The Mad Professor is one of the world’s greatest dub masterminds. Guyana-born, moved to England when he was 13, the Mad Professor embodies the connection between the African diaspora and dub. A music born from the refuse of the recording industry, dub creates new sounds out of components of music, made most often by the children of African slaves, themselves now refused.
In love with electronics, a young Professor found sonic healing in circuits and plugged into music as a teenage transplant to England. He helped to record some of the greatest classics as expatriate Jamaican superstars fled the former British colonial island and reggae sounds blossomed. Horace Andy, U-Roy, Scientist, Mikey Dread and of course the mystical Lee “Scratch” Perry recorded with the Mad Professor.
Black power meant self-sufficiency for the Mad Professor, and so a few decades ago he founded Ariwa, a black-owned label and recording studio – hand-built by the Professor himself. Ariwa is a Yoruban word that means communication, and through his label and studio, the Mad Professor developed the tools for sharing ideas of liberation through the rearticulating of sounds.
The model was laid down by King Tubby who tweaked sounds to make noises out of the ordinary. As technology evolved, the Mad Professor took the idea and drew out the sounds to their extreme in his series of albums called Dub me Crazy. Animal noises, extra-planetary squeals, echoed beyond comprehension and glued together with bass and drums, his sound became the example against which all dub was held.
In his Black Liberation Dub series the Mad Professor hoped to communicate some musical arguments about racism. In an interview with Nice Up, the Professor explained his motivation for this series: “Just to remind people that, well yeah, we went through this slavery period and you know, some might be free but some are not free and some don't want to be free, and some could never be free, you know . . .”
In 1997 I was inspired when I first heard the Mad Professor live at the mixing boards during the Vermont Reggae Festival. Driving an Ariwa soundsystem that included Sister Carol and Macka B and anchored by the backing band Black Steel, the Mad Professor added sound effects, horns, played tracks backward, added reverb and distorted every sound that emerged. Standing on a hill in Hardwick Vermont, the earth shuddered with the bass and from somewhere came a distant laugh through the overpowered soundsystem.
The Mad Professor will be performing on Saturday March 29 at Eureka’s Red Fox Tavern.
Maxwell Schnurer, Times Standard March 27, 2008.