conquering the unconquerable - dub vs. the union

Hugo Drummond

Someone in black tie stumbles past me, yet I’m unable to move as my shoes struggle against the unrelenting grip of the Pablo-soaked precipice on which I stand. Gazing up into the vaulted depths of 601’s darkness, I half expect my eyes to meet those of Wiley’s eternally damned soul or perhaps Boddika’s perturbed spirit.

As usual, Music Is Love’s unwavering enthusiasm had led me into the venue with a sense of hope, perhaps futile, that tonight the music would finally slay the beast that has on so many occasions dealt a fatal blow to our visitors-a-plenty. 
MUNGO’S HIFI, by Music Is Love and St Andrews Afro-Caribbean Society, preceded by a short film to mark Music Freedom Day, started as many similar events had done before. BERT E once again provided the warm up tunes whilst the usual crowd familiarised themselves with the far-from-familiar surroundings they found themselves in. As Club 601 began to fill, the main act appeared behind the decks and a sense of familiarity overcame me as the sub-woofers piped up and warm bass resonated across the dance floor.

Mungo’s Hi Fi are a Glasgow-based production unit/sound system who have been pioneering their own brand of dancehall/reggae for over fifteen years. Growing up in Glasgow I’ve been aware of their presence in Scotland for a long time, but more recently the group has become a global operation, working with the likes of Ranking Joe and Major Lazer amongst others. Now comprising five members, they’ve released five albums featuring an ensemble of talented artists as well as founding their own record label ‘Scotch Bonnet’ in 2005.

In many ways, the accessibility of this contemporary reggae label suggests it is the perfect booking for the venue. Club 601 fundamentally lacks an integral approachability, something that the music of the night exuded. The collaborative nature of Mungo’s means that as they mix their way through their extensive career’s work, the crowd are exposed to a plethora of different creative streaks. Their output is based on taking the music more seriously than yourself, a concept perhaps lacking in St Andrews but that was strangely present on the night. Where people had flocked to Wiley because all their friends where going, or attended Boddika because techno is a scene; the crowd at Mungo’s just wanted to dance. The set facilitated this from the start, with collaborations with Soom T gently cranking the bass up for the first hour or two. It was when the industrial vibrations of Rules Of The Dance propelled right through everyone present, that the night found its feet. Nobody was holding back from then on in, even the guys in black tie slumped against the bar were joining in. It was also the perfect time for Mungo’s HIFI to drop in a few sneak peaks of their latest release, No Wata Down Ting which pairs Ipswich’s unique YT with Johnny Osbourne in a sensual undiluted output.  

I always knew that Mungo’s HIFI would provide a stellar billing for the evening and it’s a testament to their Glaswegian humility that despite their international links and extensive media coverage they still find time to play the small Scottish gigs, even so close to a major release. The question was rather, could anyone dictate the music as far as to take those present to a different place altogether. Gone was the pretence so often chained to the feet of musical events in this town, and as for 601, it was nowhere to be seen. The union will never be a perfect venue, but Mungo’s and Music is Love showed that with the right choices and a willing crowd, a venue can be secondary – even Club 601.

No Wata Down Ting is released on the 16th of March 2016.