To mark the 50th anniversary of Jamaican independence Island Records released a huge box set entitled ‘Sound System – The Story Of Jamaican Music’ on June 25th ’12. ‘Sound System’ features 8 CDs of glorious music and a deluxe hard backed book by acclaimed writer Chris Salewicz (author of biographies of Bob Marley, Joe Strummer and ‘Rude Boy – Once Upon A Time In Jamaica’) and hundreds of photos by legendary photographer Adrian Boot.
Compiled by Ramus (musical factotum at Chris Blackwell-era Island, Mango and Palm Pictures) and Paul ‘Groucho’ Smykle (dub producer who’s worked with PiL, Grace Jones, David Bowie, Jah Wobble, BAD and many more), ‘Sound System’ features 120 songs randomly programmed to ape the way a Sound System DJ might select his set on any given night. It features a wonderfully eclectic mix of R&B, mento, ska, blue beat, reggae, dub and funk and celebrates the incredible musical gift this small island has given to the world. When it comes to music and sport Jamaica certainly punches above its weight!
Sound System culture first took hold in Kingston Jamaica in the 50s when local promoters would load up a truck with huge speakers and a turntable, and DJs would play the latest sounds at street parties. In order to attract the crowds the Sound System DJs were in bitter competition to play the latest, rarest cuts from the biggest artists of the day. The best could attract thousands and it developed into a hugely profitable business which thrives to this day.
‘Sound System’ is a snapshot of Jamaican culture, the soundtrack you would hear on jukeboxes, ghetto blasters and on every radio station if you drove across Jamaica. From Althea & Donna’s global hit ‘Uptown Top Ranking’ to Eric Donaldson’s ‘Cherry O Baby’ via Augustus Pablo’s peerless ‘King Tubby Meets The Rockers Uptown’ and The Royals’ ‘Free Speech And Movement’ there’s something for everyone here.