This month for your favourite bus read, I want to discuss dub music. It’s a deeply influential genre that never disappoints and still, little is known about it and its protagonists. Digging into its fascinating history is always a treat, not so much through written accounts but by witnessing a tradition that still prevails on the dancefloor, almost 60 years from its inception in Kingston, Jamaica. I recently went out to see Iration Steppas celebrate their 30th birthday at Trinity Centre in Bristol and it was as neat as I hoped it would be. It had been a while – I almost forgot how potent and uplifting dub can be; it’s like an assault to the senses with its thrill-building reverbs, psychotropic sirens, and guts-shaking bass. It sways you off your feet in the best way possible, especially when played by its top vanguards. Here’s a taster of my awesome time at Trinity, although this video doesn’t do justice to what happened that night.
Iration Steppas are one of the best in the game – you’ll understand what makes them so special if you see them live. It’s mesmerising how good they seem to feel when they’re at the controls, and they make you feel it, too: quintessential happiness. It all began years ago, back in the 70s when Mark Iration and his long-gone friend Sam Mason were just a couple of teenagers collecting records. They were fascinated by the likes of Jah Shaka and Jah Tubby’s and curious enough to try and make their mum’s amp sound louder – so they got into building their own sound system and experimenting with it.
It wasn’t until the 90s when Mark Iration met Dennis Rootical, that Iration Steppas as we know them today were born. Mark’s journey started small, this-used-to-be-a-wardrobe-and-a-bag-of-nails small, and turned into a monster of a system, tons of dubplates, and a decked-out studio with a board that’s got 100-something channels. Iration Steppas are some OG, full-of-character bunch of mixing artists, who made a real contribution to dub through their music. Their way of connecting with the crowd is spotless, and it serves dub a great honour. They always put up this fantastic show with their DYI, uniquely craggy rhythms and improvised lyrics each time the record needs turning over. And wait until you see them in a soundclash. Their greatness, I think, comes from some absolutely fantastic and annoyingly hard to come across tunes that are then mixed and presented in a very soulful, unforgettable way.
Iration Steppas opened new worlds with their Year 3000 production style; even the name itself hints to a particular craft where inspiration from mentors, old school lyrics, and sub-bass frequencies meet a unique sound that touches on house, acid, and jungle. 30 years in the scene and Mark and Dennis have the same awe-inspiring energy, the unfailingly authentic techno hue to their music, and remain one of the most loved sound systems worldwide.
If this sparked your interest I suggest you save the date for the premiere of INA VANGUARD STYLE, a documentary about Iration Steppas, courtesy of Dubquake Records.
And before I go, please go see them live. It’s the kind of thing you should do at least once in your lifetime. Here’s where to find them over the next few months:
BRISTOL 27th November @ The Fiddlers with Macka B and Aba Shanti-I – tickets
LONDON 17th December @ Fox & Firkin – tickets
LEICESTER 26th December Boxing Day Special with Aba Shanti-I @ 2Funky Music Cafe – tickets