Whenever I reflect on the european soundclash competition, I can’t help noticing the relatively small number of sounds participating in contests. It probably shouldn’t surprise us when we see the same names divided by a “vs.” on flyers over and over again. I could easily find a dozen of possible reasons for this of the top my head. Obviously, dubplate clashes suck up an immense amount of money which in 99% of the cases will lead to a losing deal for sounds even in the long run. In contrast to the US, JA or even the UK scene to an extent, i can hardly think of any sound in the EU being launched with the intention to be a staight war sound. As Sultan pointed out in our interview “Sounds are thinking about survival and since its not possible to survive through only clashing, it is imperative that a sound can also juggle”. Even though I don’t believe that we’ve ever had a significantly different situation prior to what people now refer to as “the EU soundclash crisis” this is an important aspect. In my view, differing owner structures and sound financing strategies might play an important role for said cross-country differences, however, we don’t need to discuss this in detail at that time. Instead, let’s be realistic, the vast majority of sounds in our region has no interest whatsoever in soundclash and would rather focus on juggling dates and dancing events.
In any case, in this article I’m concerned with the sounds who are actually preparing for soundclash by constantly cutting dubplates,but either never or no longer step in the arena. I could easily compile a pretty long list of sounds that I know of, armed to the teeth, but never yet involved in a soundclash. With the above explanations born in mind, you would ask yourself “Why would I spend so much money on (soundkilling) dubplates if I never make use of them?” I believe we will have to consider a number of aspects in order to answer this question appropriately.
– First of all, a lot of well-equipped sounds are not disinclined to play a soundclash, but promoters either don’t know of their ambition and arsenal, heard of them at all (and that’s probably the case for those who don’t play in juggling events that often) or doubt their power to attract clash patrons. In this case, my advise for those who are willing to participate but can not find a “deal” – take matters into your own hands.
– Apart from that, I believe the most overlooked factor in this equation is the “fear of losing”. Since we don’t have a soundclash happening every day here in europe, soundmen are worried about a status decline in the event of defeat. Let’s be honest, we can all understand this notion, and even though it should not stop us from pursuing our goals, it is a major factor for sounds that are thinking of entering a competition. By the way, and I’ve mentioned this in discussions over and over again, this point is strongly connected to the planning and overpreparing dilemma in european soundclashes.
– So far we have only talked about sounds that never competed in a soundclash. But what about those who did, lost, only to be never seen again in the arena? I guess all of the above points discussed also play role in this case. Over the years, I’ve witnessed on a number of occassions how soundmen we’re about to call it quits because they lost a single battle. Again, whenever you invest a lot of time and money, you potentially risk your reputation and you won’t get your desired trophy in return, it can be frustrating. The point is though, we have lost some very talented and ambitious sounds over the course of the last years because of ONE defeat. Don’t get me wrong here, a lot of those who quit, lacked the potential to entertain me in a serious competition in the first place and i certainly won’t bemoan the loss of them. Others however, either fell victim to unlucky circumstances or great competition.
– The overall decline of interst in soundclashes and the weak turn out numbers in the last years have put promoters in a tough spot. Financial uncertainties are not only bad for pays and quality line ups, but also the decision to actually organize a competitive event. On the other hand, expenses for dubs have not dropped for sounds, which is why we all understand that clashing “for free” is not an option for many serious contenders.
Bottom line, the reasons for whether or not soundmen make the decision to enter the battlefield are manifold and can partially be ascribed to structural deficits we perceive in our industry. Of course, a lack of public interest (even within the reggae/dancehall community) in soundclash makes it hard for any promoter and sound to stick to their clash ambitions. However, I believe the solution should be based on an increased initiative of soundmen themselves. Once a few “role models” pave the way by promoting their own soundclashes (participator=promoter) and we realize that even in defeat, a good performance in a clash is still worth something (think of herbalize it’s effort last week in vienna), two of the major drawbacks could be eliminated. Don’t get it twisted though, the notorious “love for the art form” is and will always be the cornerstone of, what I’d still call a SUB-SUBGENRE!