How Jamaica Conquered The World

Recently, through a chance Twitter encounter, I was interviewed about my experiences working for Island Records Canada for a series of documentary podcasts called “How Jamaica Conquered The World.”  As a professional journalist for 4 decades, and having been interviewed myself, one often regrets opening up to a stranger.  Not in this case.  How Jamaica Conquered The World is a quality product and I am thrilled to be connected with it.  I am sure Roifield Brown will not mind me quoting from the site:

Just as the Roman Empire conquered the known world 2000 years ago, in
the 19th century the British, through trade and slaves, created the
largest empire that this planet has ever seen. Today, the United States
may be a super power in decline but its economic power produced a
colossal “soft” empire spanning the late 20th century. It put boots on
the ground in hot spots around the globe, McDonalds restaurants in every
city and the entire world has watched its movies.

However, the small island of Jamaica has forged a new type of empire,
an intangible realm of which there are no physical monuments. There is
no official political or economic sphere of Jamaican influence but when
it comes to popular culture its global reach is immense, far exceeding
the reasonable expectation for a nation of just over 2.7 million people.

For a nation that gained independence from the British only 50 years
ago, Jamaicans have left their mark on music, sport, style and language
around the globe and have become an international marker of ‘cool’.
Jamaican music has colonised the new and old world alike, its athletes
break world records with impunity and youngsters the world over are
incorporating Jamaican slang into their dialects. Despite this the
country has reaped no economic reward in return, unlike empires of old,
and Jamaica still remains an economic pygmy. Jamaican influence has
unconsciously spawned creative innovation around the globe and to this
day it remains a country to be studied, celebrated, and demystified.
Through the help of linguists, artists, musicians, and historians we
take a closer look as to how Jamaican culture conquered the world.

So far my contribution to How Jamaica Conquered the World is limited to Chapter 7: The story of Dub music.  Roifield tells me he had never heard of Easy Star All-Stars until I twigged him to them.  If you are only learning of Easy Star All-Stars, here’s something to dance to while I tell you a bit about ESA-S.

But before I do, let me tell you about my love for Pink Floyd’s original “Dark Side of the Moon”, which I heard on the original vinyl, off the earliest pressings, when the LP was new.  Since then I have listened to that record thousands of times, under just about every illegal drug known to man.  I was one of those people who, early on, heard that one could sync up Dark Side with The Wizard of Oz (@Aunty__Em!!!  @Aunty__Em!!! ) and it was a whole new experience.  Every note of that record is imprinted on every neuron I have left.  It’s one of the greatest LPs ever released.  Yet, Easy Star All-Star’s Dub Side of the Moon kicks its ass.  I’d rather listen to it than the Pink Floyd version that now sounds to these ears tepid and too nuanced. 

Easy Star do something very brave in my opinion: They take iconic record albums and Dub them up.Starting with the above, ESAS’ next release was called Radiodread a recreation of Radiohead’s OK Computer.  AMAZING!  Then…and then…and then…They took one of the most iconic record albums of the Rock and Roll era and turned it into Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band.  It is absolutely incredible.  Easy Star is a collective of musicians who also do a lot more than their cover albums.For me their most recent hit was turning over Dub Side to be remixed by the likes of Mad Professor, Dubmatix, Groove Corporation, The Alchemist and Adrian Sherwood.  Dubber Side of the Moon is far more psychedelic and spacey than anything they’ve released so far. 

Roifield tells me I will also pop up in the Bob Marley episode.  I sure hope it’s my “meeting Bob Marley” story because it’s a good one.  If not, I’ll tell it here after the podcast is posted.  Hell, maybe I’ll tell it here even if it’s in the podcast. It’s a great story.

Thanks Roifield.  You are doing a great job.

About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.