The Jamaican Parliament Audio database (JPAD) is a project about national memory and the history of Jamaica. The database is a collection of audio recordings of sittings from the Jamaican Parliament from 2016 to present.

Jamaica is an island nation in the Caribbean Sea originally called Xaymaca, by the Arawak indigenous population. In 1494 the Italian sailor Christopher Columbus captured and claimed the island for the Spanish Empire. In 1655 the island was recaptured by Admiral Penn and General Venables for the Queen of England and it became a British colony.

The British ruled Jamaica directly for 307 years, agreeing to grant self rule in 1962. Jamaica is a democratic nation with its government organized on the Westminster system. George William Gordon House is the home of the Jamaican Parliament. The Parliament is the center of the political and legislative life of the nation. The Parliament consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Elected members of government sit in the House of Representatives and members of the Senators are appointed by the Prime Minister and leader of the Opposition.

Excerpts of the database are currently being aired as a one hour radio programme on Decolonizing the Archive Radio in England. The programme is accompanied by a dub music soundtrack featuring releases from Dubwegians and the Dubstyle, on the Dubophonic label.

The first four selections on the programme’s soundtrack are from the “King of Dub” album (2020) by the Dubwegians, a Scottish band. “King of Dub” is a tribute to Jamaican producer King Tubby. The album name is the same as a 1979 classic by another dub pioneer Bunny Striker Lee recorded at Channel One Recording Studios in Jamaica for Clocktower Records. The opening track called “Cut through Dub” is the most familiar, it is the Ali Baba/Arabian Dub riddim originally done as a Ska/Rocksteady track by John Holt, Tommy McCook and the Supersonics at Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle studios in 1969. This track has a lot of history, the King Tubby version is called “Hijajck the Barber” performed by the Aggravators in 1974. In 1975 Sonia Pottinger, Jamaica’s first female producer released “I Shave the Barber” and “Barbering” Dub by Tommy McCook and the Supersonics on the High Note label. Ali Baba is definitely a Jamaican Classic.

The second set of selections on the programme’s soundtrack is from the “Sun is Dub” album (2019) by the Dub Style, an Argentinian duo. They describe the album as “a journey into the dub sounds and the cultures of the world. Sometimes melodic and organic, other times rhythmical and heavyweight, the dub is to be heard in all eight tunes of the album”. They maintain a heavy bass feel with some new dimensions, particularly on the Bob Marley sampled “Sun is shining” track and the “Simona rework”.

You cannot tell a history of Jamaica without music. Following the music closely will help you to understand the soul of the island and how that conflicts with the identity of the nation. Dub music emerges in Jamaica as a genre and a practice in the late 1960s. It is the creative use of studio technology by Jamaican people with a strong memory of Africa. Dub music is African music. Dub music is Bass music. Africa gave birth to the Drums, the Drums gave birth to Bass and the Bass gave birth to Dub music in Jamaica. Dub is the reminder that the story of Jamaica is the story of Africa, the story of the violent collision between the old world and new world.

Dub has given birth to many other genres of music and Dub music producers worldwide continue to draw inspiration from the music discovering and reinventing dub. This is how music becomes a conversation. The music starts in one place and extends itself, so there can be different versions and interpretations. The JPAD soundtrack is a reminder that Jamaica is an important nation. It is an island nation with a history that we can learn many lessons from.

Listen live to excerpts of the database on Decolonizing the Archive Radio every Wednesdays 3pm (BST). For more information about the memory project and the Jamaican Parliament Audio database email disoundsoflife@gmail.com.