Bass Culture: Reggae and beyond. Tune into deep, dubwise vibes from all over the map. Classic roots reggae, super bad soul and funk, crucial Afrobeat, dub from outer space – the musical compass points in many directions. Mick Sleeper has a big record collection, and he wants to share it with you.
"Mick Sleeper? He's our David Rodigan!"
– Kevin Simpson, local Reggae promoter
Mick Sleeper: 20 Years on the Airwaves
July 2015 marks my 20th anniversary as a radio DJ. It feels strange to be doing anything that long, but sending out reggae over the airwaves has definitely been a nice anchor for me over the last two decades.
I'll admit that it was not love at first listen with reggae. Quite the opposite, actually. Back in the early 1990s, I was listening to alternative rock and punk bands like The Clash and Wire, as well as the electronic and industrial music I loved as a teenager, such as Cabaret Voltaire and Coil. I had enjoyed 2-Tone ska and The Clash's rugged reggae sounds for many years, but Jamaican reggae remained a kind of musical mystery to me: it always sounded esoteric and weird to my ears.
And then – eventually – something clicked. I got the groove, I got the message, and reggae quickly became my number one music. I look back fondly on those days, because the more I learned, the more I wanted to hear, and the more I heard, the more I wanted to learn. And so began a 20-year appreciation of reggae – this deep and groovy music with a message.
In 1993, I started volunteering at Edmonton's community radio station, CJSR. I co-hosted a program with a friend for just over a year and then in 1995 I stepped forward with my own program, Soul Shakedown Party. At this point, my knowledge of Jamaican music was still wet cement. My early playlists during this time were still more or less anchored with 2-Tone ska; I was just starting to swim in reggae's deeper waters. After a few years, I reached those deeper waters at a time when outstanding record labels like Blood and Fire and Heartbeat were reissuing a steady stream of incredible reggae and dub from the 1970s. While it probably wasn't as exciting as hearing this music when it was still brand new, I certainly remember the thrill of discovery.
Soul Shakedown Party became a popular show on CJSR, lasting 12 years until – like Dirty Harry in Rockers – I and I ago change the mood and Bass Culture was born in late 2007. While the new program wasn't drastically different than Soul Shakedown Party, Bass Culture broadened its musical horizons with the inclusion of soul, funk, and Afrobeat as well as a new emphasis on more modern sounds from the reggae and dub underground.
After a few years away from the radio airwaves and finding a new audience via podcasts, Bass Culture returned to CJSR in October 2014 and picked up where it left off, on community radio. My weekly mission remains to get the grooves and share them with you.
September 7: Charlie Ace Special
Charlie Ace was one of reggae's eccentrics, cutting several unusual singles over the years. Equal parts dub poet, comedian, and beatnik, Charlie rapped his dread and kooky messages in fine style. Tune in for a selection of Charlie's one of a kind records.