The sound clash is a key part of Black musical culture and is at its very foundations, especially in the UK.
No Signal has brought attention back to the sacred art of sound clashing. With two legends in the form of Bounty Killer and Beenie Man having the only legitimate clash during lockdown, now would be an appropriate time to look at its roots. Especially as parts of the Black diaspora think we don’t know what a real clash looks like, and partly to look at just how much it has shaped our musical landscape.
But before the UK let’s take a quick detour to America where the clash is equally important. When we think America, we are most likely to associate it with Rap battles and on a wider scale Hip Hop itself. However, Hip Hop as a genre alongside the battle element by coincidence or arguably by design, mirrors the Caribbean’s musical structure. Hip Hop was born out of DJ culture and entertaining a crowd not only with the music, but with somebody conducting affairs on the mic; a practice long celebrated primarily in Reggae and Dancehall music. Today we often see MC used to describe rappers, but the MC is a specific position – Master of Ceremonies.
A master of ceremonies would work in tandem with the DJ, helping to provide good vibes and order to proceedings. In Jamaica which is synonymous with the sound clash, a master of ceremonies and DJ set up has always been standard. In fact, in the earliest forms of a sound clash it would be a whole crew bringing their own sound system setups, battling against each other to a specific set of rules. These clashes would be multi-crew affairs and what we see being used most recently today is the format of what happens as the sound systems are whittled down to just two crews. The deciding round of the clash between the final two crews would operate in an alternating 10 vs 10 tracks format.