Musically Mad
January 20, 2009

Label Musically Mad
Format DVD - Region Free
Languages English
Subtitles English-German-French-Spanish
Length 120 minutes (approx.)
Producer/Director Andreas Weslien & Karl Folke
'Musically Mad' is a DVD created by two Swedish reggae fans (Andreas Weslien & Karl Folke) who went to the UK and there they explored the ins and outs of the world of UK reggae sound systems. They take you on a journey you shouldn't miss.

Since the 1940's sound systems have been a major force in the development of Jamaican music. There has been a constant flow of immigrants from the Jamaica into the UK and times were hard for them. But they had the music from home "and so they'd have their little blues dance, their little community church dance where they would play their 78s and 45s that they brought up with them from back home, so its was a big part of keeping the community together and a bit of salvation at the end of the week". (Don Letts)

The first proper pioneer of UK sound system was Duke Vin who travelled to London in 1954, making his home in Ladbroke Grove. In 1955 at Brixton Town Hall he played out for the first time, with a kind of jumpy rhythm and blues that then ruled Jamaica. His influence resulted in other sound systems springing up and leading to the first UK sound clashes in 1956. Because Vin (and later the other sound men too) had close ties with leading produces on the Island they were assured of a steady supply of dub plates.

In the early 1960s Lloyd Blackwood left Morant Bay to migrate to Brixton. He set up his first sound system in 1964 and in 1969 he changed his sound system name to Sir Coxsone Outernational, because of his fondness for Studio One productions. They became one of the most important sound systems of the 70s and 80s alongside the soundsystems Jah Shaka and Fatman Hi-Fi.

Another key figure was Count Shelly with noted selector Tuts, the ruling sound in east London. Down in southeast London the Sir Collins Musical Wheel featured unusual pop tunes amongst its selection along with traditional reggae. Further important sounds were King Tubby's, Sir Jesus and Great Tribulation.

In 1980 vocalist Errol Dunkley brought leading Jamaican sound system Ray Symbolic with selector Jah Screw and deejay Ranking Joe to partake in UK a sound system tour. After the digital explosion on the island there was a noticeable shift in the UK sound system scene. The rise of the 'fast chat' school of deejaying by rappers like Smiley Culture and the dislike of the hedonic dancehall culture among many UK roots fans helped to create a sub genre initiated by the Jah Shaka sound system. This steppers style became (and still is) extremely popular in the UK. Noteworthy sounds are The Disciples, Jah Warrior, Channel One, Aba Shanti, Iration Steppas and Jah Tubby's.

The title 'Musically Mad' comes from the interview with Ras Wazier as he speaks about sound systems: "The love of music is the greatest thing, nobody can pay us for what we do, there's no set wages, we have to love it, or we must be mad... musically mad."

This documentary takes you 'to the hearts and heads of the singers and the soundmen'. There are interviews with Iration Steppas, I Natural, Dougie Conscious Sounds, Murray Man, Ironworks Dread, Ras Wazier, Terry Gad, Fatman Sound, Young Warrior, Mikey Dread, the Mad Professor, Levi Roots, King Shiloh, Russ Disciples, Reuben Addis, Afrikan Simba and Channel One. Everyone tells his own fascinating story and one thing is crystal clear, the love for music. You practically feel the love for the music of the soundmen when watching the dvd. There's inspiration, passion and commitment in their hearts and minds. The late Mikey Dread explains it all in just one sentence: "Sound system is something that I can tell you about but you have to feel, that's the nature of sound system. I can tell you about sound system from now until tomorrow morning but you have to feel sound system to know what it is all about." Levi Roots explains the role of sound system as a protector of roots music: "The Sound systems are the protectors of roots music, without sound systems roots music would slowly fade because these people on the radio aren't playing roots music, they are playing what they think the public wants to hear, and that's dancehall and that type of thing." They also take you back to the "old days" when things were even more interesting and vibrating and they witnessed history in the making.

There's a lot of live footage here. Live sounds: Aba Shanti I, Iration Steppas, Mighty Tabot, Channel One, King Earthquake, Entebbe Sound and Fairshare Unity. Some 60 minutes of bonus material which includes topics like 'Can A Sound System Be Too Loud?', 'King Shiloh On Special' and 'Fatman On The New Generation'. Nuff interesting vibes! The digipack release includes an extensive 12 page essay by David Katz "Steel Horns And Bass Bins In Blighty'.

The audio & video quality is excellent, and the presence of subtitles is very helpful. This 'labour of love' project by Andreas Weslien & Karl Folke is a 200% must buy thing.