a strong spatialization of the sound image.

Because of the riddims, which are often based on well-known reggae songs, and because of the fragmentary vocal lines at the beginning of the recordings, many dub pieces have Rastafarian connotations. In contrast to this religious content, however, there are other sound effects and gimmicks, some of which were already used in the early sound systems: amplifier crackling , blows to the spring reverb device and measuring beeps can be found as well as gun salvos, police sirens and cuckoo clocks. Some dub recordings resemble the soundtrack of a cartoon. A closeness to the comic strip can also be seen in the design of many record covers (for example by Lee Perry , Scientist or Mad Professor ).


The history of dub was documented in the 2007 film Dub Echoes .

Important representatives

See also


  • Steve Barrow, Peter Dalton: Reggae. The Rough Guide. The Definitive Guide to Jamaican Music, from Ska through Roots to Ragga. Rough Guides, London 1997.
  • Marcel Beyer: Dub Special. The mother of all remixes. In: Spex. No. 10, 1993, pp. 40-49.
  • Lloyd Bradley: Bass Culture. When Reggae Was King. Penguin Books, London 2000, ISBN 0-14-023763-1 .
  • Sebastian Clarke: Jah Music. Ashgate, London 1980, ISBN 0-435-82140-7 .
  • Martin Pfleiderer : Riddim & Sound. Dub Reggae and the Developments in Newer Popular Music. In: Thomas Phleps (Hrsg.): Popular music in cultural-scientific discourse. II. (= Contributions to popular music research. 27/28). Coda, Karben 2001, pp. 99-113.
  • Michael E. Veal: Dub. Soundscapes & Shattered Sounds in Jamaican Music. Wesleyan University Press, Middletown 2007, ISBN 978-0-8195-6572-3 .
  • René Wynands: Do The Reggae. Reggae from Pocomania to Ragga and the legend of Bob Marley . Pieper Verlag, 1995, ISBN 3-492-18409-X . (also Schott, 1995, ISBN 3-7957-8409-3 ) (PDF)
  • Felix Urban: DELAY. Diabolical game with the time machines. Technology. Music production. Reception. 1st edition. Scientific articles from Tectum Verlag: Medienwissenschaft, No. 37 . Tectum Verlag, Baden-Baden 2020, ISBN 978-3-8288-4395-0 , p. 276 .

Web links

Commons : Dub music  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. cf. on this Barrow / Dalton 1997, p. 229 ff
  2. cf. Barrow / Dalton 1997, p. 325ff.
  3. Barrow / Dalton 1997, pp. 205f.
  4. cf. Peter Shapiro: Drum'n'Bass. The Rough Guide. Jungle, big beat, trip hop. Rough Guides, London 1999, ISBN 1-85828-433-3 .