Original Katchafire tracks 100% remixed (Mai Music)

As far back as 1967 Jamaican Sound Systems have sought after what they considered to be an ‘exclusive’ or a ‘special’. Back then, these rarities, were simple instrumentals of original tracks (i.e. songs without the vocals) that the sound systems requested from the studios – the dub was born. Finding commercial success provided the lifeline for these so-called ‘dubs’.

It wasn’t till the late 60’s to early 70’s that studios began re-mixing these instrumentals for the sound systems once again looking for exclusivity, these in turn became what we now call ‘versions’. The producer would have the engineer remove most of the vocals upon which the MC would add spice by toasting and chatting during the dancehall sessions.

Enter Prince Jammy, circa 1972, who took the concept even further and set in concrete what the world now recognises as the Jamaican ‘Dub’ sound. He spliced leftover tracks (back then people recorded on multi-track reel to reel tape and the editing required the engineer to physically cut the tape with a blade and tape the reel back together) and put them back together in his own unique way creating empty spaces and alternative time signatures with the use of a tape echo (the granddaddy of the delay unit) and reverbs. So that’s the basic history of ‘The Dub’.

Now in 2006 we live in the era of the ‘Remix’ and the ‘Remix Producers’, common sense really, we live in a time where everyone has their own opinion and take on things, so why not their own take how the music should have gone like or sounded like? Surely it can be made better! But where does this leave the ‘Dub’?? As the enigma it always was.

Many have tried to replicate the science of the dub, many have faltered and many more even failed completely. My theory is this; while re-mixing is the art of adding, dubbing is the art of subtracting and the realisation of this simple direction is where many fail. Furthermore, there is only so much you can take out before you’re left with just a metronome, or dead air.

Now to the review.  I really like Katchafire and believe they represent the true essence of Reggae in Aotearoa, not Jamaica (they are a thousand years ahead of anyone on this). They are outstanding musicians and performers and having worked as a roadie on one of their gigs in Welly I can also say they are cool cats as well. But this is not a Katchafire album, it’s an album of Katchafire songs remixed so it’s not what you’d expect, even though many tracks don’t venture past the front gate.

Mai Music has done a lot of good for a lot of people in the local music industry, they are also responsible for a few dodgy moves as well, but that’s another story, the fact that I can hold in my hands a professionally looking and sounding compilation is a credit to them, the artists, the producers and all of us who enjoy reggae music and all that is associated with it.

So what’s the album like? It sounds great, every track that every one worked on had some great material to start off with, the songs have been well produced and mastered and the sound quality won’t disappoint.

Homegrown has two CDs, Homegrown Dub and Homegrown Mix, the first a more rootsy style the other is more dance orientated (by ‘dance’ I mean house/drum an bass). Tracks that stood out for me were The Mad Professor doing I&I, Chong Nee doing Rude Girl Remix and the one who came closest to the bulls eye, Chris Macro doing Who With You Dub.

The cover says ‘Homegrown Dub, original Katchafire tracks 100% remixed’ and I’ll break it down like this – it’s a good buy, a must-have if you love the local sound. It’s homegrown – yes, it’s remixed – yes, but a compilation of Dub?  It’s not.

Don Luchito