Thursday, 31 May 2012


Reggae band Dubtonic Kru
The members of Dubtonic Kru make no apologies for their love of “roots” reggae. The Jamaica-based band say that this is the music they want to play, and they’re making a success of it, attracting fans around the world with danceable beats and positive lyrics that aim to uplift listeners.

Their style is in sharp contrast to that of certain dancehall stars, and they stand out because of it. The Kru’s versatility was rewarded last year when they were voted “Best New Band in the World” at the Global Battle of the Bands World Finals in Malaysia, Feb. 2011. After a fierce musical showdown that involved different genres and national finalists from many countries, the judges unanimously awarded Dubtonic Kru top honours. 

Dubtonic Kru in Jamaica
The band was founded by Jubba and Stone, a drum and bass duo, who have toured and recorded with artists such as Max Romeo, U-Roy, Burning Spear, The Mighty Diamonds, and Richie Spice. The other members are guitarist Jallanzo, keyboardist Luke Dixon and vocalist Kamau.

They have been giving concerts in various U.S. cities this year and will embark on the second leg of their tour in August. Last year they performed at several festivals in Europe to great enthusiasm. Their latest single “Murderer” - which urges an end to killings on the Caribbean island – has garnered glowing reviews, and they are now working on their fourth album.

Drummer and vocalist Jubba answered our questions about the band and their music.

SWAN: What is the inspiration behind the new single "Murderer"?
Jubba: The Inspiration comes from the current global situation. Right here in our country, we see violence being a plague to mankind.

SWAN: Are positive messages important to your music?
Jubba: Extremely

SWAN: What do you think of the lyrics and sound of dancehall music?
Kamau and Jallanzo on stage
Jubba: It would be unfair to generalize, as the music within itself is innocent; however, if I should describe this branch of music coming from its origin reggae, then I would say, its up-tempo beat does create a mood for dancing, hence people tend to gravitate easily. In terms of lyrical content, like every other genre (not limited only to dancehall), the pen or the mind behind the content of a song is responsible for the public's perception, especially given the popularity of the genre. It is evident that whether dealing with positive or negative issues, dancehall tends to deal with the issues more graphically, hence whatever topics are more popular will be the topics that take precedence. Or in other words, the genre will be stereotyped by these topics.

SWAN: Do you think there is a revival of "traditional" or roots reggae taking place?
Jubba: Certainly. However, I would not necessarily say traditional. Life is a cycle and so even through an evolutionary process, old things will sometimes take on new faces and also be presented through interpretations of the new representatives.

SWAN: When we were at Reggae Sun Ska in France last year, people seemed more interested in roots reggae than dancehall, even young people. Do you think this is a European thing or is it happening elsewhere as well?
Jubba: I don't necessarily think it's just a European thing. We must agree that the Europeans embrace it very well and for that we are happy. The point is, reggae music is no longer a music made in Jamaica just for Jamaicans but has gained world-wide recognition and popularity and as a result people from the various corners of the world are touched and inspired by it. We all can relate in one way or another.

SWAN: What are your plans for gaining a wider audience internationally?
Jubba: I smile... There is a saying, money makes the world go round. By saying that, my point is, we don't have the capital (money) to make things happen the way that would be most effective in that regard but because of our love and passion for what we do, we try to be creative with the resources available to us. The virtual world is a very big community and hence that's a platform that's most accessible. In addition, for a few years, rather than waiting for the fans and potential fans to come to us, we go to them by way of traveling from country to country, city to city and playing concerts, as a result, our fan base is steadily growing.

The band with athlete Usain Bolt (in cap)
SWAN: Why do you produce everything yourselves?
Jubba: It is not totally intentional. We welcome collaborations but here are a few points. (1) Our music represents a new era, with influences from the past that are not yet considered popular. As a result it is our originality in our music that makes it what it is. (2) When you are the little man doing something against the grain (not the norm), people observe; when it gains enough momentum, people will begin to take interest, so it's good that we are progressing.

SWAN: Do you have any wish to be with an international record label, or do you prefer to remain independent?
Jubba: We do not limit ourselves. Progress with integrity with the highest level of representation that might be available to us is again welcome.

SWAN: Do you think that selling music via the Internet is the way forward for musicians who wish to stay independent and who want to have control over their output?
Jubba: There are various ways and platforms that's available to independent artists, selling music and other merchandise items via the internet is one such avenue.

SWAN: Can you tell us a little bit more about your background - did you study music?
Jubba: We have all been exposed to music from an early age, and even though our background growing up was different from one member to another, we still shared similarities in the fact that we knew quite early that we wanted to play music. Stone (bass player) and myself grew up in the same parish and knew the same circle of people but never actually met until years later. We went on to work together with many of the pioneers in the reggae music industry, such as The Ethiopians, Heptones, Mighty Diamonds and others, in studio and some of whom we toured extensively with. Our collaboration as Drum & Bass saw success through hits like, "Marijuana" by Richie Spice, "Ready to party" by Voice Mail, "Downtown Girl" by D' Angel... Albums with Junior Kelly, Bushman, Max Romeo and many others, as well as individually other singles such as, "Love so nice" by Junior Kelly, "Princess gone" by Jah Mason, tracks on the 2003 Grammy-nominated album "Free Man" by Burning Spear and a number of others.

Dubtonic Kru collecting Simba Award
Myself and Luke, (keyboard/vocalist) both studied Music at the Edna Manley College (Jamaica), even though our time in the institution was about a decade in difference. Kamau (vocalist/ percussionist) had a solo career earlier with legendary bass player Glen Browne as his then producer, which also resulted in an album entitled "Sight a revolution". That album produced popular singles such as the cover from Ken Boothe’s "Goodbye Babe", originally written by Bob Andy, and title track "Sight a revolution".

Jallanzo (vocalist/ guitarist) has also spent a lot of time in the studio working with various artists. He also entered the popular Tastee talent contest where he was recognized for his talents and later the Red Stripe Big Break with his vocal abilities, where he was second place to fellow Jamaican singer Prophecy.

Together, becoming a group has been magical. We have been able to earn the title "Best New band in the World" at the 2010 World finals of the "Global Battle of the Bands" competition of various genres, a "Simba Award" from the Coalition to Preserve Reggae, The Jamaica Star People's Choice award "Band of the Year" 2011, and we were also presented with a "Congressional proclamation" by Congresswoman, Yvette Clarke, from the United States House of Representatives.

Our journey continues, with three albums so far and the fourth in the making. Our most recent single "Murderer" (Preserve Life) is just a taste of what is to come. Look out for Dubtonic Kru in a city near you, we'll always be bringing the music to you!

“Murderer” can be viewed at: