On the pursuit of the perfect plate

{mosimage}Reggae
music and sound systems

The reggae scene in Finland is currently
doing better than ever. Over the
years there has been a strong underground movement, but only
recently it has broken through to mainstream. In addition to the flow of Finnish
reggae music, sound systems are gaining more and more attention and are
becoming known to the public.

In short, a sound system means a group of people,
most notably a DJ (Disk Jockey) and an MC (Master of Ceremony), who play reggae
music at parties. A sound system does not include a live band. Instead, they
rely on the Jamaican tradition of playing recorded music to the audience. Thus,
an important part of the sound system is the arsenal of vinyl and the style in
which the records are played.

An essential aspect of reggae culture is the
concept of sound clash. Sound systems compete against each other in sound
clashes, where the idea is to “murder” the rival sounds by playing better
records. Special records, dubplates, are needed if one wants to qualify. In
addition, the wordplay of the MC is also a crucial weapon.

 

Introducing
the mpv sound

FREE! Magazine took an inside look in the
sound system culture by interviewing Andor, the DJ of one of the leading sound
systems in Finland, MPV.

MPV is a Helsinki-based sound system. It has
gained reputation and a fine bunch of followers by providing energetic dances
and competing successfully in sound clashes. Who are the members of MPV and how
did it all get started?

MPV consists of Nestori the MC and Andor the
DJ. One MC and one DJ, as the man would say. The first gig was on New Year’s
Eve 2005. I joined MPV when I returned to Finland from Holland in summer 2005.

The most visible part of the sound system’s
activity is performing in
front of a live audience. What makes MPV strong in live situations?

Nestori and his energy on the mic! Energy
also flows to the dance floor from behind the turntables. We want to offer
people something which we would like to hear in a dance ourselves. A crucial
thing is the selection of records, which builds the atmosphere and has a proper
amount of hooks and humour in it. It’s important to be in contact with the
audience – music has to stir the soul and leave people both fulfilled and
yearning for more.

Managing a sound system requires a lot of
time, effort and, naturally,
money. How much does it actually take if one wants to have a fully operational,
professional sound system?

It’s a big part of life. The running of the
sound system takes all the
time I can give to it. It requires a lot of work in different areas:
finding out and ordering the latest hits, playing shows, making mixes, remixing
songs. Organizing the recording of dubplates and mixing them is important, too.

 

Dubplate
specials

A dubplate is a custom-made special record,
often a re-recording of a hit tune with altered lyrics. They are played at
dances, but more importantly, in sound clashes. How does MPV obtain these
special seven-inchers?

We get dubplates both from Finnish and Jamaican
artists. There are some studios in Jamaica with which we have been
cooperating. It all depends on how good a business partner one is able to find.
In some cases there has been a great deal of teeth-grinding included. If an
artist is performing in Finland, due to touring schedules the recording can
take place at very awkward hours, such as late at night or early in the
morning.

It’s a long way from here up north to the
West Indies, both geographically
and mentally. Is it difficult to acquire dubplates from desired
Jamaican artists?

Usually it’s quite possible to get what one
wants. The prices have risen in the last couple of years, though, and some
artists may ask for large sums of money.

Getting dubplates can be a risky business.
The artists might record dubplates in long sessions. At the end of these
sessions the quality can vary. Getting a superb dubplate is not easy; a good
plate is powerful both musically and lyrically. What dubplates is MPV the most
proud of?

I’m
Gonna Put on an MPV Shirt
(a version of Max Romeo’s
biggest
hit, I Chase the Devil – ed), which has kind
of become a signature tune for us. Derrick Parker, Gyptian, Million Stylez and
Luciano have done a great job too. MPV has also lot of quality Finnish
dubplates, for example from Finnish reggae artists Jukka Poika, Nopsajalka,
Raappana and Janhoy. We have dubplates from other genres too, such as from
Mariska and Don Johnson Big Band. Finnish dubplates are usually of very high quality.
The lyrics are written with thought.

 

Headfirst
to the future

The Finnish reggae scene is strong at the
moment; lots of sounds have started operating lately. How have things developed
in recent years?

{mosimage}The development has been wild. It is unbelievable
how strongly clashes and dubplates have broken into the scene. Soon we will be
on an international level. The audience has kept up pretty well, too. On the
other hand, hits from Jamaica come ashore faster nowadays.

It’s important to understand that although
Jamaican music is usually
associated with the “one love” idea, the reality in the dancehalls
in Kingston might be a little different. Sound clashes can be total war, albeit
musical and verbal. In the future the competition between sound systems will
probably get fiercer in Finland, too.

The standards will get higher. At the
moment there are few sounds in Finland
that do things on a professional level. There are lot of rising stars, but not
anyone can invest as much as it takes to be on the top. I wouldn’t necessarily
want the competition to get much fiercer than this.

Jamaican popular culture has always been very
dynamic, constantly changing shape and moving in new directions. Being able to
react to changes makes one vital in this culture. What kind of moves does MPV
have in store for the future?

To the top! I will soon go to Jamaica, with the
intention of bringing inspiration and spice to our thing. MPV has a view in the
right direction, but the road there will be built with care. Better things are yet
to come! In conclusion, I’d like to give respect to Komposti, Lion Head and all
the other sound systems. And of course to all the people who enjoy themselves
dancing or just listening to the music.