Sound System Culture

The UK’s sound system culture dates back to the 1940s when Caribbean immigrants came to England and began hosting ska, dub and dancehall events wherever they settled. This created a movement that not only impacted on reggae music as a whole, but also has had a profound impact on all popular music genres throughout the world.

You have the owner and the manager, who deals with all the bookings and collect the money. You have the amp-builder, who builds all the custom-designed equipment to certain specifications. You have the operator, who makes sure that the sound system is working properly. You have the selector, who chooses the music and actually puts on the records. And you have the talent around the mic, who keeps the crowd happy and entertained. It really is a team effort.

The sound system movement started off as illegal house parties in basements and so on because Caribbean people coming to England found pubs and working men’s clubs unwelcoming environments. So they created their own spaces where they could enjoy themselves – initially to the sound of radiograms. This lead to sound system owners’ investing into custom-designed equipment to their own specifications.