I have been wanting to do a feature on Cyprus based ‘netlabel’ Dubophonic for a while now. I can’t think of anywhere else on the internet where you get a steady stream of top quality new dub releases for free. This new album by Negritage called Greetings From Planet Dub, is a great example of the dub reggae they have on offer. It is really time to help get the word out!
I think reggae, more than some other genres, is split between those who want to make money and those who perhaps are more focused on getting their music and spiritual message across. I am not so naïve in thinking that smaller labels and artists don’t want to make some cash. But perhaps to labels like Dubophonic, spreading the message to as many people as possible is more important than Euros?
With the majority of Dubophonic releases as free downloads, I was intrigued to understand what motivated them. I asked founder Savvas Thomas (aka Dub Thomas), the big $64,000(!) question, ‘Why release music for free?’
Dubophonic - Free Music
Savvas not surprisingly has strong thoughts on this, I shall let him explain, ‘There are so many good things regarding free music. When there is no money involved then what remains is the pure love for music and the pure love of sharing. Of course music cannot be given free without the ok of the artists!’ He continued, ‘Sharing music also has benefits for the artist, because by giving their music for free, it makes them more "famous" and can help build up a fan base for them, especially when they are not known to the people. Perhaps when they later decide to sell their music they will have some people who will follow them and support them’. That makes sense to me, it is tough to penetrate the vastness that is the World Wide Web and to find those people who are receptive to what you are doing. It is just the same as blogging, you just want to get people to listen and you do need some help with that.
Savvas believes this is particularly needed for dub and reggae music as he explains, ‘It is double more important to give it for free since the message of love and unity is what we preach, and this message has been so often mistreated by the big names of reggae music ... personally I think that money and reggae are two incompatible things. If you look at the reggae business of today, it is all about hype and how they can get money out of this hype and many reggae artists don’t follow what they preach in their songs.’ Strong words there from Savvas and I can’t help agreeing in some respects. Obviously reggae has a wide range of styles and sounds, it is not all about peace and spirituality. But does all roots music that comes out, stick with the ideals of Rastafarianism, does it have to in this modern age? I think it does, as society is under attack from the ignorant and destructive, we need strong messages of peace and love more than ever. That is not some kind of hokey hippy crap, we need to understand each other before we destroy everything.
Anyway back to this album! Four years ago Dubophonic released the first Negritage album and it was downloaded over 25,000 times. That is a seriously impressive figure, and to put it into context, weekly sales of 4-5,000 would get you into the UK album top 40. OK it’s free and not paid for but that is still a big figure. Again Savvas emphasises that he wants to have his releases to have integrity, ‘I prefer to reach through our
free releases and spread the message in the lyrics to all those people, rather than to sell the music to 100 people to earn some hundred dollars.’
It sounds like what makes Dubophonic work is the ‘family’ all pulling together, offering their time and talent for the common goal of getting the music out to as many people as possible. For Greetings From Planet Dub, the tracks were written by Negritage then sent through the internet to other singers or players of instruments to add their parts. Then it was back to Argentina (Negritage’s homeland) for final mixing and then back to Cyprus for mastering. Even the fantastic artwork is done by William (leader of Negritage). This is how the label stays sustainable, one goal with everybody contributing. This is surely as close to real reggae as you can get, all working together for the greater good, spreading co-operation and love to the world?
I am not one for reciting big chunks of press release, but in this case I think it is worthwhile to acknowledge some of the creative people who helped Negritage with this album. I shall let Savvas pass on his thanks, ‘Big up all the artists from all four corners of the world, who collaborated with Negritage and made this release possible: the original roots defender dub activist Jam York (USA), the mighty Sammy Gold (UK), the wise Ibel Campbell (JAM) delivering solid and conscious messages, the dub poet and free thinker Haji Mike (CY), the studio wizard and dub creator Med Dred (CY), sister Yuuri Bamboo (JAP) blazing those melodica vibes, Christina Polycarpou (CY) doing her magic on the lyre, the humble Mandlion (ITA), flute master Eter Dub (ARG) and the lyrical messenger Zion Irie (FR).’
I have written a lot here and not talked about the music so that is your task, have a listen to the SoundCloud clip and if you like what you hear then head to the Dubophonic website or their Bandcamp site where you can download the album for free. If you want to do your bit and contribute to getting the message out there, then please share this piece. I shall leave the last word to Savvas, a guy who
you cannot help respect for the work he puts into promoting the artists he collaborates with. ‘We have a saying here in Cyprus, one hand washes the other hand and both hands wash the face’. Wise words….!
Bless, Paper Lion