Saturday, October 16, 2010

Scientist: Dub from Obeah-Myal to Outer Space

For those who never stop complaining that there isn't enough dub in dubstep comes news that Tectonic Recordings are releasing a whole album of remixes by Jamaican dub producer Hopeton Brown, AKA Scientist. 'Scientist Launches Dubstep Into Outer Space' is out next month,and features remixes of tracks by Shackleton, Kode9 and King Midas Sound among others (full track listing at Resident Advisor News).

Scientist first came on to my radar during my Autonomous Astronaut search for interesting space-themed music, in particular his 1981 masterpieces Dub Landing and Scientist Meets the Space Invaders. Brown was only 21 when these came out, having served a teenage apprenticeship at King Tubby's Dromilly Road studio in Kingston. Thirty years later he is still in dispute with record companies about the royalties for these and other early albums (see this interview at United Reggae). With his evident interest in extraterrestial adventures, Scientist can be claimed for the reggae wing of the 'Afrofuturist' current, with their 'projections of Africanized technology, of dreadlocks as antennae, of blackness into space and the future' (Wayne Marshall, Trading in Futures: from Rastas in Space to Dreadlocked Aliens and Back, Woofah #4, 2010).

But Robert Beckford has also linked Scientist to the African-Caribbean past:

'What I find most interesting at this juncture in the development of the genre is that Brown, who made his name at the Randy's studio, used the self-description 'scientist'. Those familiar with Caribbean religious cultures will know that this is a designation for an indigenous healer or Obeah-Myal practitioners... Brown infers that dubbing, in this culture at least, is a holistic enterprise involving mind, body and spirit'.

Beckford sees dub as healing, part of 'the pharmacosm of sound in African cultures', and further that 'dub as an act of deconstruction' involving 'taking out and bringing in' sonic elements draws on 'healing practices in Jamaican folk culture'. He describes 'the Obeah-Myal complex' as an 'African religious survival' practiced by the slaves and their descendants in Jamaica: 'Obeah involved the deployment of malignant spirits on adversaries through a variety of tactics and techniques. To combat Obeah, Myal, the good medicine, was sought. Myal medicine provided protection against the bad spirits and returned the individual and community to equilibrium' (Robert Beckford, Jesus Dub: Theology, Music and Social Change, Routledge, 2006).

A similar point has been made by Lloyd Bradley, who Beckford quotes: 'It's an ancient African medicine that splits the body up into seven centres or 'selves' - sexual, digestive, heart, brain etc. - and by prescribing various herbs and potions would, as practitioners always describe it, 'bring forward or push back' different centres: remixing, as it were, a person's physical or mental state into something very different... In the same way by adjusting the controls at the mixing desk, a tune... can be reinvented' (Lloyd Bradley, Bass Culture: when Reggae was King, Pluto, 2001).

Anyway here's some medicine:

No comments: