- Steppin' Up -

Updated: Jan 23

Women uprising movement in soundsystem culture


‘Soundsystem’ refers to a group of selectors, MCs and engineers playing reggae, ska, dub and bass music, usually on their own soundsystem set-up.


What is so appealing about soundsystem culture? Why is reggae music blasting through huge speakers...so meditative, and so addictive? Why do reggae bass lines sound so good through them?


Why do I keep coming back to it?


To any reggae enthusiast, these questions are easy to answer. The experience of a sound system session (or soundsystem dance) is a unique one. It really engages all of your senses.


When you listen to some incredible reggae tunes played by the selector, the sound is richer, the bass is heavier, and hearing the MC toasting and guiding you through the set list can almost feel like you are at a mass meditation. Visually, when you see the soundsystem set-up it can seem like you are in front of a mighty bass powered altar and, in the end, when you feel the energy from the soundsystem crew and the people surrounding you, it can really become a spiritual thing.


This multisensory experience has actually been explained in a paper called Sonic dominance and the Reggae Sound System Session by Juilan Henriques. Henriques explains sonic dominance as a total immersion of its participants in the phenomenon known as the reggae sound system, with its vibration frequencies connecting with every fibre of the participants' being.


That pretty much sums up the whole experience.


When I think about Jamaica and how its music has spread worldwide and become a thing of worship - it blows my mind! This never-ending source of tunes, when you start digging deeper and deeper into the music, is astonishing. I have nothing but respect for all reggae and dub musicians, soundsystem engineers and builders.


The soundsystem culture has become a worldwide thing, with almost 1000 sound systems according to the World Soundsystem map. But in this predominantly male world, where are the girls? To my knowledge, we have maybe two or three sounds (please, correct me if I am wrong!) fully powered by women. Also, when one starts researching the collectives, solo selectors, MCs and singers, it becomes obvious that there are more men than women.


Throughout the history of soundsystem culture, women were not really included in being a part of a soundsystem as selectors or soundsystem operators. Statistically speaking it is more of a man's world yet, I have to say (being a reggae and dub enthusiast myself) I have never felt anythiing but love and inclusion from my local soundsystem brothers.


The goal of this blog is, therefore, to connect and present women in the soundsystem scene who have their own soundsystem, but to showcase and connect female collectives, selectresses, producers, organisers, promoters and journalists in order to encourage more girls to become active participants in their local reggae scene.


So: let’s begin!


FEMININE HI-FI

(Brazil)


Feminine Hi-Fi is a project founded in 2016 in Brazil which focuses on the valorisation of women in the ways of Jamaican sound system culture, promoting the language of reggae as an expression against the oppression of gender issues. Their presentations use vinyl and digital media to play the songs and interventions by MCs, singjays and toasters. The song selection goes through many ages of Jamaican music and correlated Brazilian productions.

They are also developing two further projects: Feminine Hi-Fi Lab, which offers and conducts talks, workshops, documentary exhibitions and more educational activities; and Feminine Hi-Fi Tunes, the first label in the country dedicated to recording, promoting and distributing songs of reggae female productions.


Check out this short documentary about them here.



ZOFA

(France)


Zofa is the union of two passionate friends of reggae music and its history. It is a combination of two worlds: mixing roots, rock and reggae with dubwise and African sounds, from vinyl to dubplate. These two Soundsystem activists have been in the collective Adubtion (FR) since its creation in 2014. Each month they organize one soundsystem session, sharing vibrations with guests from many different places. This collective has already produced three festivals and two records (released on digital & vinyl), and another one is coming soon - so stay tuned!


No Pretension, 100% Passion!


Check out their session at Dub Camp festival 2019 here.



ROOTS DAUGHTERS

(Croatia/Germany)


The Roots Daughters was founded in 2009 by a duo of serious soundsystem addicts and roots music lovers from Pula (Croatia). Once Julie moved to Berlin, she felt the urge to create a space for female artists and selectresses. She co-created events, giving a space and platform to express and represent the female activists on the scene. In recent years she has teamed up with Jahminta Zulu (Vintage Night Cologne) to spread the message in the music.


Julie is a passionate vinyl collector with focus on female vocals and conscious lyrics. In her sets you can hear reggae in all its beauty and versatility, from its foundations to 2019 released - and you can always count on surprises regarding genre and style.

Jahminta Zulu, meanwhile, started out by co-founding the Vintage Night in Cologne many years ago. She also played a lot of sessions with the Young Veteran Soundsystem out of Cologne (Ballroom Skank). All in all, a top notch selectress who knows how to hold up the vibes. She plays ital, heavy, and roots from foundation, to year 3000 style!


Check out their session at Dub Camp festival 2019 here.




SANGA MAMA AFRICA

(France)


Sanga Mama Africa crew was created in 2010 by Djemba, who was selecting and organizing parties. The Sanga Mama Africa family expanded in 2014, with new members that included Nafa and MC Massaia.


Nafa is an experienced selector woman. She is also a true lioness: passionate and truly a defender of the roots and dub reggae culture. Drawing influences from the African continent remains essential to stay close to her culture and her roots, and this is apparent in her sessions


In their parties "Dubthérapy", Nafa and Djemba powerfully broadcast their love for the vibrations and the spiritual sounds of the roots by playing their vinyls and selections; these are often unpublished, and sometimes exclusive.


After a memorable gig at the Dub Camp 2018, Sanga Mama Africa is gaining fame and playing bigger dates in Europe. These include a ‘Dubquake’ Special called ‘Ladies at the Control’ in Geneva (organized by OBF), the International Dub Gathering (Spain), and the Zion station Fest in Italy.


With Sanga Mama Africa, discover an authentic experience, and a positive, powerful, militant vibration that leaves no one indifferent!


An old and deep vibration that will elevate hearts and souls.


Check out their session at Zion Station festival 2019 here.



VIXEN SOUND

(UK)


Vixen Sound is a dub, reggae and dancehall selector. Cutting her musical teeth as a radio presenter for the past seven years and playing live since late 2017, Vixen’s quick ascent has seen her tour internationally across ten countries, and she has shared stages with OBF Soundsystem, Channel One Soundsystem, Lee Scratch Perry, Dubkasm, and David Rodigan, to name but a few.


Vixen is the promoter of her own club night, 'More Fire!', and a resident at Mungo’s Hi Fi’s weekly club night Walk n Skank, which she now runs. She also hosts the internationally-recognised Walk n Skank radio live-streams, and represents the mighty Sinai Sound System - the first system to ever appear on Boiler Room - as a selector.


If that wasn’t enough, she recently launched Vixen Dub: an all-female collective of Scottish soundsystem women at a venue called The Blue Arrow.


Check out their session at Outlook festival 2019 here.



SISTERS OF REGGAE

(UK)


Founded in 2016 by selector Lucky Cat, Sisters of Reggae are an all-female Reggae DJ collective from London! They play the sounds of vintage Jamaica: ska, rocksteady, revival, roots, rockers, and early digital. The collectors and selectors - Lucky Cat, Debbie Golt, MissFeelgood, Naoko The Rock and Sweetie - are all DJs in their own right. They have played around the world in India, Japan, Ibiza, Morocco and Berlin, and at festivals such as The London International Ska Festival, Reggae Geel and Rototom Sunsplash. Between them, they have supported the likes of David Rodigan, Channel One, Aba Shanti I, Max Romeo, Bitty McLean, The Hempolics, Sister Nancy, Dawn Penn, Dennis Alcapone and Trojan Sound System. The Sisters have featured in Vice’s i-D magazine, Riddim Mag, and have been filmed for a documentary celebrating the anniversary of Trojan Records.


Check out their promo video here.



NYNAH

(Croatia)


This story begins in 2009 with a Jamaican rhythm course, where regardless of many years of listening to reggae music, for the first time Nynah played the drums and began to understand the magic of Nyabinghi rhythm and message. This combined with many years of engaging with Brazilian folklore Capoeira Angola, where music is one of the main bases of this skill and where she sings and plays various percussion instruments. In 2015, Nynah began to act as a selectress. Depending on the programmes and festivals she performs at, she combines different genres of reggae culture and, if given the opportunity you can hear Afro Brazilian rhythms, hip hop beats, and chill music in a single set.


Nynah is one of the founders of the ‘Sisters in Roots’ collective, which has been active since 2015. Since then, the collective has been bringing together female selectors within the Masters Club reggae program in Zagreb, with the goal of encouraging and connecting women in reggae music. Recently, Nynah was performing at Croatian festivals with a dear friend - Mr.Kiwi - under the project name ‘Dub Alibi’.


Check out this short clip from Dub Alibi session at Zagreb Tribes Festival, 2019 here.




SISTA HABESHA

(Italy)


Sista Habesha started producing dub and roots in 2008 whilst living in London. In 2010, Habesha released her first tune on de Italian Dub Community vol 2, with a follow-up on Italian Dub Community vol 3 in 2011. As her music was being appreciated by notorious soundmen like Aba Shanti I, King Earthquake, Moa Anbessa, Imperial sound and Slimmah, she continued to create music, refining her own style. Habesha’s first official vinyl release came in 2015 on German label JahSouljah Records, with tunes like ‘I am an Ethiopian’ by UK artist Joseph Lalibela and ‘Hold Pon Rasta Faith’ by Jamaican artist Fitta Warri. In 2016 she released ‘What Dem Done’ featuring Vale B on Roots Cooperation label, and another work featuring talo-Senegalese reggae singer Sistah Awa on Steppas Record.


Many more collaborations have come to happen over the years, collaborating with artists like Afrikan Simba, Dan I, Jules I, Ras Iwarriah, Daba Makourejah, Innerstanding sound, Arkaingelle and Rueben Master, These have led Habesha to perform her own showcase in a dubwise style. Since then, Habesha has toured the world, playing in some of the biggest reggae festivals like Rototom, International Dub Gathering, Dub Camp, Dour Festival and Reggaebus, just to mention a few. She has also played dances in New York, California, Morocco, and all across Europe. In 2017, Habesha founded her own label – Habeshites - on which she regularly releases her productions and through which she contributes to the reggae dub scene in full omega frequency style.


Check out her session at Dub Camp festival, 2017 here.



MUMMA IN DUB

(Brazil)


Mumma in Dub is an independent party and project designed by Renata Aguiar (Rude Mamma), mother of two, selector, and Jamaican music collector. Renata was one of the creators of Rude Sistah Sound (2008) and Feminine Hi Fi (2016). She has worked in Soundsystem culture for a long time, with a decade experience to date.


Mumma in Dub was conceived to unite and support Mothers who work with Reggae culture and Soundsystem music: "When a woman becomes a mother she often annuls herself, suffers from maternal loneliness, is judged, excluded and discriminated against because she is a Mother. And with this, many mothers annul themselves, leaving behind their gifts, dreams and wishes."


Mumma in Dub has come to rescue! The project supports Reggae and Soundsystem Culture Mothers. Whether they are selectors, singers or spectators, they are able to attend the parties, and are reminded that they are not alone. They have a space to enjoy and perform what they love and believe in.


The Mumma in Dub vinyl disc project covers all Jamaican rhythms, with host and selector Renata Aguiar AKA Rude Mamma accompanied by one or more selectors, singers or toasters expressing their voices over the Riddims (side B) of the discs. Among the messages are lyrics about female daily life, women's struggle in society, social problems, love, machismo and ideas of power, vision and female empowerment.


Check out their session here.



LEONA LIONESS

(Croatia/ Ireland)


Croatian Selectress, MC and radio host Leona Lioness currently lives in Ireland and has been collecting and selecting vinyl’s since 2006. She became more active on the scene after she founded “GLD” - Girls Love Dub – a platform designed to connect women in reggae business all over the world. Soon after, she became a Zion Radio host and editor, as well as a Selectress in Zion Radio Sound. She is also a personal assistant and promoter for Suns of Dub.


Together with her husband Ras Sale I (YARDSTEP), she started the GHETTO ROOTS project and sound. They organize parties and club programmes, as well as playing other events and festivals all over the Balkans.


Check out her session at Masters Club, Zagreb here.



SOUND SISTERS

(Brazil)


Tuti and Lioness Pê started playing records together in 2010, then founded Sound Sisters in São Carlos. In 2013 they promoted the first party with their own Soundsystem. This is the first female soundsystem in Brazil; since then, they have taken big names to the interior of São Paulo.


They have been to several festivals and states in Brazil and with vinyl collection, their selection joins strands of Jamaican music such as reggae roots, dancehall, rub-a-dub, together with the current Steppers, and with emphasis on productions with female vocals and dubplates.


Check out their clip here.



JALIFA

(Trinidad & Tobago)


Jalifa started singing at the tender age of seven. Her influences were her father and her two elder brothers. Growing up, Jalifa would sing along with her sisters, just for fun. They would listen to all the old styles and different genres of music, and they would just sing. Her other influences in music come from artists like Sister Nancy, Lauryn Hill, Turbulence, and rapper Eminem. Whilst getting older, she began to take music more seriously.


Her brother Abba Shanty began writing music for Jalifa in the year 2007. After that, Jalifa shared the same stage as many of the local artists on the reggae scene in Trinidad & Tobago.


Jalifa performed on the same stage as some of Jamaica's biggest reggae icons, legends, and international artists such as Jamaica’s Culture Brown, Chezidek, Jah Bouks, Terry Ganzi, Junior Kelly, and Sizzla Kalonji at the 'One Voice Concert'.


After that, she started recording and was featured on various Eps. Her third single “When I Chant was featured on the Bongo Riddim Blessings flow vol #1 album.


Check out her video here.







Feminine energy, energy reign

- Sampa The Great


One love! Omega vibes!


~ Mirna


NOTE: This list is not closed, I would like to present more soundsystem crews, collectives, selectresses, MCs, singers and producers in my next blog post. Feel free to contact me at hello@wxmb2.com