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Gallery/ Guest Column - The reggae sound systems of... Huddersfield

Gallery/ Guest Column - The reggae sound systems of... Huddersfield
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New book Sound System Culture has just been published and will be launched tonight (24 July) with an event at Rough Trade East. Conceived by Mandeep Samra and written by Paul Axis of Axis Sound System, it looks at the unique and rich culture of Huddersfield’s Sound Systems. Its editor and compiler, Al Fingers, introduces a preview gallery.

Sound System Culture is an arts and heritage project exploring the vibrant sound system culture of Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, once home to over 30 reggae sound systems.

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As part of the project, a book was produced, entitled Sound System Culture, Celebrating Huddersfield’s Sound Systems, that traces the origin of reggae sound systems in Jamaica to their establishment in the UK and beyond, with special focus on the Huddersfield scene. A documentary was also made, revisiting an era when Jamaican settlers ran dances at the historic Venn Street club, a venue which established Huddersfield as an essential destination for touring Jamaican musicians, helping put the town on the British reggae map.

In addition, the project includes a photographic exhibition and interactive sound installation consisting of a custom-built sound system, Heritage HiFi, a turntable and a stack of 10-inch dubplates featuring sound bites from the oral histories recorded for the project. Here’s a description of the images in the gallery

Al Fingers

1. Sound System Culture, Celebrating Huddersfield’s Sound Systems, published by One Love Books, 2014. Photo courtesy One Love Books

2. Aba Shanti-I, Sottotetto Sound Club, Bologna, Italy, 19 January 2013. Photo by Mauro Sindici

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3. Armagideon sound system, Huddersfield, 1982. Clockwise from left: MC Robbie Rue (Richard Robinson), MC Admaral (Stephen McMahon), MC T Dread (Terry Cole), Dbo General (Danny Brown, operator) and Daddy Lee (Howard Belafonte, selector). Founded in 1978 under the name Youthman, Armagideon sound system was a well known Huddersfield sound that played all over the UK during the 1980s and ’90s. In a profoundly racist era, crew member Howard Belafonte AKA Daddy Lee recalls: “The sound system and Rasta gave us a sense of pride and kept us focused.” Photo courtesy Howard Belafonte

4. Ian Smith & The Inner Mind’s “Venn Street Rub” (B-side to “Devil Woman”), released on the Pama subsidiary Bullet in 1971. Like “Arawack Version”, it was a tribute to one of Huddersfield’s best-loved nightspots among the West Indian community: Venn Street. Photo by Elliot Baxter

5. Earth Rocker Sound System crew, 1978. From left: Papa Burky (Stephen Burke, operator/selector), Mods (Norman Modeste, MC/promoter) and Greaves (Andy Greaves, MC), Huddersfield, 1978. Photo courtesy Stephen Burke

6. West Indian man arrives at Waterloo Station, 1st August 1962. Photo by Howard Grey

7. Heritage HiFi speaker boxes, custom-built by Paul Axis (Huddersfield) for the touring exhibition that accompanies the book, photographed at Huddersfield Carnival, Greenhead Park, 13 July 2013. Heritage HiFi sound system is made up entirely of locally manufactured equipment: Vintage Fane 18” bass speakers, 15” mids, compression driver and bullet tweeters, as well as Matamp amplifiers and mixer, all made in West Yorkshire. Photo by Elliot Baxter


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