Dub reggae is only good when the bass is so powerful that it resonates from the base of your stomach down to the end of your spine touching every single erogenous zone on its way through. More Fire, the monthly reggae night that happens at Deep 11 has that sound system and the setting.
You enter by climbing down a narrow metal factory staircase that takes you into a dark humid pit of bass, ganja smoke and sweat. By midnight there is no where to move. It’s barely possible to breathe much less dance but the people keep packing in and the joints keep passing around and the bass gets deeper, louder and sexier. It’s at that point that the backbone of the night, DJs Jesse I who is also heard on PBS leading Chant Down Babylon and the incredibly stoned and maniacally grinning Ras Crucial take the decks and the ground opens up and swallows you up.
And that’s the beginning of the night.
I’ve been going to More Fire for some months now and last Saturday over two levels, the mix went back in time to roots and culture, to the early origins of reggae in the fifties and sixties when R&B influences could still be heard in a brass section, when black power and black pride pushed african rhythms and melodies through the bass and when the devotional passion of the early rasta’s voices shone clear through the crackly recording technology of that day.
“this is a church”, Michael had said to me a month before. He was a regular to More Fire – South African born of mixed ancestry, thick dreadlocks down to his waist and blessed with enough good looks to weaken the knees of most women. That night, reggathon, the bastardised hiphop breed of ragga and hispanic rap was clearing the dancefloor at five and it seemed far from a church to me. But last Saturday, I saw the light or rather, as this is reggae, felt the riddim of Ja and worshipped the only way you can by dancing.
But your mother would never have let you go to this church when you were 16. In true reefer madness fashion, the dance floor is a cesspool and if you’re female and alive, you wont make it through the night without unwanted close and personal attention. But these guys arent anglo boys pissed off their skulls and stumbling around in bleary eyed aggression, they are mostly african men, stoned sober, grinning cheerfully but dancing way too close. And I mean crotch right up against your back close. Some friends of mine dont go unless the upper dancefloor is open because that’s the only place you can breathe and they dont mean air.
Given the sleaze factor, the crowd is well mixed. The music is just too good and there is no agro, no fights and no bouncers wandering through the crowd. As Prince Far I, original rasta-preacher, sings, “ganja dont kill no mon” and most in the crowd wear their dreads, whether visible or not, not just as a fashion or countercultural statement but because it’s what you wear to church.