“Chase Sound Boys Out of Earth”: The Aura of Dubplate Specials in Finnish Reggae Sound System Culture

  • Kim Ramstedt Åbo Akademi University
Keywords: aura, dubplates, DJs, performance, reggae, recordings


This study seeks to expand our understanding of how dubplate specials are produced, circulated, and culturally valued in the international reggae sound system culture of the dub diaspora by analysing the production and performance of “Chase the Devil” (2005), a dubplate special commissioned by the Finnish MPV sound system from Jamaican reggae singer Max Romeo. A dubplate special is a unique recording where, typically, a reggae artist re-records the vocals to one of his or her popular songs with new lyrics that praise the sound system that commissioned the recording. Scholars have previously theorized dubplates using Walter Benjamin’s concept of aura, thereby drawing attention to the exclusivity and uniqueness of these traditionally analog recordings. However, since the advent of digital technologies in both recording and sound system performance, what Benjamin calls the “cult value” of producing and performing dubplates has become increasingly complex and multi-layered, as digital dubplates now remediate prior aesthetic forms of the analog. By turning to ethnographic accounts from the sound system’s DJ selectors, I investigate how digital dubplates are still culturally valued for their aura, even as the very concept of aura falls into question when applied to the recording and performance of digital dubplates.