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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Blackheart Warriors Hi-Fi: Humbly Pressing on from the Audio Cassette to the Speaker Box

Now a days each and every music lover can point and click to websites like Talawa.fr  or the mighty Jayman's Who Cork the Dance and immediately be awash in an endless archive of new and old recordings of live and direct sound system sessions.  Jah Shaka at Phebes from 1982. Check.  Jack Ruby at Skateland round 'bout 1981. Check.  Boom Shaka Lacka meets Eastern Sher in Southall 1991. Check.  Point and click. Download. Add to your iTunes library. Press play.  

Not long ago though this flow was a little way slower.  

Rewind to the days when these digitized piles of ones and zeros first became captured moments of audio wave artifacts.  There one will find the compact audio cassette.  TDK D-C 60.  Scotch Dynarange 90. Sony Hi Fidelity 120.  These were the brands that youth and youth stowed away in their pant pockets along side a hand held recorder in the recesses of a jacket coming out of the cold. Pass through the gate. Settle into a spot next to a speaker box.  Press record. Skank the night away knowing as you do that your Sony Walkman gonna run heavy the next day.


Get home. Press record again. Syncro dub a copy on the double deck.  Pack it up for a friend with an exclusive to you xeroxed cover of dread artwork. Maybe send one to a cousin a city or country away.  Repeat the process over and over again.  Tape fly over from JA or the UK to Brooklyn, USA. Brooklyn to Hartford.  Hartford to Miami.  Miami to Houston.  Houston lift off like NASA to LA.  Sound travel far and wide and land in diverse places.

So it was for San Diego's very own Blackheart Warriors Hi-Fi and its foundational members, Prince Zahir and Orthodox Reuben.  Before these two Rasses began building boxes, wiring speakers, and painting Southern California in the ites, gold, and green of Rastafari Sound System culture they traded in sound tapes, gleaning from them the deep spiritual vibes and inspiration found therein.  As Orthodox Reuben states, "I was first introduced to reggae sound system culture through the tape side of trading.  Ones and ones where I grew up were always in possession of these spiritual recordings, that as a youth coming up, struck a chord with my soul!"  Much like Reuben, Prince Zahir, the other half of Blackheart Warriors Hi-Fi, found deep edification in the distorted, degraded recordings.  This edification was mediated through both Jamaican and UK sound tapes recorded in yards and halls of the African Diaspora from Skateland to Phebes.  The city of San Diego itself, home to a long standing reggae scene, also provided these two burgeoning soundmen with a rich and knowledgeable community of old roots reggae connoisseurs and music appreciators through whom they furthered their knowledge.


Inspired by their love of sound system tapes, a local scene that welcomed the likes of UK roots stalwart Martin Campbell - anybody remember his geographically specific titles "San Diego Vibes" and "San Diego Dub!" on the Channel 1(UK) Label? - as well as an endless flow of top class Jamaican performers, their faith in Rastafari, and a strong sense of a "void" in their area Reuben and Zahir set out to build Blackheart Warriors Hi-Fi in 2004.  Zahir explains, "Although there were many selectors in our area at that time, I felt that there was a lack of sound system vibes in the more traditional sense of custom built sound systems. I felt the best way for us to deliver roots music was to build a custom set for us to play on.  I knew no one locally who could give me advice or show me how to create a set so I had to study and learn everything on my own.  I give thanks to places like speakerplans.com and its forum which helped me with a lot of technical questions I had.  I also give thanks to my father who was a construction worker.  As a child he taught me  how to use the tools necessary to build speaker boxes.  With this knowledge and foundation I was able to hand build the sound myself.  We are still considered a small sound in comparison to some of the UK/EU sounds, yet we continue to strive, to build, and to circulate Rastafari vibrations no matter how many watts or amount of boxes we use."

Reuben, a man of both academics and action, views Blackheart Warrior's mission as an act of self sufficiency, community activation, and upliftment of Afrikon peoples at home and abroad.  For a time, one manifestation of this  community activation came when Reuben ran the legendary one stop San Diego roots and culture record shop - Trade Roots Records.  Much like the Dub Expo's elder stateman, Humble Tafari of Wildfiyah Rootikal, Reuben and Zahir see the praising of Jah Rastafari, His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I, as the central motivation for their involvement in this musical dispensation.  They perceive reggae sound system music as a stepping stone to inspire the listener to influence bigger things, to impact the broader outernational issues that affect African peoples worldwide from education, social and economic disparities, and racial inequalities.  As Zahir sees it, "We BHW Hi-Fi are warriors fighting against wickedness in high and low places.  Music is our weapon and Haile Selassie is I and I field marshall.  The music we play is positive, heartical, and educational with a focus on breaking the mental chains of Afrikan People worldwide."  Just as the compact audio cassettes Zahir and Reuben collected were stepping stones into a deeper spiritual dimension of Rasta livity and Reggae, so too in their own humble way Blackheart Warriors Hi-Fi are placing another brick in the foundation, building on what came before them, and delivering it to a new audience of San Diego Youths. 


For their part, of all the US based sound systems, Blackheart Warriors Hi-Fi probably play out the most with regular gigs at various Southern California venues.   With each session at places like World Beat Center, Wabash Hall and their regular event, Temple of Roots at the Kava Lounge, Blackheart Warriors have slowly made a name for themselves in and around San Diego and in California as a whole.  This is in spite of struggling in a scene where club owners privilege alcohol sales over edifying musical vibrations and in-house P.A.s over the inspiring weight of a custom made sound system. Along with fellow Expo sound system, APS, and the more rock steady oriented Foreign Love Hi-Power, Blackheart Warriors are cultivating an increased awareness of Roots Reggae Dub in Southern California.  This is an awareness that the music they promote is a spiritually transcendent form most optimally delivered not by the staid format of a live band stage show, but through sound system.  This is also the mission of Wildfiyah Rootikal, APS (US), and Ras Kush and Black Redemption Sound.  This is the mission of the USA Roots Reggae Dub Expo collective.  


...So before you say to yourself "I'll just download the session recording from Talawa.fr and listen to it on my iPod,"  activate into the community and start making plans to reach the 2nd Annual USA Roots Reggae Dub Expo in San Diego on Saturday the 27th of August 2011. As it has been said before let it be said again: All roads lead to the World Beat Cultural Center, 3200 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA.  Blackheart Warriors Hi-Fi will be there.  Wildfiyah Rootikal will be there.  APS will be there. Ras Kush and Black Redemption will be there.  Brizion will be there.  From 8 PM to late, people from all four corners will converge to hear and feel the power of this movement as it gains speed and momentum in the USA.  Guidance along the way!







6 comments:

  1. Like Pablo Gad dropping into a Desmond Mahoney drum roll this sound is HEAVY.

    Looking forward to BHW advancing the UK vibes (old and new) inna SD area on the 27th!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Give thanks for the comment JT. The Expo collective is whole heartedly looking forward to your presence at the session!

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