A Guide to the Dubwise Discography of Hi Fi and Biggabush Rockers


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A Guide to the Dubwise Discography of Hi Fi and Biggabush Rockers

By Oliver Walkden May 24, 2021

As anyone familiar with rock ‘n’ roll history knows, the term “rockers” was popularized in the 1940s, when bands like Memphis Slim And The House Rockers started the party in the United States with their Loud R&B. “Rocking” was a secular sex analogy in black America at the time, but it was also a spiritual analogy, largely derived from gospel music – see double meaning of rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe, for example. Swaying is about movement, after all, whether it’s the involuntary physical response to a groove, the vibrations that rock the walls of amplified sound, a body gripped by the Holy Spirit, or the carnal gyration of the hips and bodies.

It’s no surprise that the term was picked up beyond rock’n’roll in the 1960s, by selectors and soundboys who “rock” dancehall parties with massive sound systems on the streets of Jamaica. . After the frantic pace of ska music, rocksteady took over the island – a slower, more alluring style that takes its name from a Alton ellis track, giving rhythm to the appearance of reggae and dub.

A notable champion of the scene was Augustus pablo, who founded the Rockers International label in 1972 (named after his brothers’ sound system) and released the founding dub album King Tubby’s meets the Uptown Rockers. Two of Pablo’s contemporaries, the duo Sly and Robbie, conceived in a more aggressive reggae style which they named rockers and set the precedent for the even more combative genre, the steppas, which followed in the 90s.

Hi-Fi Rockers was built on that foundation of Jamaican wax, solid wood sound systems and heavy bass. Formed in Birmingham in 1992, Glyn Bush, alias Biggabush, and Richard “DJ Dick” Whittingham (later joined by MC Farda P), has become one of the most prominent representatives of the dubwise experiment in the UK.



Bush’s relationship with the dub didn’t start on the dance floor, but in the punk venues of the Midlands. Between groups, DJs played dub-reggae tracks to keep the energy going. The links between punk and reggae have been well documented, embodied by bands like New Age Steppers, and have been fomented more clearly in the Rock against racism movement. It was Bush’s first encounter with sub-heavy Caribbean music, as the frontman of the post-punk band The downsides. Speaking of his Dorset home, he recalls that “DJs didn’t have punk records when he started, so they played dub. I also listened to John Peel who always played a lot of dub stuff. It was a very nice mix of two different cultures.



It wasn’t long before Bush gave up guitars in favor of electronics. He took an apprenticeship at the equipped recording studio at the Triangle Arts Center in Birmingham, immersing himself in MIDI and programming technology and becoming a dexterous sound sampler.

Soon he was listening to big imports of American homes by people like Todd terry and Bobby Konders. “I spent the whole night dancing to this crazy music that I had never heard before and I never really regretted it,” he says. You can hear the influence of Chicago jacking house and wacky euphoria on their sample-packed 12-inch debut album, Breathless, and throughout their nascent material.

As they worked together their sound became more refined; according to Bush, they had not had a clear direction to begin with. “We just wanted to create tunes for people to dance to. But after a while we found this kind of mix of dub and house, ”he says.



This merger was inaugurated on their biggest single ”Push, pushWhich samples the angelic voice of Johnny Osbourne from Scientist’s dub version of “He Can Surely Turn The Tide”. The song’s rough, elephantine bassline and mid-air bangs made it a club classic later on. remixed by German house producers MANDY and Oliver koletzki. But the less successful commercially “Hash reminder”On the B side is perhaps the cut of choice, skillfully combining dubby drum fills and breaks with a liquid groove.



As the duo became synonymous with dub, they were approached by Mike Barnett of Beyond Records (now Waveform) to contribute to a series of compilations entitled Ambient Dub—An epithet that many consider a full-fledged genre.

“He said, ‘Want to do some ambient dub for us?’ And we were like, “Yeah, I don’t know what it is, but that sounds interesting!” So we did this trail called ‘Sexy selector,Bush says. It’s an eight-minute odyssey into a deep ocean of dubwise references, with echo-soaked synths, alluring breakbeats, and silent samples. The sound was intended for the soundtrack of holiday lounges, delivering intoxicating atmospheres combined with the strong embrace of sub-bass.

Other ambient dub moments in their catalog include “Space meccaAnd an Avon-esque trip-hop work like “Period of Babylon”, recently reissued on Rockers Rarities 92-99.



In the late 90s, the Rockers were getting big. Originally signed at Island Records subsidiary 4th and Broadway but later abandoned, they were immediately recovered by Warner. They have toured extensively to promote the Mish Mash and held a special two-night residence at the crypt beneath St. Martin’s Church in Trafalgar Square, which Bush recently unearthed nearly 25 years later. Their live setup consisted of rapper Phoebe One and MC Farda P on the mic, Whittingham on the decks and Bush playing on a sampling keyboard and a Roland Space Echo – a method they lovingly dubbed “decks and effects”. .



But by the millennium, Bush was done with the Rockers lifestyle. After meeting the director of the Bristol School of Samba in 1988 and attending one of his workshops, Bush had developed an immense passion for Latin American percussion music. This spawned the Lightning head nicknamed, used to explore global rhythms and make DJ montages of Latin jams, and continues today with True thoughts reissue an updated version of 13 faces of Lightning Head.



Another Latin-inspired outfit was Magic drum orchestra, formed from Glyn’s own community samba group in the south of England. Although primarily a live band, MDO has released two records on Tru Thoughts, including irreverent covers of Shy FXclassic drums and bass “Original nuttah“And the dubstep anthem of Benga”Crunked Up. “



The name BiggaBush debuted in 2004 with the album Bigga Bush Free on Stereo Deluxe, and with it returned the dubby-house crossover sound. This culminated in the monumental Bush remix of Swayzak ‘s “Illegal,” starring the famous dub poet Benjamin Zephaniah—A fellow Birmingham man with whom Bush shares not only an education on Midlands dub sound systems, but also the exact same date of birth.



The album is far from the projects focused on the Bush beat Stories of sunken foals, his personal favorite from his back catalog. His music has always been rich in samples (a cheeky exercise in “seeing what [he] could get away with it, ”he says), but this record is perhaps his richest in sound collages. To produce this experimental set of soundscapes vignettes, Bush revisited his extensive collection of vinyl finds in charity stores. He would randomly select three records and sample them on the fly, recontextualizing poetry, folk songs, classical pieces, library music, and other quirks. It’s full of delectable cracklings, dusty melodies and sparkling spoken incantations to tease the subconscious.



Three decades later, Bush’s music still thrills the dancefloors. Crate digging house DJs such as Francesco Del Garda brought her early rave songs to life for an audience of young dancers at festivals and after-hours parties.



Rocking classics such as the 12 inch version of “Stoned (Manali cream mix)“Were looking for obscene prices in online marketplaces, but Seven Hills Records stepped in to compile some of the band’s greatest hymns for new listeners. Why does this sound continue to resonate with younger audiences? “It’s still incredibly fresh,” Bush says, “and there’s nothing else like it.”

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