one would have thought that India and reggae might not be a perfect choice for people

India in 2016 – Where Launching a Reggae Sound System Is Symbolic

Extracted from the Sunday Gleaner article entitled “Give Me Red!” published, April 17th, 2016. 

The capital of India, Delhi came alive to the beats of music – Champa Gali, on April 2, and emitted more than the aroma of coffee, as the heady mix of dub plates and sound system took the brew and the atmosphere into another level. The evolution of Tin Pan Alley beats with new sounds of music as Bass Foundation Roots (BFR) unveils their sound system, painted bright red, to the world.

The sounds of this party resonated in the narrow bylanes as music pumped from the red sound system making its debut. The crowd swayed, and the venue, Plumeria Alley, named after the Plumeria flower found in tropical and sub-tropical regions and fragrant at nights, was fragrance strictly with vinyl. 

It all began when Taru Dalmia and Samara Chopra who are lead singers of a ska group based in Delhi known as the Ska Vengers assembled a powerful stack of hand-built wooden speakers, power amplifiers, two turntables, an analogue dub siren and a van over months of hard work. They, then raised funds from an Indiegogo campaign, “we began a crowd-funding campaign in November 2015, and to our surprise, we managed to raise US$20,000” said Dalmia. 

According to the article, one would have thought that India and reggae might not be a perfect choice for people, but the response was overwhelming.

The launch of the sound system they said, is one of the marked events in the independent music community. “Expect uncompromising sound quality and a strictly vinyl set,” Dalmia, who goes by the stage name, Delhi Sultanate said. But it is more than getting the beats right, the idea is to take the music to the people; if you can’t party, the party is going to come to you. The BFR sound system was built to challenge India’s narrow club culture and dependency on venues and sponsors by taking reggae, a genre histocially painted by social, political and cultural dialogue, directly to the people,” said Chopra also known as Begum X.

The duo also launched a “mobile book store” at the Jug Mug Thela (Glittering Cart) venue, that will accompany the sound system wherever it goes and features a small selection of books and DVDs featuring titles concerned with Indian and African liberation movements and authors. “The book store has been inspired by mobile book stores we have seen in Jamaica at reggae dances, where the subject of the books ranged from black liberation, to Rastafarianism to Jamaican ital cooking,” Dalmia said.

On the significance of the sound boxes painted in red, Dalmia explains, “the speakers

have been painted red, not merely to give a pop of colour, but to be a catalyst of social commentary and give voice to the oppressed. Reggae music, Jamaica’s eternal and unequivocal gift to the world, is the medium that addresses issues of social injustice and equality.”

The overall message is to foster a sense of unity and strength in communities and both the sound and the lyrics of the music carry this message. A sound system lends immense power to the music and has the ability to literally vibrate bodies and objects in its immediate surroundings,” Dalmia continued.

The sound system, is not only a myriad and intricate confluence of technology and engineering. It is the soul of music, the sounds of which become an intense physical and communal experience.

Their expectations: Over the next year, BFR will travel to different regions of india – collaborate with University campuses, people’s movements, writers, thinkers and artists, to curate cultural spaces where critical consciousness can come together with the intense experience of sub bass being played over sound system speakers. “Imagine for instance a protest or a political community meeting commencing or ending with a sound system session?” said Chopra.

India’s freedom movement saw its share of bloodshed, oppression, tested the resilience of the people and charged the youth to fight against the colonial power. Bhagat Singh, a young freedom fighter said, “if the deaf are to hear, the sound has to be very loud” the sound systems are now rolling on this journey of sonic dominance.

Source: Sunday Gleaner, Jamaica