Warning…. this is going to be one of those blink and its gone releases. Indica Dubs, Alpha & Omega, quality dub reggae, limited LP issue, no digital release, no re-press, yes it has all the elements of one of those albums that will be snapped up very quickly. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…..
The album in question, ‘Jah Guide & Protect’, is the 50th release from London based reggae label Indica Dubs, and it celebrates that important milestone in the label’s history. Label owner Sukh is well known in the business for bringing out quality singles. For this project he has carefully selected ten tracks from the Indica Dubs back catalogue, all of which have been remixed by Alpha & Omega in their own inimitable dubplate style!
As I always like to have some insight into the music I love, I thought it was an opportune time to talk to Sukh about the label, his background and his love for reggae. First question takes him back to the start; I asked him, what prompted you to start the label? ‘The idea must have started from a young age (about 11) when I first came across records. I was automatically obsessed with the look, feel, labels, different colours and designs, covers, the way it plays from a stylus and all sorts. But it was probably after a couple of years of producing where I thought I should give it a go. It was more of an attempt to see how it goes, I didn’t think much ahead at the time. I was actually on the phone to JT Kibir La Amlak when I had the idea, and he encouraged me pursue it, I was about 19/20 at the time.’
Starting a record label has always been an ambition of mine, but getting the idea off the ground can be a daunting process. I asked Sukh next, was it a struggle to get that first release out and importantly how did it sell? ‘Getting the money was a struggle as I was still a
student at university. But in terms of selling it, it could have been worse haha. I was in touch with some distributors and shops prior to the label so I managed to sell a decent amount for a first release. Not many direct sales to people because it was a new label, I don’t think many people were aware of it at first, and I gave a lot away for free to people too. Eventually the rest of the copies sold out, I owe that to Jah Shaka, King Shiloh and other sound systems for playing and promoting the tune in sessions.’
It sounds like support from the wider reggae community was important to getting that first track some exposure. I asked Sukh, how much help did he receive? ‘The wider community showed a lot of support, I found myself travelling abroad to play at sessions quite soon after the first couple of releases. Poland was the first place with Pandadread Soundsystem, we done a little tour across the country where I played three nights in a row, which was a whole new experience for me! Funny enough that wasn’t even in my intentions, or plans, or even crossed my mind, that something like playing at events (especially abroad) would result from releases.’
I have featured Indica Dubs releases before on my blog; it is a very prolific label. I wondered whether enthusiasm dries up after a while. So next question was, now you are 50 releases in, what keeps you motivated? ‘I think it’s safe to say I’m addicted to records haha. But on a serious note, I’m fully motivated because when I hear sound systems like Jah Shaka, Channel One, King Shiloh and others play my songs in their sessions, that alone is enough to keep me motivated and inspired to continue to do more. These were the sound systems I grew up with from young, so to see them play something of mine is truly the highest honour for me.’
Let Jah, Earl Sixteen
So focusing on his back catalogue I asked Sukh, out of your releases, do you have a particular favourite and why? ‘I think ‘Let Jah’ is my personal favourite because it was the first song I done with Earl Sixteen. I’ve been a fan of Earl Sixteen since I was young so it was an honour for me to have him in the studio and record him on one of my songs. I had no idea what he was going to sing on the track until he got to the studio, and I was amazed!’
As someone who has been there and done it, I was interested to know what advice Sukh would give to someone who is thinking of starting their own label. ‘I would say be prepared to take a loss, and to be very patient. It’s not as simple as pressing a record overnight and selling out the next day. Pressing turnover alone usually takes more or less 12 weeks, so it’s a long waiting game. But if you love it, you won’t have a problem! Although I do all the running’s myself, I would suggest having a team so you have someone for graphics to make labels and promotion banners, a person to do logistics etc., otherwise it can get a lot for one person to do all.’
Babylon Is A Trap
Thinking of the future I asked him whether he still had any goals for the next 50, and were there any vocalists he would still love to work with? ‘I have releases 51-54 practically lined up at present, consisting of a couple of vocal tunes and instrumental tunes. However I don’t want to spill the beans on that, it’s more exciting keeping the suspense building! For vocalists I’d like to work with, there’s numerous out there, just to name a few: Xana Romeo, Max Romeo, Horace Andy, Johnny Clarke, Ranking Joe, Wailing Souls and plenty more. Let’s hope it can happen!’
Finally something I ask everyone I interview. It’s not scientific but I like to think it gives a little background into the person behind the music. What three reggae albums can you not live without? ‘There’s so many but at the top of my head three that I really like/recommend are: See Mi Yah (Rhythm & Sound), this album has just one rhythm for the whole album, but eleven different singers on it, really deep vibes. I See Jah (Roger Robin / Jah Shaka); all the tracks on this are awesome. Babylon Is A Trap (Dub Judah), I grew up listening to these tunes, and of course it’s named after the anthem.’
Jah Guide & Protect
A big thank you to Sukh for sparing the time to give us some insight into Indica Dubs. If anyone out there is thinking of releasing music or starting a label, the message is just do it (sorry Nike). As he says, it is not always easy but the rewards are there if you work hard.
‘Jah Guide & Protect’ is a very fitting release number 50 for Indica Dubs. Having such a respected group like Alpha & Omega involved in the project just shows how highly Sukh is viewed by the reggae community. It goes without saying that if you like your reggae deep and heavy, you must pick this album up. But as I said at the start, don’t hesitate. Some earybird copies of the LP are available now from the Indica Dubs Bandcamp site and the release will be more widely available from your usual outlets from the 1st July.
Are you an Indica Dubs fan, let me know your thoughts in the comments, they are very welcome. As always social media shares are the lifeblood of blogs like this, so any help would be much appreciated. Bless, Paper Lion.