Sound system of the Heart


Following his recent relocation from Melbourne to Mullumbimby, Australia’s King of Reggae Soundsystem, Derek Marr, brings us the unique Heartical Hi-Powa.

Heartical Hi-Powa was the original dub reggae soundsystem in Australia, founded and hand-built in 2002. Now based in Mullumbimby, Derek brings his unique vibe and record collection to this regular bi-monthly dub reggae night. Join the family for uplifting forward-thinking music. Authentic Caribbean food will be served.

Stryka D, aka Derek Marr, gave us the download.

How did you start out?

It all started in Melbourne around 2002. I had settled into a new life after moving from the UK, where Jamaican-style soundsystems have played a significant role within the musical landscape. There was nothing like it down there at the time and I began to miss hearing the music the way it was made to be played – soundsystem style.

I began to teach myself about loudspeaker cabinet design, theory and construction. Once I felt confident I bought some materials and components to start building the first boxes, following a blueprint of the UK roots and dub sounds. It took a good few years until I built the first stack and acquired the necessary equipment to hold a dance. Finally all the records I had been collecting over the years now had the essential medium to present them. So it all snowballed from there really – I continued to build up the system, collect music and hold regular dances. It really has been a learning curve and a journey that continues.

Who are the people who influenced you and set you on your way musically?

While growing up in the UK and developing a deep love of Jamaican and UK reggae alike, the most direct influence on Heartical would be the sound-men who either brought over or adopted the concept of JA soundsystem culture. This became a movement us British reggae fans could identity with and cultural barriers began to fade. To mention some of the bigger names would be crews and people such as Jah Shaka, Channel One, Iration Steppas, Aba Shanti and Jah Tubbys, who built some of our equipment when we started out. Now it’s the newer soundsystems that are springing up worldwide that maintain the tradition, that continue to inspire us.

What does Heartical Hi Powa represent?

Heartical Hi Powa represents a music culture that has a more than fifty-year history, from its humble roots in the ghettos of Kingston, Jamaica, to a now-global movement that has finally reached Australia. We appreciate the best reggae and dub as being studio oriented and soundsystem as the traditional medium to forward the music to the people. We believe music has the power to change people’s lives and even build communities. Though it’s early days for soundsystem culture in Australia we feel there is an educational element to what we do and hopefully an inspiration to others.

How do you manipulate your soundsystem to get the most out of your gigs?

We use a special custom-built piece of equipment we call a pre-amp. These pre-amps are only known within reggae and dub soundsystem circles. They enable the skilled operator to manipulate and shape the sound, exposing the audience to different ranges of frequencies, which can have a physical effect. The sound system becomes a live instrument and the audience receives a unique sonic experience. Some have even described it as healing.

How has dancehall changed over the last few decades? 

Dancehall is a fairly broad term, we’d use it when referring to the location where we’d set up the soundsystem and play a session, though most dances in Jamaica are held on lawns and open public spaces. As another form of reggae, I’d say dancehall music has changed a fair bit over the decades, the same as all music has. We’ve seen its popularity increase, though it does seem to be moving away from its reggae foundation and has gone well beyond its classic era of the mid 80s and 90s. Jamaican music has always been influenced by the US. Today we see more hip-hop and RnB elements infused into it. Personally for me the appeal of reggae music was its consciousness and positive message, which is often not the case with modern dancehall. So the progressive music of Jamaica is not really our bag these days; we prefer a more conscious element.  

What should we expect for your show in Mullumbimby?

Our show at Durrumbull Hall on Friday promises an evening of great music, Caribbean food and positive vibes. Heartical Hi Powa and crew will present a 45rpm vinyl showcase of pure undiluted reggae. From the foundation-shaking roots of the 70s to the digital styles of the 80s and 90s, through to the new rootical dubwise of today. All delivered in an authentic soundsystem style, creating a unique musical experience that you won’t find anywhere else in the Shire. As we’d say hearing is believing.

Friday at Durrumbul Hall at 6pm. $15 on the door.

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