In a short time, Jamaica’s Dubtonic Kru have made their mark on reggae, topped by winning the Global Battle of the Bands competition in Malaysia in February, taking home the title of best new band in the world. Dubtonic Kru’s Founding members, Deleon “Jubba” White on drums and Strickland “Stone” Stone on bass, are joined by two lead vocalists: guitarist Omar “Jallanzo” Johnson, Horace “Kamau” Morgan and keyboardist Luke Dixon. Together, the Kru combine what Jubba says joins both the foundations of reggae music with a motivation to provide a medicinal “tonic” to their listeners. CJ Arts talked to Jubba about working with some of reggae’s greatest minds over the years, keeping alive the roots reggae music of the past and the message of their music.
What are you working on right now?
Well, we have a new album coming up in the pipeline. It will be our third official album. There will be a few singles from that album that will be really smooth as well, by the end of the year. At the same time, we have our annual show that we do, called Bands, Inc., that we do every end of the year, this year it will be Nov. 26, and the fourth staging of that show. The closest thing we have is our East Coast run, our first East Coast mini-tour, made possible as a result of the Reggae Culture Salute on Nov. 5 in Brooklyn. So the East Coast market will be able to see us, in New Jersey, in New York, and a few other places in the region.
How would you describe your music?
Well, our music is for everybody. The music represents the name. “Dub” in reggae is the foundation of the music, the instrumental, deep, heavy drum-on-bass part of the music, and “tonic,” we would consider the medicinal aspect to the music. We all know that tonic is something for your body, to build and revitalize and energize. So that’s the effect that Dubtonic Kru is supposed to have on its audience. So both our lyrical content and the musical composition should have that effect – it makes people dance, it makes people reflect. Our topics are about love, about life, about current affairs – things that will make you think, thoughtful music. So that’s the kind of music we play. Dub, instrumental, trance, dance music, roots music.
Above, from left: Deleon White, Omar Johnson, Strickland Stone, Luke Dixon and Horace Morgan
You’ve worked with some of the biggest names in reggae, from Burning Spear to the Mighty Diamonds. How has that shaped your music?
It has everything to do with where we are at now, and where we’re going. Most of these are pioneers or those who have been the pioneers of reggae music industry. Being able to record with them or tour with them, in that life on the road we learned from our elders, and we learned the journey of the music. We learned about what inspired them. We have our own inspirations, but learning from the roots gives you a very good idea of where the music is coming from. So it’s just about being molded through those development stages, knowing where they were coming from, to where they came today, and the real meaning behind the music. Now we’re here, and another generation is bringing forth and continuing the work. And we’re bringing something new to the table, but the roots is always respected and the roots is what makes the tree grow. So being around them, has anything and everything to do with where we’re at now, and where we’re going.
You talk about roots reggae – how do you stay true to roots reggae while also creating something new?
The meaning of the music itself is the inspiration behind reggae music, which is the basis of our music, what really inspires us – everyday life. It is the good, the bad, the thoughtful, the playful, everything. And what we try to do is just return all of that into what it is. At the same time, it’s about party as well – people want to dance, people want to forget their troubles. People want to find an alternative to all the sadness that’s happening. So you give them a way to lighten up – while not forgetting the reality of life. So that is what our music represents. It’s about all those things – you come to a concert where Dubtonic Kru will be performing, and by the end of the night, you’re gonna be dancing so much that the pain would be gone. At the same time, you would be hearing the lyrical content, the issues that we’ll be addressing, and what that does is make you know that, as an individual listening to the music, or the content, that we’re all the same, we’re all facing the same situations. We try to provide an alternative to the sad effect that we might face on a day-to-day basis. It’s all about the inspiration we get, and we pass those inspirations on to our listeners.
How much does the global reach of reggae impact your music?
Well, it does very much. It’s very global because we’re dealing with the issues facing the people. [Reggae] is the people addressing the issues of the people. And it’s people of various backgrounds – all of us, we feel love, we know love. All of us, we know happiness, all of us know sadness. All of us, we know these things in life – that is a part of life, and a part of growth. And that’s really the true essence of reggae music. So it has become and has been a global phenomenon, because of the simple things about it. It speaks to the issues of the people, from the people to the people. So when we speak about issues that affect us and individuals, people can relate to that, because we’re feeling the same things. It’s not just about singing or talking about fantasy, or fantasizing, or just thinking about things that are unreachable. We’re talking about real issues, down-to-earth isues, and also trying to find alternatives, or positive ways to overcome these issues. One of our new songs, that’s not yet released, is called “Overcome.” One of our most recent songs was “Naah Give Up.” So we’re dealing with real issues, and people connect with those issues, because it’s an everyday thing, it’s all about life.
Dubtonic Kru makes their East Coast debut at Reggae Culture Salute on Saturday Nov. 5 when they will receive the CPR Simba [young lion] Award for their “contribution to the perpetuation of roots reggae music.”