Sound clash virgin no more
At 10 p.m. on Saturday night, I found myself getting dressed to attend, of all things, a sound clash. Hosted by the Red Bull Music Academy and Titan ‘The Art of Entertainment’, the event was just one of a few Red Bull-sponsored events hosted last weekend.
Anyone who knows me would be shocked to know I attended, as I typically prefer the careful environment of a restaurant or the monitored ambience of a popular nightclub. I can be very much a snob, so attending a sound clash isn’t really something I’d usually do. Yet there I was preparing to be a part of something I knew very little about. I was aware that it involved DJs, music, and some sort of competition, but I really wasn’t clear on the details. Talk about pretend. I did the whole, “yeah I know what this is” act, but my friend called my bluff and set me straightSo let me give my fellow clash virgins the run-down.
A sound clash is a sort of battle between two DJs or sound systems where the objective is to ‘kill the other sound dead’. Yes I said kill and dead. Sounds scary and for a minute I almost asked my friend to drop me off at 51 Degrees, and pick me up on his way back, but my pride wouldn’t let me be a coward, so I inhaled and pressed on. After he explained that the DJs use specially made dub plates – exclusive pieces of music voiced mostly by reggae/ dancehall artistes specifically made to ‘kill’ sound systems – I felt a bit more at ease (and yes he had to explain what a dub plate was; told you I was new to this).
At 11 p.m., when I arrived, large groups of people were already outside along with a few strategically placed scalpers. My friend already had his ticket. Me. I got mine from a scalper for $180. It cost $200 at the door (don’t judge eh; that twenty dollars I saved bought me lunch the following Monday). Of course I almost flipped when I read the ticket, and realized I had just paid $180 for a comp that said “Ladies valid till 11 p.m.”, but I made it inside.
The venue was nearly empty with groups of people scattered near the back, and a few local sound systems were showcasing their talents for what I was sure would be an eye-opening experience. As midnight drew near, patrons started coming in, filling up the venue, and soon a change of MCs from 94.1’s charismatic DJ Smooth to widely popular Hyper Hoppa signaled the beginning of the main event – a sound clash between, world famous DJ and reggae ambassador David Rodigan and New York-based sound system King Addies with Babyface. Of course I had to be told this, as I’d never heard of these people before.
“King Addies looked like a dancehall DJ – good-looking with long dreads… Rodigan, on the other hand was a complete surprise”
King Addies looked like a dancehall DJ – good-looking with long dreads, and well, he had a watered down Jamaican accent. But, as I learnt afterwards, he has his skills, and as a notch on his belt, he also has the epic showdown with Jamaican sound Killamanjaro. Rodigan, on the other hand, was a complete surprise. A tall, middle-aged, white British guy speaking perfect English, and looking like he should be at home watching Family Feud reruns, he walked onto the stage, and started organizing his equipment. Talk about excitement; you could feel the anticipation building.
Babyface from the King Addies sound system opened, offering the crowd his first tune, which happened to be the Trinidad and Tobago national anthem. The crowd was in glee; even I the sound clash virgin was impressed. Telling us that he was Trinidadian by birth, despite his Jamaican accent, and the fact that he lived in Brooklyn, he launched into his set for his allotted 20 minutes. With famous dancehall artistes crooning that Babyface’s and King Addies’ sound ‘murders’ and ‘kills’ sound boys, the clash was officially in session.
Then it was Rodigan’s turn to fire back, and his triumph over the younger man was almost embarrassing to watch. From the first round to the last, his 30 plus years of experience was obvious. Rodigan starting deejaying when he was 15; he’s 58 now. By the fourth round, the banter between both DJs seemed normal to me, and when Babyface said that he would ‘kill’ Rodigan with his next selection, I was as excited as everyone else. Babyface pulled out an exclusive Talpree dub plate, but the crowd was lukewarm, so he followed it up with Calypso Rose. That got him the response hw as looking for. Can you imagine Calypso Rose singing that Babyface would kill Rodigan dead? I honestly felt that that round would go to Babyface, as it would be hard to beat a Calypso Rose tune in T&T. But when Rodigan reclaimed the microphone, he berated Babyface for trying to show him up using soca and calypso. That was when he ‘buss’ an ultra exclusive Ravi B version of ‘Ah drinka’. The crowd went wild – myself included, and I will shamelessly admit that my ‘gun finger’ was in the air.
By now, most of you know that Rodigan won the clash, and based on audience reaction, it’s no surprise.
Overall, it was a terrific experience and I’d give the entire event a seven out of ten, points being lost for the limited selection of food, the fact that after a while the only thing being served at the bar was rum and coke, and the atrocious customer service by the bar staff. Other than that it was tonnes of fun. Ah didn’t get to wine down like I would have in the club, but I did enjoy a well organized show. This clash won a new fan of the genre, and like a bonafide DJ, all I can say is “Put yuh ‘gun’ finger in the air!”.
Listen to the entire clash here:
Image credit. Red Bull Music Academy Radio.