Back in November 2011 we hosted an exhibition called, Soundsystem: From Jamaica to Europe 1950 -1995 at The Little Green Street Gallery in Dublin 1. Enda from Firehouse Skank and Spindizzy Records put Ronan Lynch, selector, singer and editor of Irie Up magazine who was living in Berlin at the time, in contact with us with a view to hosting an exhibition he was curating.
The exhibition followed the growth of sound system culture from Kingston across Jamaica, to the UK and then to Europe, spreading the sounds of ska, rocksteady, reggae and dub and planting the seeds of a new generation of singers, musicians, DJs, producers and dancers.
The story of the sound system is one of technological innovation, creative enterprise and musical genius, but it is also a story of deep spiritual and cultural significance. The sound system is at the heart of the reggae movement. From its first incarnation in 1950s Jamaica, the sound system was the radio of the people. Through artists and producers from Prince Buster to King Tubby and Augustus Pablo, the music expressed the aspirations, sufferings and joys of everyday life.
Jamaican artist Michael Thompson aka Freestylee illustrates the story with additional artwork by English street artist Mau Mau. Thompson, known for his political and revolutionary art, sadly passed away in 2016.
The text is written by Ronan Lynch, editor of Irie Up magazine, who has written widely about reggae, politics and culture. The show is designed by Paula Strzelecka, graphic designer and photo editor at Irie Up magazine.
After opening in Berlin in September, and showing in Amsterdam in October, the exhibition travelled to Dublin for five days in November. It has since gone on display in Jamaica and various African and European countries.
There were several evening events alongside the exhibition including the Irish premiere of the film ‘Holding On To Jah’ and nightly gigs featuring selectors from most of Ireland’s reggae sound systems and the Irie-land crew. We created a really unique space in Dublin for the duration of the exhibition and were delighted to see folks from all of Ireland’s major sound systems drop in. Cian Finn and Radikal Guru who were working together as a duo at the time also spent time with us and we were delighted to have selectors; T-woc, Enda and Tuathal from Firehouse Skank, Andy and Mikey from Worries Outernational, Tadgh from Junior Spesh/Sim Simma, ‘Reggae Richie’ Hanlon from Near FM, Garfield Irie, Carax from Punky Reggae Party, Antrophe and Paul Vee along with many more play over the four days.
Speaking about the exhibition in an interview with rabble magazine curator Ronan Lynch said, “This exhibition is connecting some of the dots, because you find that from necessity, Jamaica developed this kind of radio of the people, a street corner sound system, and started making their own music to play on their own sound systems. This is all steeped in struggle and slavery, but people around the world caught the message of this music and since that time it hasn’t stopped growing and spreading around the world.”
Poster Fish Promotions also hosted a fundraiser gig earlier in the year in order to bring the exhibition to Dublin. Bands and selectors supported the event with reggae/ska band The Bionic Rats and dub/reggae band Madu joining selectors Enda Star (Firehouse Skank), Tuathal (Roots Corner) and Carax (Punky Reggae Party) in King 7 for a night of madness in early November.
All photos by Paul Reynolds and Freda Hughes