Saturday, November 17, 2018

SOUND CLASH CULTURE // Chris Dubbs Discusses the Future of Sound Clash with Chin (Irish and Chin)

Toronto dancehall fans have been fortunate: for the past two years, the World Clash sound clash competition has been hosted right here in the city. Two years ago, Caribbean entertainment specialists Irish and Chin adjusted the process of their international event so that the winning sound would receive the honour of bringing the World Clash to their hometown to defend their title.

With the 20th anniversary of World Clash taking place tonight in Toronto at the Tibetan Cultural Centre, reggae music lovers from Canada and international supporters who have travelled into the city to witness the show, will be treated to an evening of competition between the two-time champion King Turbo sound, and the Rumble Series champion sounds representing their own home towns, hoping to bring the event to their city next year in celebration.

Tonight, clash fans will get to hear the best of the best from Rumble Series winners from across the globe: Jah Works (Japan Rumble), Empire Sound and Mour Dan (UK Rumble), 3 Sevens (Caribbean Rumble), Deebuzz (European Rumble), Dynamq (U.S. Rumble), and Mystic Sound, the winner of the Canadian Rumble.

It is a process now well executed. From promotions, to music, regulations, and participants, the international brand that is World Clash has been 20 years in the making, and now a staple in the reggae and dancehall community. Based out of New York City, Irish and Chin have crafted this event to represent sound system lovers and practitioners, noting that this event is frequently regarded as the "pinnacle of their career" for participating sounds.

Yesterday evening, November 16, during an interview on The Vibe Drive with Chris Dubbs on Toronto's VIBE 105.5fm, Garfield "Chin" Bourne reiterated the importance of including international sounds, and sustaining the energy of the culture he has always loved. In town for the big event, he noted that there were other sound clash fanatics who contacted him, letting him know that they, too, were flying into Toronto to take part in the 20th year celebration of the event.

Each city and country has its own vibe and their own way of appreciating the music. "The energy is mixed," Chin told Chris Dubbs. "In Japan, there is a great acceptance for the culture, and the fans come out in the hundreds. The UK also has a strong sound clash culture," he said. "The Caribbean has a strong culture, but it needs to be developed." Mentioning that the focus in the Caribbean tends to be on Jamaica, the original home of the sound clash, Chin also believes that the enjoyment should span across the greater Caribbean. "We want to give the Bajans and the Trinis a chance as well," he said. "Every place has a different energy, and a different dynamic."

Chin, who started out in music as a selector in U.S., was always a fan of hardcore dancehall. Growing up in the vibrant New York dancehall scene, patronizing locations like the Biltmore Ballroom, and Amazura, he knew from early that this was a culture that he would be committed to. Just like music has changed over the decades, however, so has technology, the industry, and the cultural ambassadors that communicate and share the sounds.

"We need to modernize the sound clash tradition," said Chin, internationally regarded as a leader in the culture. "We need to work to make it more attractive." He recommended a change to the emphasis on dubplates, and instead focusing on talent, hype, energy, and crowd enjoyment during sound clashes. Chin would like to see the sound clash evolve into more of a musical competition, awarding those who have the most vibes, instead of those who have the most expensive vibes (via dubplate). "We should bring back 45's, and encourage sounds to be creative with their music. Find people who can be themselves."

Both Chris Dubbs and Chin agreed that the youth are an important factor in the culture's relevance and longevity. Thankful to have Chin on The Vibe Drive reggae radio program to discuss sound clash culture and the related processes, Dubbs believes that everyone has to play their respective parts in supporting and sustaining the evolution.

"We are extremely proud that World Clash has stood the test of time," said Chin in a World Clash news release. "Our goal is to have the World Clash brand and the phenomenal art of sound clash continue to wow international audiences for years to come." He added: "I am equally interested for new sound system stars to achieve notoriety and success, while new fans are introduced to the allure and thrill of sound clash."

Congratulations to Irish and Chin for their contributions and professional conscientiousness!

Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Jamaica Music Conference 2018 // Constructive Conversations: Dialogue. Decisions. Development.

This weekend, Kingston, Jamaica will be bustling with artistic activity and progressive energy focused on the future of Jamaican music, as the Jamaica Music Conference (JMC) hosts their 6th annual edition of this education and networking event. The JMC's theme this year is "Constructive Conversations: Dialogue. Decisions. Development." with the goal of continuing to "provide a platform for independent music professionals to discuss challenges, opportunities, and solutions in the music industry."

The JMC will take place from Thursday, November 15 through Sunday, November 18 at a range of venues across Kingston. Hosted mainly in the Edna Manley College and at the University of the West Indies Mona Campus, locations around the town from beaches to restaurants are also on board as community partners for this important celebration.

The population of Jamaica is currently around the same mark as the population of Toronto: just short of 3 million people. Nearly twice the size of Canada's largest city, at 10,000 square kilometers, the power and international impact that Jamaican music has had on the world over the past few decades is undeniable. Not only has Jamaican music shaped the identity of the island, but it has also been the unofficial ambassador of the country's values, vibes, and visions.

While the island has changed considerably from the days of Bob Marley travelling the globe sharing lyrics and rhythms of hope and prosperity, the culture and impact of reggae music has also changed--naturally. The sounds have evolved, the industry has new players, and the musical landscape has become digital...and instant. With this evolution, and the emergence of social media and global communication, the essence of Jamaica is easily transferred and the sounds of the island becoming more universal as well.

On the evening of Monday, November 12, Coleen Douglas, the Media Coordinator of the JMC was featured on the weekly radio program "The Vibe Drive with Chris Dubbs" on Toronto's VIBE 105.5fm, to speak about the upcoming conference, and
motivate those who are interested in the music industry to be aware of the event, and the ways in which attending will be beneficial to aficionados of all backgrounds. Douglas noted the universal appeal of reggae music, and stressed that it was a common topic of discussion that would be explored at the JMC.

With recent mainstream chart-topping songs from pop artists like Justin Bieber and Ed Sheeran, rappers like Drake, and obvious influence on a number of rhythms and movements, the topic of "cultural appropriation" was mentioned as an element of concern to the Jamaican music industry, as well as something that potentially has an effect on the music's prosperity.

Douglas mentioned that the passion for reggae music oversees is evident, and as a result, the various panels and meetings taking place during the conference would specifically address how to market and communicate music internationally, and also how to utilize the influence of the sounds and style of Jamaica to the benefit of the industry at home.

"We want to encourage others in the diaspora to come home," said Douglas, speaking of the conference's impact on Jamaican ex-pats who are always welcome to attend and lend their perspectives on the ever-growing music industry. "We want them to visit Jamaica not just for a holiday, but to take part in the development."

Chris Dubbs, who has been an on-air radio host in Toronto for over ten years, has consistently been committed to promoting the genre of reggae music in Canada, as well as the surrounding culture. Canadian born to Jamaican parents, Dubbs realizes the role of the reggae music practitioners in helping to not only share the music of Jamaica, but also to provide access to resources and opportunities for growth.

"I'm hoping to continue to use my platform to promote the development of the reggae music industry here in Toronto, but also back in Jamaica," said Dubbs. "As radio professionals, we have a responsibility to play the music and give it air-time and exposure, but also to strengthen the industry itself by spreading positive messages and making sure that the artists and the listeners have access to the music and the supporting industries that will help our culture grow."

During their interview, live-to-air on the Vibe Drive on Monday evening, Coleen encouraged brainstorming, and asked that listeners and reggae music lovers utilize the Jamaica Music Conference online platforms to communicate with one another, comment on initiatives, and also share their thoughts on the industry and what is required to make it successful for everyone.

"The Jamaica Music Conference lends to tourism opportunities," said Douglas, declaring that the town of Kingston (aka Music City), was not only a hub for artists during the JMC weekend, but also other industries that contribute to the growth of Jamaica's cultural infrastructure. She stressed that music "connects" individuals, from merchandising to the tourism industry, and that the JMC, the music industry, and related events have a "ripple effect on the full economy" of Jamaica.

Reggae, an important element to the culture of the Caribbean island, is being used as a point of interest to this discussion and others. During the 4-day JMC weekend, the panel discussions and educational sessions will be complemented with community service opportunities, nightlife events, as well as "fun in the sun across Kingston." This will all occur to a backdrop of the "information exchange between the who's who of reggae and mainstream music entertainment, and up and coming talent," according to the JMC.

The conference expects just under 1,000 attendees this year, of all ages, including a range of artists, writers, musicians, producers, event promoters, DJs and sound systems, journalists, managers, and other industry practitioners from here in Canada, as well as across the U.S., Europe, and Caribbean.

Topics for panel discussions and presentations will include women in music, making money from digital content, and music publishing basics. to name a few. Special guest participants and performers include Marcia Griffiths, Freddie McGreggor, and Tifa, amongst other experts from music and academia. On schedule for entertainment this weekend: a celebrity football match, a "clean" sound clash, an open mic showcase, and morning meditation and yoga sessions on the beach with well known facilitators like Kamilah McDonald and Jason Worton. A full agenda of the activities and sessions is listed on the JMC website.

"Reggae is Jamaica's gift to the world," said Douglas. "The Jamaica Music Conference gives us the opportunity to improve life, offer practical ideals, and move forward."

Registration for the event is open at, and additional information can be obtained by connecting with their social media outlets on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Book Review: "Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks on Me" by Charlamagne Tha God

Charlamagne has transitioned nicely from a radio host into the role of a best-selling author. With television and online messaging also a part of his professional equation, he has become the consummate communicator! Now also one of my favourite folks to read, I was quite pleased when I saw news about his latest book on Instagram back in August, and found myself counting down the days until the release of "Shook One." I was so impressed by his first book "Black Privilege" released last year--he is a voice of reason and expertise in many areas that I love and enjoy: media, Black culture, music, and now publishing as well! He is also a voice of honesty, with a story of determination and a really awesome perspective on social issues and cultural personalities.

Released by Simon and Schuster on October 23, "Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks on Me" is a reflection on Charlamagne's experiences with anxiety, and how he has met, survived, and persevered through these challenges throughout the course of his life. Already the co-host of the top hip hop radio program in the U.S. (and most popular hip hop radio program worldwide, I believe: The Breakfast Club on New York City's Power 105.1fm), Charlamagne has definitely earned his rank at the top of his game.

Not only is he now an author, he's also a social media influencer (as evidenced by his fabulously entertaining and informative Twitter and Instagram accounts), executive producer of his production company CThaGod World LLC, in addition to hosting his podcast The Brilliant Idiots. Over the years, he's become a familiar face on all media platforms, and seems to be on his way to becoming a multi-platform media mogul like Ryan Seacrest or Steve Harvey--listed as two of his role models in the industry.

To the rest of us, consuming media, social media, music, and all other forms of entertainment on a daily basis, Charlamagne is someone we can expect to keep it 100, with an objective-yet-informed perspective. He used to be someone easily heated, always controversial, and often provocative. We've all witnessed the dramatic celebrity interviews and even the hilarious conversations that have brought him to journalistic excellence as of late, and now he's taking his voice of leadership to another level. His voice continues to be informative, and now also very personal.

The book "Shook One" begins quite fittingly with some words of wisdom from Brad "Scarface" Jordan and the Geto Boys' song "Mind Playing Tricks on Me." Speaking about paranoia and anxiety through lyrics was an acceptable form of communication in the early 90s, used as a way to "open up the conversation" about issues of anxiety and related mental ailments. Charlamagne reflected on this track in his introduction, as one of the most important methods of talking about an otherwise taboo issue in the hip hop community. Also mentioned as effective: "Streets is Watching" from Jay-Z and "Feel it in the Air" from Beanie Sigel.

To continue the narrative of addressing paranoia, Charlamagne crafted this book as a tool to face and overcome fears and occurrences of anxiety "rather than being handcuffed by them." He wanted to be innovative in preaching the "masculinity" of taking care of your body, as well as your mind. He wanted to remove the restrictions, and let the subject be openly acknowledged. Even with Black men. Especially with Black men.

Perhaps a book like this could have been helpful in the days of the Geto Boys and throughout the development and growth of hip hop. Needless to say, rappers have always represented the collective voice of internal thoughts and shared experiences. Individuals find solace and comfort in the words of familiarity from rappers and their counterparts, using music to express passions and realities, as well as communicate fears.

"Anxiety and blackness seems to go hand in hand. It's like African-Americans have permanent PTSD that dates back to slavery," Charlamagne summarized. He calls this being "Blackanoid," and explained this "epigenetic inheritance" as passing trauma to a child and subsequent generations (i.e. the damages of slavery). He says that "over time the effects of racism have a corrosive effect on us" causing lasting and chronic damage in some cases.

You'd think that with all this "Blackanoia" and other effects of social trauma, that therapy would be a commonality amongst Black folk. Unfortunately, this is not the case. According to Charlamagne, "not a lot of black folks want to run to a white person with their problems. Especially when the majority of those problems stem from a system organized and run by white people." Fair enough. Of course not all therapists are white, but the majority in that field in the U.S. are, and the best therapy tends to happen between a client and professional with a shared understanding of cultural cues.

This discussion of anxiety and therapy, throughout the book, happens in the context of Charlamagne's life. From talking about his parenting, his daughters and wife, finding a work-life balance, and dealing with other common issues of adulthood, professionalism, and living in this disturbing social media laden Trump era, he also offers recommendations, clarifications, and plenty of justification for his readers to seek their own answers via a psychologist or mental health professional. Overall, he advocates for therapy and in-depth communication, suggesting that once personal issues are confronted that "the pain that used to feel so heavy suddenly begins to lift."

Where does a lot of that pain come from, aside from the past? Social media, of course! A good portion of this book is dedicated to analyzing something we all realize to be true: consuming the amount of deliberately manipulative information we do on a daily basis can lead to nothing good. While it serves its promotional and informational benefits, there is also a layer of deception and addiction that is plaguing us all.

We know this, every time we pick up the phone to passively view Instagram or pree Twitter. We know this, yet many of us are hooked. Including Charlamagne. He says: "I don't think social media represents our intellectual achievement. If anything, it's collectively making us dumber." He believes the evil forces of visual IG illusion to be a main contributor to anxiety that many suffer from in this day and age.

"Shook One" is a good read, full of gems and interesting anecdotes. The best part to me is how personal Charlamagne gets by telling intimate stories of his own fears and apprehensions, yet putting them in the greater context of his fabulous life and what he has learned along the way to becoming one of the top radio personalities of our time.

His hopes for this book are pure. He'd like to see more authenticity and folks being constructive. He'd like us to continue to seek information, to seek awareness of our roots, and to master the art of finding personal equilibrium. He also would like us to have clinical assessments, and has a psychiatrist named Dr. Ish provide summaries at the end of each chapter to put a medical and scientific conclusion to his own thoughts. Very informative!

The biggest lesson to be obtained from "Shook One" is that evolution is a beautiful thing. I admittedly wasn't a huge fan of Charlamagne initially: he made me uncomfortable. He knew this because I wasn't the only one. He noted that: "For a long time, that's how the world saw me. Cocky. Aggressive. Fearless." But despite occasionally getting a bad rap early out in his career, he acknowledged that we all need healing, and we all need help on some level. This is something that is constant: growth, and evolution over time. Just as important as it is for us to see images of people succeeding, living out their dreams, and following their goals, it is also important for us to witness growth and development. The tools to get us there are priceless, and necessary. This book can be classified as a very timely and relevant tool for self-improvement.

It has been inspirational to see, hear, and read the evolution of Charlamagne, and needless to say, I look forward to reading his next best-seller!

Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.