Fri, Jul 07, 2006 - Page 15 News List

The Vinyl Word

By Steve Price  /  STAFF REPORTER

The O-Brothaz Sound System brings Caribbean vibes to Taiwan.

PHOTO COURTESY OF TAHRIC FINNEY

If music be the food of love, then turn it up. The Vinyl Word this week brings you two interviews, the first with the crew behind The O-Brothaz Sound System that will burn up The Wall tomorrow night with an array of reggae, dancehall, soca, zouk and calypso. The group is Taiwan's first Jamaican-style sound system and has set up the nation's first foreign-owned music label and is on a mission to promote Caribbean music and culture and nurture local talent.

Also, Johnny Fiasco reveals his thoughts on his monthlong sabbatical in Taiwan when he played a weekly residency at Luxy and produced two tracks in the studio taking the island as his inspiration.

Sound systems took off in Jamaica over 50 years ago and were set up to play music that wasn't aired on the radio. These mobile party crews worked with artists to produce music and provided an avenue for up-and-coming musicians to be heard.

The O-Brothaz Sound System was set up two years ago by Lion and Young Blood, both from Jamaica and Assassin who hails from Martinique.

After a series of gigs at Barrios on Dunhua South Road the crew played a few gigs at the Living Room, then secured a regular slot at TU.

Assassin: Corbit [The Living Room's boss] gave us a chance to do a few shows. We were free to do what a sound system was really about. And that was when Young Blood came into the picture, he was from Jamaica ... and had been operating a sound system in Toronto.

Lion: In the Caribbean there was a lot of music you couldn't hear on the radio. So what happened was people would buy records of popular Jamaican music and get out on the street, or a small yard, and play it there. Doing that involved a whole culture.

Assassin: More and more people are starting to appreciate the music... . We are not just playing the music, we want to promote Caribbean music. Taiwanese people don't really know about this type of music.

Lion: At the beginning a lot of people would just be standing around at our shows thinking, `what is this?'

(O-Brothaz played TU for one year, until the club changed hands.)

Assassin: Then we took a break, and we did some gigs at The Wall.

Lion: When we were playing at TU we saved and saved and bought our own equipment. We have a studio now, in Beitou.

Assassin: We want to produce. The feeling I have always had playing clubs is that the bosses always try to control what you do. And we wanted a place with more freedom.

Lion: It's been really good at The Wall.

(Tomorrow night's bash is the sound system's third at the venue that was once the preserve of local alt rock outfits.)

Lion: From the first gig at The Wall in January, the word just spread.

Lion: The technical thing about mixing reggae is quite different from mixing say techno. Because a lot of the music in the Caribbean is still live, it's an off-beat music. Whereas a techno DJ may have four or five bars of the same beat he can mix in, we might get two, and then it will change.

(The O-Brothaz Sound System, unlike systems back in the Caribbean mixes it up, and plays a wide spectrum of beats and sub-genres.)

Lion: With reggae you have about five different kinds; dub, which is instrumental, close to the original kind and also close to drum and bass and you have dancehall, like our club music, then you have roots which would be like Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, then lovers' rock.

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