Sound systems – a school for disc jocks
In addition to playing an influential role in the global impact that Jamaican music has made, sound systems –comprising disc jockeys, audio engineers, emcees, sound technicians (oftentimes referred to as ‘box men’), and, in some cases, burgeoning recording artistes –have acted as schools for many who have embarked on their varied musical journeys.
Stephen ‘Supa Hype’ Davis, who uses his hands in all facets of the music industry, was a member of sound systems like Essence Disco, Power Play Disco, and Code Red Sound. According to him, sound systems were vital to the training he received.
“To be a player on any type of team contributes to the education and socialisation that a disc jockey can get throughout the development of his or her career,” Supa Hype told The Gleaner.
It is the ballpark, he adds, “where the disc jockey learns to pitch and eventually master how to make a home run”. Supa Hype believes that mastering the art of selecting is not something that every individual can do alone, and therefore, the sound systems become good training grounds. “[It] acts like a stepping stone for disc jockeys who want to try a solo career at some point,” he stated.
Supa Hype says that he is not urging every disc jockey to go find a sound system to join but that they should make use of the opportunity to learn should it arise.
“By working with sound system operators and all the persons who make up the group, one can develop the discipline it takes to be dedicated to the craft, especially now, in a time where is it extremely competitive,” he said.
Stone Love’s Billy Slaughter explained, “Some disc jockeys attain a position where they can make a name, so sometimes, they move on. I could have done the same but stuck around in this music institution long enough to see the impact it has on helping young talent, especially those who can benefit from mentors or role models. We still take on young selectors because Stone Love Music has to transcend after the veterans are no longer around.”
Coppershot Sound’s manager, Matthew Gray, shared a similar outlook. “A sound is a place to hone your skills, but it is not only built off basic talent,” he said.
In reference to his team of 10, Gray disclosed that many of the disc jockeys who formed the group 25 years ago have, instead of taking it as a stepping stone, opted to use it as a building block to make it a home.
“For us, Coppershot is a brand. It has worked in our favour to stick together, and it is often observed that when people separate from the brand, they don’t have as much success. In many cases, it is the sound that makes the DJ.”