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Sunday, August 21, 2011

An Outernational African Roots Act: Ras Kush and Black Redemption Sound

Choice is a t’ing.  Choices always bubble and bounce and need to be made.  Crucial times bring crucial choices.  Such it is with a soundman.  A soundman is always making choices.  What “chune” to play and when in a dance to run it?  When to lift the vocal?  When to drop the horns cut? When to forward on to the melodica participation?  How long before setting the needle on the stripped back raw bone drum and bass mix? Plastic or dubplate? CD or vinyl? How warm to run the bass, fine tune the treble, or move the mid-range in the mix?  Choices.  Always choices. Choices like dubs mixed in motion and made for the healing of the nations.

So too it is with the word and with a story.  Where to begin and how? Pick a point and let the rhythm words run…Well here so, a story of NYC-based, Ras Kush and Black Redemption Sound, is gonna start in...Japan.

Japan land of the Rising…Dub? 

<<<<Rewind back to 1986 when New York cassette only label ROIR (pronounce it ROAR!) dropped a little release by a band named Mute Beat entitled very simply “Japanese Dub.”  Behind the yellow, green, and red label was nestled the warmest, most rootical and austere, jazz-meets-dread beat rhythms fronted by a seriously unsung hero of the global roots community - One Mr. Kazufumi ‘Echo’ Kodama, trumpet player and mastermind behind Mute Beat and the first wave of Japanese Roots Reggae players…A deeper story maybe for another time zone on these pages or another….

>>>Fast forward.  Year 2005.  Put a documentary in the DVD player: “Melodious Riddim: Japanese Roots Rock Reggae.” Run it ‘til 8 minutes and 30 seconds in. Along side Kazufumi ‘Echo’ Kodama up on a stage a Rasta by the name of Kush appears.  Black tam on his head.  A sweat shirt across his chest emblazoned with the album cover of a classic Bronx-based Lloyd Bullwackie’s production.  It reads “African Roots Act 1.”  In between Kodama-San’s horn sweet notes the youth man Kush chants, microphone in his hand, “Come to blow down the walls of Babylon…We come to blow down the walls of Babylon.” Two worlds drop in the mix together.  One vocalist. One hornsman.  Both blowing down the walls of Babylon.  A choice is then made. The documentary’s editor clips the scene and segues into a next moment of a Kush-ite interview.  The soundman Kush say:

The drum beat, which is the foundation for reggae music, that is corresponding to the heartbeat. So that, the heartbeat, the music always have to be coming from the heart.

Edit. Cut. Minute 9. Second 17.  Ras Kush’s time in “Melodious Riddim” is done.  But still that BULLWACKIES image on a sweat-shirt lingers like so many melodious riddims jumping across the oceans and back again bringing this story as it does from Tokyo over to Brooklyn and the Bronx.  It is there in the boroughs where Ras Kush’s soundman education began:

I was fortunate to grow up in a part of Brooklyn, New York where Reggae Sound System culture was imported by Jamaicans who had migrated to the United States.  I remember hearing and seeing such legendary personalities as Danny Dread and King Addis Sound, Third World Sound System, and the great [mic men] Lone Ranger and Dillinger.  As I got to be a teenager I ventured to the Bronx to hear the sounds of African Love with Bobby Culture, Louie Ranking, Nicodemus, and a young Shinehead. Later on I discovered the World Famous BULLWACKIES DISCO which enchanted my ears to what I later came to know as DUB-WIZE.

So it was that a youth feed on the sound system riches at play in New York spots like the Biltmore Ballroom, the Starlite Ballroom, Club Illusion, Empire Roller Rink, Tropical Springs and the Harlem YMCA came to be an outernational emissary of Jah Roots and Culture music.  Similar to so many of the brethren and sistren who work in the realm of sound system, Ras Kush sees himself as an ambassador and promoter of “ancient vibes through the youth vitality.”  Like a mountain stream formed of melting snow that runs into the warm oceans far below, Ras Kush is a man that honors the fluid connections between the movement’s elders and the young audiences that are now being drawn into the fold outernationally. 

Through the music he selects, produces, and releases on his own record label, Black Redemption, Kush waters the roots of the global sound system community just as his New York mentor, Lloyd Bullwackies, fed so many of us with his own unique African Roots Acts during those heady days of the late 1970s and into the 1980s.  And, even further afield, back to where this story began,  back in Japan, Ras Kush walks the Rasta soundman walk with others quietly doing jah works - Mighty Massa, Echo Kodama, Ras Takashi, and the Wackies Far East Chapter to name just a few - devoted and unwavering, stridently and devoutly focused for all who have eyes to see and ears to hear.  The UK, The European Union, Japan, and various cities in the United States are only some of the branches to have been blessed with Kush's purifying musical waters. 

So you choose: Where do these roots begin and where do they end? How do you want to be a part of this story for the years and decades that rise and fall, begin and end? 

Well fastforward  then >>>>> Make the crucial choice and come to the 2nd Annual USA Roots Reggae Dub Expo in San Diego on Saturday the 27th of August 2011. Ras Kush and Black Redemption will be waiting there right down the road at the World Beat Cultural Center, 3200 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA. From 8 PM to late.

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