In the Dancehall scene, sound system clashes are the proving ground. Brooklyn is considered by many to be the clash capital of the world. Step into Caribbean owned businesses, such as Peppa’s on Flatbush Avenue and you will likely find a poster announcing the next clash.
Clashes take place in clubs such as Albany Manor, Amazura in Queens or in backyards or block parties, “Anywhere there are two djs and an audience” says MC Sparkz of Kosmik Movement. Kosmik Movement is a Brooklyn-based outfit that has stepped into the fray with a confident swagger, making a name for themselves as new voices in this fiercely competitive arena.
The artists spoke to Caribbean Life at their Bushwick recording studio where they are now preparing for a big clash in Europe in March. Their words conveyed a respect for the artform and its tradition and their role as cultural ambassadors.
“Clashing originated in Jamaica,” Easy explains, “it is what brought reggae music to the forefront in the ghetto. Starting with artists playing on soundsystems and evolved with dub plates, special songs recorded by artists for your particular sound.”
It is in this studio where many of their dub plates are recorded. Easy began cutting dub plates in November 2009, Don Angelo was the artist at the first session. He was building the sound and building relationships. Shabba Ranks, Sugar Minott, Barrington Levy, Beres Hammond, the Marleys, Marcia Griffiths, Allison Hinds, and Mr. Vegas are a few of the artists who have cut dub plates for the group.
Sir Tommies and Tony Screw were also mentors. So, Kosmik Movement was well prepared when they came out, at the No Peace Treaty Tournament at the Culture Barn in 2011. Since that night, they have clashed with King Addies, Silverhawk, Ricky Trooper, Supersonic, King Klepto and Barrier Free.
On March 30 in Eschede, Netherlands, they take another huge step forward in participating in the “War ina East” facing off against veterans Sentinel Sound from Germany and Yardbeat from Japan.
Kosmik Movement explains that the audience decides the winner of the clash but in today’s era they are performing for more than the live audience present. “It’s a worldwide underground thing … Japan, Europe, Australia, Africa. It’s a big circle but a small circle, thanks to the internet. There are forums, audio and video posted and if there is a clash in Brooklyn tonight, tomorrow people in Africa are already inquiring what happened,” Kosmik manager Alex Garcia explains.
Lee Majors is one of the stars who carried the music into this new era, for he is a veteran of the Biltmore Ballroom era, when there was a sound clash every weekend at the club on Church and Flatbush avenues.
When he first heard Kosmik Movement, Majors says, “I could hear immediately that they have talent and a love for it, and was impressed by the vibration of their sound, the musical energy, and knowledge. He agrees that the culture around the music is thriving, picking up in the last couple of years, driven by social media.
Garcia says, “Through that exposure we are getting booked in Europe. Different genres of music are now getting interested. For example P. Diddy has been hearing about the clashes and he went to Jamaica in January and set up a stage in Kingston where the top sounds clashed.”
In clashing, “Its important to bring a new flavor and energy to the game so the bar is set higher in these competitions,” DJ Sparkz added. Custom dub plates, which come out of their relationship with the artists, are an important element of the their performance. Reading the crowd, Selector Brian says that in a moment, if the singer is singing on a particular beat, you might put it on a different beat. It all adds up to a one-time-only listening experience.
Kosmik Movement comprises: Brian (Selector), Tando Fire (MC), Derek (Lead Selector), MC Sparkz (Lead MC), Alex Garcia (Manager), Obie 1, an Jamaican (Engineer and Mastermind), and Easy (Chief Engineer). They can be heard on Internet radio: www.boomstation.net every Tuesday and Thursday evenings 6:00-8:00 p.m.
Lee Majors and Earth Ruler Sound will clash March 2 at Albany Manor with Blunt Posse and Poison Dart, hosted by Tek 9 and Gary Famus. For more information, go to Dancehall Archives’ Facebook page.