Dub Colossus is hailed as one of the most inventive fusion acts of recent years, with their blend of contemporary and traditional Ethiopian styles, jazz and dub reggae. With two successful albums to their name (A Town Called Addis and Addis Through The Looking Glass)
Dub Colossus began as the vision of musician/producer Nick Page (aka Dubulah), founding member of Transglobal Underground and Syriana, who first travelled to Ethiopia’s capital in 2006. There he came across some amazingly talented artists – female vocalists Tsedenia Gebremarkos, a fine, soulful performer and highly successful African pop star; and Sintayehu 'Mimi' Zenebe who runs a nightclub in Addis; extraordinary young pianist Samuel Yirga, veteran saxophonist and jazz exponent Feleke Hailu and Teremage Woretaw, a traditional folk singer, an azmari, an exponent of the one-stringed messenqo violin. Add to this mix Dubulah’s love of 1970’s Jamaican Dub Reggae and Dub Colossus was born.
Dub Me Tender is a reworking of tracks from both Dub Colossus albums plus four previously unreleased tracks – all put through a dub blender – a distinctly personal approach for Dubulah.
The original aim of Dub Colossus was to combine the golden years of Ethiopique beats and Ethiojazz with the dub reggae styles of the early 70’s groups like Abyssinians and Mighty Diamonds. The dub element on Dub Me Tender, ever-present in the first two albums, has been pumped up – giving these tracks a full Dubulah workover. This is an album in the tradition of Joe Gibbs’ African Dub series and Dennis "Blackbeard" Bovell, but it is still the extraordinary Ethiopian essence of Dub Colossus that gives the tracks on this album a unique edge.
Dub Me Tender features the cast of Addis Through The Looking Glass; the original Ethiopian musicians are joined by the reggae singer Mykaell Riley (Steel Pulse), drummer Nick Van Gelder (Jamiroquai), the Horns of Negus brass section, bass work from Dr Das (Asian Dub Foundation), and double bass from Bernard O’Neill (Syriana).
It’s always a challenge for someone like me to explain the spontaneous musical creative process that is an integral part of making a dub record - a bit like describing how to bake a cake whilst trampolining in the dark. But that is the fun of it, after all; the making of odd sounds by accident and design using different areas and frames of reference!
Another way of describing dub from my point of view is as a humorous and surreal reaction to an insane life in an insane world or resistance via sonic satire!
Dub was originally the remixing and reinventing of reggae songs in the late ‘60s early ‘70s, sometimes with new or placed instrumentation and musical lines.
Using effects such as echo, reverb and phasing but shifting the emphasis to create a sonic impression of big landscapes, space and dimension, as well as humorous and odd sound effects. A bit like a slick TV ad being turned into a Looney Tunes cartoon or a Fellini or Kusturica film visually remixed by Wallace and Gromit in an altered state. The effect of a good dub track should be to transport you to an abstract world in your minds eye.
For me, most successful and original dub producers were Joe Gibbs, King Tubby, Lee Perry, Prince Jammy and Scientist, and more recently dubsters like Mad Professor, Adrian Sherwood and "Groucho" Smykle.
Old dub records were made by performance. For example a group of between one and six people had an audio channel each, sending a signal to effects via aux and eq ports on a mixing desk with someone on the delay feedback control, in a roughly rehearsed performance so as to keep the element of surprise, chance and happy accident.
I remember doing this with Transglobal Underground and Natacha Atlas on ‘Diaspora Dub’ - we all had two knobs each to send to different effects that had been set up prior to the mix. We would select two or three takes of the mix and then edit the best bits together.
Digital editing means easy manipulation and processing of mixes and tracks but it doesn’t make up for the performance aspect of dub.
I wanted Dub Me Tender to be in the style of the greats, but also contemporary and forward looking. The Ethiopian elements of the music made for a strong unique identity. The combination of analogue and digital sound sources makes for a great combination.
The album was recorded in Ethiopia, Scotland and in England at Real World and Intimate Studios.
SSL and Neve desks were both used in the recording and premixing of the album, but for the dubs my Soundcraft and effects units were easier to use, although I also used a control surface in conjunction with Logic 9 for digital dubs.
Some of the sound effects used on the album are homemade, some are manipulated samples...children’s toys, wooden rulers and mouth pops! - VIVA DUB!
Neve VSP72 84 input flying faders (Intimate Studios)
Otari Radar 2
Otari MTR 90
SSL XL9080 K series (The Big Room, Real World Studios)
SOUNDCRAFT RACPAC (Castle Dubulah)
Mac Book Pro
RME FIREFACE 800
I used the following for the dub effects and feedback:
Analogue: Sound City Echomaster (made by Binson circa 1964) metal wheel, wire, tape heads.
- Danelectro spring reverb
- Line 6 Delay 1 u rack module
1/4 or 1/2 inch Tape recorder plus multispeed
Plug Ins used included:
Audio Damage - Dub Delay
IK Multimedia – Ampeg SVX
GSI – Type 4 Spring Reverb
TAL - Dub Delay 111
Subscribe to Society of Sound to download high-quality albums from Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios and the London Symphony Orchestra. All available in Apple Lossless and studio-quality FLAC. If you already have a Society of Sound membership please sign in
Find out what Bowers & Wilkins customers and audio enthusiasts are talking about on our blogs, and read in-depth articles in the Sound Lab.
Be part of ‘One Album Per Hour’, with BeardymanJuly 10,2014