The Jamaican Sound System Federation

The 1950s brought about the creation of the sound system. The sound system allowed the public, many who did not yet own a radio, the ability to hear the new American R&B, and eventually new local music. What began as a cheaper alternative to employing live musicians, sound systems became instrumental in the creation of an expatriate market for Jamaican music in the US, Canada and especially Britain.

The various sound systems around the island also contribute to the economy of the nation. John Constantinides wrote in The sound system: contributions to Jamaican music and the Montréal dancehall scene, “With respect to the human element of a sound system, several roles can be isolated which are necessary for a proper performance. These are: sound man (or box man), selector, mixer (or disc-jock), and deejay. Some sound systems also include dancers as part of their performance, but the core roles are the four listed above. The sound man (or box man) role involves the setting up and maintenance of the physical sound system. The selector (or selecta) chooses the records to be played. The mixer (or disc-jock) simply refers to the role of stringing or mixing together various records in sequence.”

This is an example of only four of the main employees of the sound system. The sound system also needs to be transported so it either hires or own trucks to carry its equipment. Some of the major sound systems across the island such as Stone Love, Rebel T and Renaissance, have also built up local conglomerates that employ their own secretaries, booking agents and public relations officers.

Watch Tony Myers, co founder of the Jamaica Sound System Federation, introduce the history and purpose of sound system culture in Jamaica. From making their own speakers to creating the foundation of Jamaica’s music industry, the sound system is at the centre of music and entertainment.

The Jamaica Sound System Federation is located at 13 Minott Terrace and welcomes visitors who can experience how sound systems are built from the ground up. Visitors may also test how they sound on the microphone on the house sound system, Jam One Sound. For more information contact Alpha Boys School Radio by email or on Facebook and we will make the introduction to a tour guide or to the Jamaica Sound System Federation directly.


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