Interview: Masego Soundsystem: 10 yrs Dub Club (Rotterdam, NL)

Interview Masego soundsystem celebrates 10-year anniversary of their Dubclub WORM. Welcome gentlemen. We noticed that you’ve been hosting soundsystem dances in WORM for more than 10 years now, and you’re going to celebrate this on April 6th. We thought this would be a good moment for us to look back on the past 10 years together.

Let’s start at the beginning. How did the Dubclub begin 10 years ago?

Mathical: In 2013, Erik-Jah and Thomas (Original Dub Radix) started organizing King Shiloh nights in club WORM. Erik-Jah used to joke that he mainly did this because he didn’t like the night train from Amsterdam to Rotterdam, but I think they also felt it was important to have a place in Rotterdam for conscious soundsystems. The first edition with King Shiloh sold out, and both Erik-Jah and WORM understood that there was a demand for a place in Rotterdam where reggae-dub sounds could play.

Thierry: A few weeks after that first edition, the idea to form Masego soundsystem came alive, and Mathical, Raymond, and I joined the Dubclub team from the second edition. By the way, the nights were still called ‘Original Dub Radix meets King Shiloh’ back then.

Did you expect back in 2013 that the dances at WORM would still be taking place ten years later?

Mathical: I don’t think we had a clear expectation about the development of the Dubclub right away. In the beginning we organized them edition by edition without a long-term plan. It wasn’t until later, when our own sound was ready and WORM entrusted us to further develop the club night, that we started looking ahead. That was also the moment we changed our name to Masego soundsystem. At that point, we strongly wished to bring more international artists to Rotterdam and to provide a platform for various subgenres.

Thierry: The first few years after 2013 were a very special period because the soundsystem scene in Rotterdam suddenly flourished. Out of Many soundsystem started its sessions, Mystic Pulse and High Class developed the 420 dances, Inna Yard grew bigger, and in a short time a new community emerged around the dances. It was that development that created new expectations for the existence of the
Dubclub. But no, at that time we didn’t expect it to last for 10 years.

What are you most proud of when looking back on 10 years of Dubclub?

Jakob Trinity: It’s incredible how many memories have been made during all the dances in WORM. Not just for us of course, but for the entire community. Personally, I first came as a visitor before joining Masego, so I’ve experienced very well what the dances could mean to people. We often hear people say they feel like they’re ‘coming home’ at the dances. That’s something to be proud of, right?

Mathical: What i’m most proud of? …(long pause)… I think mainly the fact that as a crew, we’ve worked hard for 10 years, and that our dances are still being well-attended. …(another long pause)… But especially that we still hold our yearly benefit night for the Yawenta children’s home. After all, that’s been our most valuable investment over the past 10 years.

Thierry: I’m proud that the club nights didn’t stop at some point. So many different nights come and go in the club circuit. I think ultimately it’s because the reggae-dub scene, more than any other scene, revolves around the people. It’s so much more than just a stack of speakerboxes.

Mathical: Musically, we had many moments to be proud of. We’re very grateful we had the chance to welcome many great artists over the years. Personally, I think the sound meeting with Imperial Sound Army in 2018 was the most special one to me. It was truly unique to host Dan-I with his own sound in WORM and to play conference style with such an internationally renowned sound. Dan-I has always been a great source of inspiration for me. But also recently, playing with Danman was a personal highlight. Danman is an amazing freestyle chanter who masters various subgenres. That’s the kind of chanter who is really lifting the session next level.

What did it take to keep the Dubclub successful for 10 years?

Mathical: Definitely hard work and persistence …. (everbody laughs)…. But also taking risks. It’s always the question if the line up we bring will work out well. I mean, of course we know which artists are popular among the visitors, but it’s never fully predictable if we’ll sell enough tickets to cover the costs. But that’s also exciting.

Jakob Trinity: It would never have been possible without the help of many people around us. After 10 years, we would never be where we are now if WORM hadn’t given us so much trust. WORM has a very loyal team and has invested a lot in us. But also think of the Floorangel team or the people who help us carry the speakerboxes at 7:00 in the morning. That’s a thing….

Thierry: We were also lucky with the timing of our start. I mean, the scene in Rotterdam came up quickly and reggae-dub soundsystems became more popular that period. King Shiloh has grown into one of the largest international reggae dub soundsystems in Europe since 2013 and has contributed more than any other sound in the Netherlands to the growth of the scene. Our dub club has definitely benefited from that.

Jakob Trinity: I think we’ve managed to keep our nights varied, and that’s why people like to come back. Sometimes we invite more unknown artists, and sometimes internationally known artists. Sometimes artists without a sound, sometimes soundsystems with their own speakerboxes and full crew. But also artists with different styles.

Mathical: Every session inspires us to continue. The people, the music, the energy that arises, the gratitude we always feel. We are blessed to do this and that gives us strength to go on when it’s tough or when we face setbacks. Because unfortunately, that’s also part of the process.

Speaking of setbacks, what have been the low points of the past 10 years?

Thierry: Yes, there have definitely been some. First of all, the lockdown. We don’t want to dwell on it for too long, but what hit us the most is how strong the connection in the family remained, and how everyone came back to the session right after the lockdown. That first session was special. Shamba Lion soundsystem from Haarlem and Toroki from Munich were on the line up. The energy that evening was incredible, and Toroki blew the roof off WORM. A session I’ll never forget.

Mathical: Another real low point was a few editions in 2022, shortly after the lockdown, when we suddenly received complaints from women who were being harassed on the dance floor. Even touched without consent. That was a slap in the face to all of us, and for a while we considered ending the Dubclub. Eventually, we concluded that we couldn’t accept this and that we needed to fight against such actions. The idea to use a safespace methodology soon came up. A community-based method where a team of Floorangels is formed to keep a sharp eye on things and to intervene preventively at early signs. Part of the method is that our Floorangels have been trained to support women on the spot if things go wrong. After one tumultuous edition again, this wonderful team quickly got things under control. Throughout 2023, we haven’t had any complaints! Give thanks.

Thierry: Yes, it hurts to realize that we were really naive to think that this couldn’t happen at Masego’s dances. We men really have no idea what women go through on the streets and in the nightlife. That’s our point of view now.

Jakob Trinity: Even as a crew, we experience personal low points behind the scenes. There are often phases where we have to work hard, experience stress, and tensions rise among us. You also encounter the lesser sides of someone’s character, but yeah
…(Jakob Trinity chuckles significantly)… show must go on, right? Running a soundsystem is not always easy, but ultimately it’s a mission and just like families, we patch things up. It’s for the love for our dances

Yeah, that love. What are your motivations to run the Dubclub for such a long period? Or perhaps more in general: what drives you to run a soundsystem?

…Sparkling eyes…

Mathical: Yeah, man, ‘Word, Sound, and Power,’ right? As a soundsystem you try to create that space where people can contemplate on the message during their meditation. Or to be more specific, on various messages from different chanters. Whether we’re talking about the emancipation of the people, anti-racism positions or the love of Jah, soundsystem is a space of freedom, and we’re constantly sowing seeds. I mean, people come to recharge, both physically and spiritually. Life is a challenging journey for everyone on the road to Zion, and sessions are there to reflect on what’s valuable in life and to thank Jah for it. We hope people take home what they’ve discovered within themselves during the dance.

Jakob Trinity: It’s definitely about creating a free space to meditate on music. As a chanter, I sometimes doubt if my words are relevant, but from some point on in a session, the words come naturally. Then, you automatically sing about Jah love and hope. You never know what someone has been through weeks before a session, right? They are there to let that go. I think as long as the energy of love truly arises, the dances remain relevant.

Thierry: Ultimately, I’m always happy after each session. It’s fantastic that we give Rotterdam a beautiful place for these sessions. Dancing is important for people, and for us each session is another adventure.

Do you have any dreams or plans for the next 10 years?

Thierry: Yeah, definitely to further improve what we’re doing now. We also have a plan to organize an edition where we’ll focus on female artists. We have some good ideas for invites.

Jakob Trinity: It would be amazing to organize something in the future in a more ‘Jamaican dubclub’ style, like truly Yard style. It would be great to invite chanters who are mainly known for their own work and offer our audience an opportunity to watch these artists freestyling more soundsystem-wise. I think that could lead to very interesting vibes. For example, Alborosie or Queen Omega or chanters like that.

Mathical: I would love to invite inspiring artists like Iration Steppas or Ital Soup. But also Dub Judah or Jideh High Elements for example. Plenty of ideas, hahaha

What can we expect on April 6th?

Mathical: Well, for soundsystem lovers I think the lineup speaks for itself. Moa Anbessa is a fantastic crew with amazing original productions bringing new remixes all the time. Imo and Prince David are real vibe machines on mic live. We saw them last summer at the Reggaejam festival, and we were once again impressed by their performance.

Jakob Trinity: Empress Black Omolo and Rootsman Sax are great to play with. Both of them always bring that magic we’re looking for in a session.

Thierry: Yeah, for those who don’t know Moa Anbessa, i would say: feel welcome. It’s going to be a fantastic night.


Interview Masego Soundsystem