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Last Leg: Contribute To Delhi Sultanate's Reggae Sound System Campaign

It’s the last leg of the race for Delhi Sultanate, whose campaign on crowdfunding website Indiegogo seeks to raise the money to build one of India’s first reggae sound systems.

The idea that underlies his ambitious new project is that music should be experienced as an open community. Bass music shouldn’t just exist within clubs reserved for a small percentage of our music loving populace – it should be open to anyone who wishes to be a part of the movement.

With just 4 days left to contribute, the long-time advocate (and pioneer, in India) of the Jamaican sound addresses some of the burning questions about his crowdfunding efforts, love for bass music and sound system culture before the campaign closes.

Check out Delhi Sultanate’s Indiegogo campaign in more detail here and if you’re on board with the idea, you can contribute (starting with the humble sum of $1). Really, there's no excuse.

Could you explain what a sound system is to those who might not know?

A Jamaican sound system consists of hand-built wooden speakers and power amplifiers that are capable of generating a massive body of sound; powerful enough to create physical vibrations that surge through furniture, the ground and even our bodies.

It’s a difficult task to communicate our idea with words and images to people who have not experienced the power of a sound system session on their own bodies and have not felt the immense joy that it can bring. The practice began in the ghettos of Kingston in the 50s and in the meantime, has become a worldwide phenomenon.

What’s the current status of your campaign?

We have raised over 60% of the funds from over 130 backers, but still need to raise around 4 Lakh Rupees. Many people who are close to us, those who are involved in the music scene, as well as strangers have shown us tremendous support. Most of our support is coming from India, but I am happy to report that we have also received contributions from as far as Colombia, Jamaica and Germany.

Work is well underway. The speakers have all been built. I made a trip to Old Delhi to hunt for chemicals to make speaker paint and I’ll start painting as soon as I get back to Delhi. So the system is almost finished. I still have to buy the amplifiers and a tempo van and get the right permits so I can drive it across the country. I'll probably have to get a new driving license for power vehicles as well.

How has the response been so far?

The support from everyone by far exceeded my expectations and I feel very encouraged by all the good will that people have demonstrated. I won't forget any of the help I've gotten and have made a note of every person who contributed. I hope they can come to the launch in March. We're still keeping the date and location under wraps.

How can a good sound system change our experience with music?

Music and sound involve the ear, but making and appreciating it involve the whole body. Sound systems are designed for precisely this purpose — they are meant to rock your body and engulf your entire being. As Julian Henriques remarked, with headphone listening, sound is placed inside the body, whereas with a sound system, bodies are placed within sound.

Participants in a sound system session shape their movements into a living and evolving unity as they feel the bass pulsing through their bodies. In order for this to happen, reggae music has always placed great emphasis on bass. Bass deals with low, deep frequencies, which resonate as they emerge from the speakers and create an impassioned visceral response in humans, it’s a sound we can not only hear, but literally feel, as it reaches out from the wall of sound and stimulates us.

There are powerful neurological and structural reasons why our music needs bass. We are biologically rooted to rhythm and bass.

Why build your own sound system?

What we want to achieve by having our own system is the freedom to organize our own events and to begin to push into new spaces. We are building a mobile system so that we can tour the country and set up in urban and rural spaces, even villages and public spaces wherever possible.

As performers, where and when we hold events, is often dictated by those who own the means of producing shows. We are dependent on sponsors to hold music festivals and on music venues who can afford to put up big systems.

At present nightclubs are some of the few places where music can be played at loud volumes, and where a shared communal experience can take place. Many in India and elsewhere in the world don’t associate nightclubs with positive or healthy ways of engaging with culture. This perception has to change. Dancing to music should be recognized as a legitimate and valuable social and cultural activity. Sound systems can bring people together and foster a sense of unity. For that though, music venues would have to become more inclusive and accessible, and not geared primarily to maximizing ales.

What goals would you want to achieve once the sound system is up and running?

We will start with events in Delhi, but we plan to tour the country. For this purpose, we are getting a van to transport the system. Apart from our own performance, the system will be available for touring reggae artists and we also intend to start a regular property where we give other bass music producers and DJs from India a chance to play their music on the BFR Sound System.

We are going through great effort and personal expense, and we are asking people to contribute from their own resources because we want to be able to play and create this experience in other spaces, in non-commercial spaces, with organizations and communities that may not always be able to bear the high cost of hiring PA systems.

**Check out Delhi Sultanate’s Facebook page for more. Click here to contribute to his campaign on Indiegogo before it closes in 5 days.**

Image credit: Zacharie Rabehi

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12 January 2016