“Playing music, for me right, it gets some heads together. Get a little tribal thing going on, you know. Get the frequency up… Everybody’s on that frequency. It’s always been about that…and exciting people, and changing their frequency”- Robbo Dread, Hockley, Birmingham, 2017 (Jones and Pinnock 2018: 120).
As early as 1947, Hedley Jones, the legendary Jamaican sound engineer, was building bespoke, hi-fi quality amplifiers for Kingston’s formative sound systems, along with bass reflex, mid-range and tweeter speakers (Lesser 2012: 10). The Jamaican reggae sound system remains the most celebrated example of a communal entertainment institution centred around the re-performance of recorded music. It was in the Jamaican context that the creative possibilities of this process were first realised. Jamaican sound system culture has a rich heritage that extends deep into the roots of Jamaican popular culture. But its lineage also feeds forward into multiple facets of contemporary popular music. Its profound legacies can be heard in countless genres, from jungle and UK garage to dubstep and grime. Sound system culture prefigures the DIY, anti-commercial ethic of rave and dance music in the 1980s and 90s. Its methodologies and performance practices have provided blueprints for numerous non-reggae sound system cultures, from underground soul to hip-hop.