ONETIME featuring REBEL TONE with DJ EVERFRESH, MARCUS VISIONARY, LABO, MEDiCINE MUFFIN and more, at the House of Props (55 St. Lawrence), Saturday (April 26). $15 advance, $20 at the door. 416-517-7760.
A few months back, the international reggae community was shocked when young Toronto-based Rebel Tone won the World Clash 2002 championship at the prestigious annual sound clash competition in Queens, NYC.
The contest had been subtitled The Search For New Blood, but few expected that an outfit as unknown as Rebel Tone would be able to beat established ones like Ricky Trooper or Tony Matterhorn.
This was the first time a Canadian had even made it to the Clash, and the first time a CD sound had been in the competition. To go on and win was something no one could have predicted.
The win wasn't without controversy. Some believed Matterhorn shouldn't have been eliminated so early, and most thought that if local favourites King Agony hadn't been disqualified for breaking the special third-round rule against calling for the crowd to cheer they would have taken it. Still, at the end of the final round, when the two remaining sounds play 10 tracks each, no dubs or specials, Rebel Tone clearly beat defending champs Bass Odyssey, generally considered one of the best in the world.
Using only CDs is a major challenge to the conventions of the dancehall sound system, since having your own special tracks cut to dubplates is an integral part of it. Being able to burn cheap CDs and use your computer as a studio shifts the balance of power to younger upstarts who may be better able to please a younger crowd and who are suddenly no longer hampered by the economics of cutting dubplates and the difficulties of finding the tracks they want outside of Jamaica.
Rebel Tone's Newby has been known to throw his CDRs into the crowd at the end of the night, which, aside from being a nice bit of showmanship, may also serve to widen appreciation for his production skills.
Onetime, the party Rebel Tone play this weekend, isn't a sound clash, though. Instead, it's an event more focused on drum 'n' bass, specifically ragga jungle with a bit of hiphop and reggae as well as some turntablism. It's not really the best place to get an idea of dancehall reggae culture, but nevertheless an intriguing attempt to reconnect drum 'n' bass with its roots, not only in early jungle but further back in reggae and hiphop.
Drum 'n' bass has borrowed much from both genres, and many of its earliest proponents were DJs who'd grown up in the sound system tradition in English that Jamaican immigrants had imported in the 70s. D 'n' b has also maintained the mystique of the one-off dubplate, which is also now being challenged by CDRs.
It will be interesting to see how the junglist massive will react to a world-class reggae CDJ. Hopefully, they'll recognize the similarities -- the foundation-rattling bass lines, the chattering MC, the aura around the custom dub and the mutual love of the all-night dance.