Meet Coventry’s first all-female Black Sound System keeping Dub and dancehall alive in the city
“If you don’t know what you are or what you stand for then you’ll fall for anything, that’s what dub and roots music teaches you, to stand up for who you are”
Sisters in Dub is thought to be Coventry’s only all-female black Sound System – and they are here to keep dub and dancehall alive in the city.
Dub and Dancehall was a musical innovation that burst through fifty years ago in the form of Sound Systems built by West Indian arrivals.
Established in January 2020, Sisters in Dub are a three-piece group made up of members Danniella Evans, Cherelle Harding and Kat Burchall.
Youth worker, model and and government staff by day, by night the band have been bringing venues across Coventry alive with their infectious music.
‘It makes every cell in your body vibrate with happiness’
“Being females, I don’t think people knew what to expect from us,” Danniella Evans, who goes by the stage name of Danniella Dee told CoventryLive.
“Dub and Roots music is the heartbeat of all music genres, it’s the heartbeat, when you hear it, the vibrations you get from the speakers and the frequencies you get.
“It makes every cell in your body vibrate with happiness, it uplifts you, it is positive, uplifting and everyone needs more of it in their life.”
1950s West Indian arrivals to the city – many from Coventry’s twin city of Kingston – built their own Sound Systems with huge speakers and amps, introducing new Reggae and Ska music to local audiences at parties.
Those Sound Systems went on to inspire and influence some of the biggest music genres of our lifetime, such as 2-Tone.
Back in the 1970s and 1980s, Sound System culture explode in Coventry and there were places you could go to hear the Dub and Roots music across the city.
How Sound System culture exploded in Coventry
Political and social changes in Jamaica saw the rise of Rastafarianism, and Coventry got its first taste of ‘dreadlock culture.’
People would travel from across the Midlands to venues such as Coventry’s ‘Railway Club’ and Holyhead Youth Club where Sound Systems like Coventry Count Spinner and Jah Baddis grew in popularity.
Clubs and venues were playing more reggae music, and the city’s West Indian centre opened its doors in 1984.
The 1990s saw a shift, as Coventry began to diversify in its population, so did its musical style, which saw Sound Systems cross over with mainstream DJs.
Danniella’s father was part of Jah Baddis, one of the original Sound Systems set up in Coventry.
“It was a way for West Indian people, Caribbean people, to come together and play the music they loved.
“They were facing so much struggle in these times, the racism, the fighting to get into positions that were so easy for white people to get into, fighting for jobs, suffering.
“The Sound System was a positive thing where they could come together where they could have their release and space as black people.
“This was very true for Jah Baddis, they were all young boys who came from Jamaica for the first time in a strange country, and it was the music that brought them together in really tough times.”
Today, while there are sound systems still active in Coventry, the new generation, like Sisters in Dub, are continuing the tradition – and making it their own.
‘The energy is really high, it’s really infectious’
Danniella said: “It’s important for females nowadays to be brave enough to step in and occupy these male dominated spaces in the creative industries because we can be really powerful when we do that.
“What we’re really trying to do with Sisters in Dub is bring more of the African Caribbean community, bring them into and introduce them to Dub and Roots.”
The band formed just before the pandemic, after singing together in local gospel choirs and reggae bands.
Danniella went on: “In terms of coming together to make a sound system, me and Cherelle were going out often to see really big and well known sound systems playing, Channel One, Shaka, and the first time I went I couldn’t help but notice how different it was to a normal club night.
“Everybody here at the sound system, the energy is really high, it’s really infectious, it’s really positive.
“There’s no guys trying to get on girls, everyone is in their own peaceful space, you have white, black, Asian [people.]
“I often see a group of Sikhs at the sound system event, it’s great to see a group of people come together coming together to enjoy the music.”
Danniella said Sisters in Dub want to continue the legacy of those early pioneers in a new, fresh and female way.
They also want to introduce more young black people to Sound System culture: “A lot of mainstream music these days, the messages are not necessarily positive or some of the artists aren’t necessarily the best role models.
“The liberation that you find through music is beautiful.
“The music speaks about our connection to Africa, the power we have as black people, it uplifts us and empowers us to continue the fight of oppression that we face.”
Coventry City of Culture is hosting a range of Sound System events this month, find out more here: https://coventry2021.co.uk/what-s-on/coventry-sound-systems-present-coventry-meets-kingston/