When it comes to dancehall, there aren’t many sound systems that warrant as much respect as Stone Love. SL has, in fact, ruled the worldwide dancehall scene for the last 30 years; they’ve shaped dancehall culture, set DJ trends, and can control a reggae crowd like nobody else. So when local promoters manage to book DJs from the Stone Love sound system, people on both sides of the Detroit River come out and show much love.
This time, Stone Love selector G-Fuss is hitting Windsor (for the Easter Extravaganza) and laying down a heavy dose of old-school roots music and new-school dancehall. And G-Fuss mixes the old with the new because, he says, in the new millennium selectors must cater to lovers of every style.
"I have to create good vibes no matter who comes out to hear the music," G-Fuss says via phone from Jamaica. "Sometimes me just want to play Dennis Brown, Yellowman and Jacob ‘Killer’ Miller, but not everyone wants to hear that. You have to play the I-Wayne and Bascom X for da youths."
G-Fuss has been a member of Stone Love for the last 14 years. After years of world touring, G-Fuss knows the Stone Love name can draw large crowds pretty much anywhere.
"You have people that just love Stone Love no matter what," G-Fuss says. "No matter where we go there are people who have known us from Day 1. And there are people who have never experienced a Stone Love show also, so me always have to nice it up for everyone. …"
Stone Love’s assent to dancehall regality wasn’t an easy road. Its founding father, Winston "Wee Pow" Powell started the outfit in 1972 at a time when such sound systems as King Tubby’s Hi-Fi ruled the scene. But Stone Love eventually become the most sought after crew anywhere — regularly playing shows in London, Canada, and Kingston on the same night.
That’s right, playing three major international cities on the same night. See, with eight topnotch DJs, the crew is deep enough that each selector can represent Stone Love at packed venues around the world, simultaneously. A downside to this, G-Fuss says, is not seeing his crewmates regularly. The upside is SL members have become reggae ambassadors.
G-Fuss is looking forward to the Windsor show and says the reggae crowds there bring "good vibes" to the dancehall. They have an understanding of the culture.
"That’s nice because me don’t have to cater to the hip-hop crowd," G-Fuss says. "We always have good shows in Windsor."
Toronto-based sound system Soul 2 Soul will be supporting Stone Love. Its main selector, Grandmaster Rosa, has been spinning reggae music for 40 years, getting his start in 1965. Soul 2 Soul and Stone Love have been rocking parties in Toronto since 1987.
"Soul 2 Soul and Stone Love is the best combination because we know each other so well," Rosa says. "Everywhere we play, it’s always a very good vibe."
Meanwhile, back in the jungle
Back in Detroit, DJ Killa from Strictly Roots is throwing a jam on the very next night. What you should know is Killa is a rudebwoy all the way; when he mans turntables the reggae that pumps through the speakers ain’t for the faint-hearted. Yet there are dancehall fans in the Motor City still not familiar with Killa’s, uh, killer rep. Dude keeps a low-profile and plays as many shows in Jamaica and other cities as does he in Detroit.
And Killa’s bringing out some surefire talent, including John Lu of Toronto’s Bullet Proof sound system, on the decks. Lu’s never played a show in Detroit, but he’s got a busload of ladies coming from Toronto as well as a handful of dancers to keep the crowd jumping.
The night’s theme is "Badman Forward, Badman Pull Up," which is a new, up-to-the-moment dance raging in Jamaica. It’s inspired by a Jamaican pop group Ding Dong, whose song of the same name has been tearing up dance floors all over the Caribbean.
"Every time me put it on the turntable, the whole place catch a fire," Lu says. He’s on the phone from Toronto. "The crowds love that song. I don’t understand it meself, but it’s a big dance and once you play it, everybody want to dance to that song."
It should be noted here that Detroit’s most popular reggae dancer, George Strait, will be on hand showing off his signature moves.
As a treat, King Tubby’s nephew, Digital Tubby, will be spinning alongside Jamaican singer Derrick Irie, who will be toasting during the set. King Harmony is also performing.
"A whole heap of music gonna be broke off for the first time, at this show," Killa says. "It’s gonna be a wicked."
The Easter Extravaganza with Stone Love is Friday, April 14, at the Caribbean Centre, 2410 Central, Windsor, Ontario; 519-890-5544.
The "Badman Forward, Badman Pull Up" show is Saturday, April 14, at the WIAA Hall, 2015 E. 7mile, Detroit; 313-836-8686.Jonathan Cunningham is a freelance writer. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org