Dub music is a form of Jamaican music, which evolved out of Reggae in 1960’s Jamaica. The dub sound consists predominantly of instrumental re-mixes of existing recordings and is achieved by significantly manipulating and reshaping the recordings, usually by removing the vocals from an existing music piece, emphasizing the drum and bass frequencies or ‘Riddim’, adding extensive echo and reverb effects, and dubbing occasional snippets of lyrics from the original version.

Lee “Scratch” Perry

It is widely accepted that Jamaican musicians Osbourne Ruddock (more commonly known by the pseudonym King Tubby), and Lee “Scratch” Perry pioneered the style in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. Ruddock and Perry each called upon the mixing desk as an instrument, with the Deejay or “Selector” playing the role of the artist or performer. This early ‘Dub’ music experimentation can be looked upon as the prelude to many dance and pop music genres.

King Tubby

Dub music is characterized as a “version” or “double” of an existing song, often instrumental, using B sides of 45 RPM records and typically emphasizing the drums and bass for a sound popular in local sound systems. The instrumental tracks are typically drenched in sound processing effects such as echo, reverberation, part vocal and extra percussion, with most of the lead instruments and vocals dropping in and out of the mix.

Another hallmark of the dub sound is the massive low-pitched bass guitar. The music sometimes features processed sound effects and other noises, such as birds singing, thunder and lightning, water flowing, and producers shouting instructions at the musicians. It can be further augmented by live DJs. The many-layered sounds with varying echoes and volumes are often said to create soundscapes, or sound sculptures, drawing attention to the shape and depth of the space between sounds as well as to the sounds themselves.

There is usually a distinctly organic characteristic of the music, even though the effects are electronically created. Often these tracks are used for “Toasters” rapping heavily-rhymed and alliterative lyrics. These are called “DJ Versions”. As opposed to Hip Hop terminology, in Reggae music the person with the microphone is called the “DJ”, elsewhere referred to as the “MC.” (Abbreviating “Master of Ceremonies,” “Microphone Commander” or “Mic Control,” this term varies regionally and demographically). Additionally in Reggae the person choosing the music and operating the turntables is the “Selector” (i.e., the DJ).

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