Brain Damage meets Vibronics : « Empire Soldiers »
Brain Damage & Vibronics unleash a fiery dubwise journey into the lesser known volumes of history. When two of Europe’s most notorious dub producers and an international cast of singers meet up to discus the start of the Great War 100 years ago, you know the results are going to be big. «Empire Soldiers» is the often overlooked story of the colonial troops in World War One, a heavyweight musical collaboration with an emotive set of lyrical tales from Africa, Asia and The Caribbean told by Madu Messenger, Parvez, Sir Jean and Mohammed El Amraoui.
This original creation will be turned into a album [ cd & LP / Jarring Effects / oct 2013 ], a set of 3 Sound System exclusive 10″ mixes, and a live tour featuring Parvez & Madu Messenger.
With a strong background of countless LPs, collaborations and live sessions all around the world to their credit, we could think that both entities have little left to prove. Yet, they both have much in common, particularly a certain ever-growing and untiring creativity, but also an undeniable sense of challenge, concept and constant questioning. The issue that is here discussed extends way beyond a mere meeting: the presentations between the artists have been made a long time ago, through lots of remixes and co-bill live sessions. This momentum is now more a matter of the transient collision of their respective universes, for a live tour and a epic LP entitled “Empire Soldiers”, giving rise to a third entity, unclassified until then.
Vibronics & Brain Damage teamed up and decided to come together around a concept, a narrative inspiration that will undoubtedly surprise: Anglo-Caribbean and Franco-African soldiers’ experience during the first world war. The academic historian, poet & songwriter, Madu Messenger, uses the product of years of study and research, to develop, within that very framework, a series of texts on some key topics such as travel, friendship, war and death. This project thus aims at offering a learning experience about this often little-known period of our history. It will draw troubling parallels with some more contemporary considerations on culture shocks, immigration, imperial powers and horrors of war that still affects all of us today. Following their reflection on this sensitive issue, the musicians of the project’s – all of many other origins, Anglo-French, Jamaican or Asian – move towards a cultural alignment, opposite to certain enslaving and communitarian models. Brain Damage and Vibronics’ digital reggae-dub comes in different colors throughout many influences, completing the best of their know-how, with the spontaneousness of the collaboration & human experience.
The two producers and dub pioneers, Steve Vibronics & Martin Nathan, almost transplant their respective studios on stage, for a performance that is anything but a confrontation, competition or other kind of battle. What we are talking about here is more like a sharing and pooling the know-how of two artists with distinct sensibilities, not rised against one another, but symbiotically serving an aesthetics, a feeling, an (hi)story.
Once again, here is all about struggling against the operated machines’ rigour, to strike back with a reggae-dub, sometimes slick, then distorted, hypnotic and repetitive, yet always surprising, with the help of tenebrous reverbs, unlikely echoes and daring mixes that made their live sessions a success in the past 15 years.
Vibronics’ style is also here truly identified through the appearance of the two vocalists Madu Messenger & M Parvez, whose so characteric & complementary voices, embody the concept of this collaboration: a reflection based around the British-Caribbean and Franco-African soldiers’ experience during the first world war.
Finally, even if each aspect seems to have been considered and jewelled upstream, if nothing seems to have been left to chance, a certain fragility remains however, reflecting all the joint spontaneousness, and constantly reminding us that this project is definitely atypical and inherently ephemeral.
References : Dour Festival, Reggae Geel, Fusion Festival, Seasplash Festival, UNOD Weekender, Télérama Dub Festival, Riddim Collision Festival, …
|« Empire Soldiers », Brain Damage meets Vibronics original creation, has been labelled by the French government Mission in charge of the commemorations marking the Centennial of the First World War.
Background info :
« In many ways the First World War is still seen as a white mans war, but it was a ‘world war’. The European empires had to utilise all of their resources during the conflict, including the manpower of their colonies.
More then eight and half million men fought for Britain and of these nearly three million came from the colonies with India supplying approximately 1.5 million men. Even the Caribbean islands of Britain West Indies, with their small populations, mustered some 15,000. France was able to call on some 170,000 of her African colonial troops many of them coming from Senegal, some 30,000 would be killed in action.
The French had no problem using their black colonial troops in combat roles, for the British it was a different matter. A very strict racial policy was followed e.g. Indian troops were seen as having a good fighting spirit and served as combat troops. Though some West Indians troops would be involved in fighting in the Middle East, the majority of them would serve, along with some 140,000 Chinese, as members of labour battalions. These unsung soldiers were the backbone of the armies; at times working in horrendous conditions they moved supplies, dug trenches, laid railway and communication lines, built and mended the roads that took men to the front lines.
This album was created to tell the other half that is seldom told and stands as a testament to the colonials of colour who served during the Great War of 1914-18.[ Madu Messenger – 2013 ]
Who is who
Vibronics « the future sound of dub » has been at the forefront of the UK Roots and Dub explosion since 1995, demonstrated by the 40+ releases on his own legendary Scoops label as well as a host of albums, singles and remixes for myriad labels, including Universal Egg, Jarring Effects, Soundsaround, Dubhead and Jah Tubbys. Since early days Vibronics have maintained strong links with Roots Sound Systems (Aba-Shanti-I , Iration Steppas, Jah Shaka…). Whether it’s dub mixing live on stage, rocking the clubs or uplifting festivals, Vibronics continue to perform tirelessly across Europe, Asia, Central America and the Caribbean. Hehas never stopped to look back and have built a huge reputation for kicking up a musical storm with their amazing live shows that feature, among others, the vocal talents of Parvez aka The Dub Factory and Madu Messenger. 2008 saw the release of the Vibronics «UK Dub Story» album (feat. MC Macka.B, Jah Marnyah & Echo Ranks), and the band played cuts from this album at club and festival shows throughout Europe (Glastonbury, Ostroda Reggae, Dour, and Outlook Festival). In 2010 Vibronics launched assault on the new decade with 12 new singles on the Scoops label, one released each month over the whole year. Two years later arrived the release of the Vibronics‘ «French Connection» album, on Hammerbass records. Indeed, never one to stay still for too long, Vibronics came roaring out of the studio with 12 brand new remix collaborations featuring the cream of French dub artists: High Tone, Zenzile, Brain Damage, Weeding Dub, Black- board Jungle, OBF and Kanka, to name just a few of the artists to be re-worked in this international Dub project.
Vibronics’ studio work leads the way in contemporary dub productions; fascinated by the studio trickery of Scientist and King Tubby, Steve is never scared of experimenting with dub. He thrives on collaborations across genres and looks to Hip Hop, RnB and Electronica for influence whilst remaining true to the legacy of Roots Music. Vibronics can definitely be regarded as one of the greatest spearheads of the world reggae dub scene.
Academic historian, conscious songwriter and « roots » vocalist, Madu is definitely a corner- stone of UK reggae. He came from a churchical background and so was singing from an early age. Always influenced by different forms of music, it was the drum and bass harmonics of reggae he was most drawn to. In his own words «During the eighties I started writing poetry, there was a lot to write about during that time, some of these were turned into songs that I sang with a local Sound System called ‘Rebel Hi Powa’ ». Since then, his stunning voice has gained attention both on record and live. He collaborated with most of the international scene heavyweights who appreciated the meaning & relevance of his lyrics: No more Babylon, Zion Train, Brain Damage or even Dub Creator. Alongside Parvez aka The Dub Factory, he voiced the dubplate killer ‘It’s a Crime’ for the Aba-Shanti-I Sound System, and is now pointed out as one of the main singers & MCs of the Vibronics live crew, touring all around the globe.
PARVEZ aka THE DUB FACTORY
Based in Leicester UK, Parvez founded the Dub Factory label in 1994 and is behind a lot of essential productions of UK dub. Also renowned for his singing talent, having Asian origins, he often works with Indian or Pakistani artists like Ishq records or Bally Sagoo for instance. He also collaborated with Control Tower, Ital Sounds, Brain Damage, to name a few among the best European producers. His contribution within Vibronics’ collective also leads to numerous acclai- med releases and explosive live gigs all over the world.