This is Kingston

posted on November 15th, 2009 by in Article, SEEN

In case you read through the editorials of Voice magazine (see yesterday´s post) carefully, you probably saw that Phred announces stories from some “of his favourite blogs – two from Kingston, one observing from Munich, Germany” and you might have wondered where the Munich piece went.

As I wrote the piece, I kinda wondered, too. The editors say that they didn´t have “inoff time to make the thing work”. Could be the case could be a nice way to say “we didn´t like it”, too :-). But even that´d be ok because I didn´t know if I liked it myself at the end either. But make your own judgement – in reference to M. Sasek, I tried to look at Kingston from a child´s perspective, like Sasek has done for many other capitals of the world:


Tobias Huber and Gabriel Holzner are two white guys from Munich, Germany, fascinated by the bipolarity of Kingston, Jamaica. Fascinated by how that place knows no time but nevertheless sees trends change with the speed of light. Fascinated by how that place manages to suck every bit of energy out of its people during the days just to throw it back at them like lightning during the nights. Fascinated by how a place that small could have such a big impact on the popular culture of the world. Huber and Holzner have spent many months studying, working, and partying in Kingston, trying hard to understand the formula. And like always when trying to understand the gist behind something allegedly complicated, it´s best to look at it with the eyes of a child.


This is Kingston. Kingston is the capital of Jamaica. Jamaicans who are living outside of Kingston often just say “Town”. Right in the middle of Town, you find a place called Cross Roads. The area north of Cross Roads is called Uptown. The area south of Cross Roads is called Downtown. Downtown Kingston is the home of my famous reggae singers.

Reggae is a type of music which was invented in Jamaica about 50 years ago. 50 years ago, there was no internet around. Neither in uptown Kingston, nor in downtown Kingston, nor in the rest of the world. Still, ever since then, the music business in Kingston has looked very much like the music business in the rest of the world is looking today.

The internet of the Jamaican music business have been the so-called sound systems. Sound systems are loud mobile discos. Sound systems owners stream the latest records to the people. They stream them in public and they stream them for free. Sound system shows are very much like an offline if people like what the sound system owners stream, they flash their lighters, scream “pull up” or shoot their guns in the air to make them play the song they like again and again. If people do not like what the sound system owners play, they sometimes throw bottles at the sound system owners to let them know and remember. The same is true for stage shows.

In Jamaica, stage shows are live music events at which grown-up men and women who are dressed and called like wrestlers are dressed and called like in the United States of America, are often performing very infantile lyrics in very versatile ways. That is entertaining. Because Jamaicans like entertainment, they pay money for stage shows. Some of that money is for the entertainers to buy themselves and their friends food and pointy shoes. They could not buy these things from selling records because nobody in Jamaica but the sound system owners and white people buys records.

When you eventually buy records in Jamaica, you will see that they are much smaller than records in Europe. Jamaicans have never really liked the concept of bundled long players. Therefore, record stores in Jamaica have always been kind of like iTunes: you only pick the singles you like and get an album every two years in there.

Unlike MP3s, Jamaican records – although they are small and sound a bit poor, too – have a flip side. On the flip side you often find the song from side A without any vocals. This comes especially handy for sound system owners because they can put other vocals on top of the music and this is how the concept of mash-ups and remixes was born.

The story goes on but then – this is Kingston, too:

2 comments on “This is Kingston”

  1. Jetbeat said at 2:02 pm on November 16th, 2009:

    Dear Mr. Huber and Mr. Holzner

    We are really sorry, that we couldn't keep your text into the magazine. We liked your text and we loved your kids drawings, but in our eyes they didn't matched together. At the End we haven't inoff time to make them work together. Cause we were in such a hurry to finish the magazine in time. It's our bug. Thank you very much for interest and work.

    Beat –

  2. toastyle1210 said at 1:51 am on November 17th, 2009:

    no worries :-). still a very decent mag you put together with phred!

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