Musically Mad, a film about the current generation of heavyweight, UK-based, â€˜warrior styleâ€™ roots-reggae soundsystems, takes us on a journey powered by the question “What is Soundsystem?” The answer is conveyed in so much more than words.
Today’s mobile soundsystems like Jah Shaka, Aba Shanti I, Iration Steppas, Channel One and Entebbe Sound, to name but a few, maintain a tradition that goes back, in the UK, to the 1954 arrival in London of Duke Vin â€“ a veteran ‘soundman’ from Kingston, Jamaica. For decades, it has been the soundsystem operators who supplied the hottest news from back-a-yard to Britain’s black community. It came on 7″ singles and dubplates and was transmitted via a serious amount of wattage and stacks of hand-crafted speaker cabinets.
In order to explain to others what soundsystem meant to them, Karl Wolke and Andreas Weslien decided to make a film. It was never intended to be a history of sound, more an explanation, and thatâ€™s what Musically Mad delivers.
“It was great talking to the older guys like Fatman about the past or hearing Levi Roots talking about Coxsone sound,” says the directors. Sadly, they never got to meet the mighty Jah Shaka. “We tried hard! For me, he is without doubt the biggest influence. Lots of soundsystem operators and followers today would agree on that.”
Overall, through heaps of interviews with soundsystem activists and actual dancehall footage, the film creates a picture of a thriving, racially-mixed underground scene that is highly individual, conscious and roots-orientated.
Throughout the film, there is pure enthusiasm for a JA-rooted art form which has been honed for over half a century and continues to develop outer-nationally. Musically Mad is the story of people spreading vibes to the masses for no other reason than the pure love of soundsystem.
Film review adapted from Paul Bradshaw’s Straight No Chaser article.
Film links courtesy of Fir3Blaz3.