From booming basslines to valleys of sound: How the Alpujarras in Spain became known for its dub reggae scene

AT a time when many popular forms of music are bland and formulaic, those who want to be lost in music will be spoilt for choice in the Alpujarras region of Granada. 

It’s now two decades since the area’s thriving dub reggae scene started to become known for its good vibes, big sounds, and community spirit. 

There are dozens of events through the summer, each attracting hundreds of revellers immersing themselves in the booming bass to dance the night away with smiling partygoers more interested in the immersive tunes than uploading videos to TikTok or Insta. 

From bass bins to boombox and tweeter units, the emphasis is on who can build the most powerful system with the clearest, purest reproduction of the music, which is frequently played on vinyl rather than from a laptop. 

Sometimes, the DJs (called ‘selectahs’) are joined by talented flautists or singers, for a live music vibe.

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Phil Vega DJs at Dub Valle. Photo: Jo Chipchase

From Rastafari to reggae

The Dub reggae scene originated from the Rastafari movement that spread worldwide in the last century. 

Rastafarianism – widely recognised as a religion – started among socially deprived Afro-Jamaican communities in the 1930s and was a kickback against British colonial culture. 

It was influenced by the Back-to-Africa movement and is based on the idea that Jah (God) lives inside everyone. It also focuses on the oppression of people originating from Africa within Western society, otherwise known as “Babylon”. 

Many Rastas see the African Continent as the Promised Land or Zion and their religion was popularised by Rastafari-inspired reggae musicians such as Bob Marley. 

The cannabis plant is considered a sacred sacrament of the religion and the themes of Jah, Zion, lions (derived from the Ethiopian flag), Babylon and weed are commonplace in reggae tunes. 

Within the dub reggae scene, the social values have always been peace, love and unity, and this comes across at the local events.

Dub Valle Reggae Colour Lights
Colourful lights at Dub Valle Lanjaron. Photo: Jo Chipchase.

Dub Valle HiFi

Appealing to people of all ages and from all walks of life, Granada’s growing dub scene has wide appeal. 

One of the area’s most popular events is Dub Valle, which takes place in the Alpujarran spa town of Lanjaron and has gained a large following. 

It is part of the Granada Dub Family collective that promotes local sound systems and events.  

Created by Phil Vega and Daniel Dobson, from Orgiva, Dub Valle started in 2003 when long-term DJ, Phil, moved to Spain, having previously been part of the UK’s dub scene. 

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Hundreds of revellers at Dub Valle, Lanjaron. Photo: Jo Chipchase.

Daniel got into the tunes when he helped to move the speaker boxes for the events in 2010 (‘working as a box boy’). 

He loved the deep and heavy basslines, and had already learned to DJ at 12, so it was an easy choice to start playing dub reggae. 

The pair hooked up with other luminaries of the fledgling scene including Ras John of Qedamawe Fyah Soundsystem, from Granada City, and David Messi, who launched Granada Dub Family and a night called Dub Corner Granada. 

Dub Valle rehomed itself in Lanjaron in 2018 and has become one of Granada’s most popular events, always attracting a lively crowd. 

“Although many come from Granada, which has a large student population, we attract people from all over Andalucia and even as far away as Barcelona, Bilbao and Madrid,” explains Dobson.

When it’s not in Lanjaron, Dub Valle takes place at Granada’s Sala El Tren nightclub and Sala Petite in Armilla, which is having a makeover soon.

Dub Valle Dancer In Front Of Speakers
Dancer at Dub Valle, Lanjaron. Photo: Jo Chipchase.

Granada’s dub expansion

Granada has five dub sound systems, and there’s plenty of choice for fans of this genre. As well as Dub Valle, some other popular events are Al-andalus at Sala El Tren, which involves three different crews – Mystical HiFi, a crew from Almeria and Granada Dub Family. 

La Petite hosts the renowned Dub Corner events, which are run by Association Steppers and Dubstral Soundsystem. 

Dub can also be found at the oddly named Booga club and some smaller venues.

Meanwhile, the scene is spreading rapidly into Malaga and Sevilla. 

In Cadiz, a festival called Jandub Reggae Fest started in June this year, and will be an annual fixture for those who want to dance in the sun to chilled tunes. 

“The dub reggae movement has exploded in Spain during the last 10 years and is growing in popularity every day,” continues Dobson.

It all culminates with the world’s biggest reggae dub festival, Rototom Sunsplash, which runs over seven days at Benicàssim, in Valencia, from August 16 this year and brings together performers from all over the world. 

This year Burning Spear and Damian Marley are headlining, with literally hundreds of acts over the week.

“From my point of view, the best thing about the dub reggae scene and the Rastafari movement is the unity it creates among its followers,” continues Dobson.

“Here in Andalucia, we pride ourselves in being some of the most united crews and sound systems in Spain and possibly Europe. The dub reggae music of today is a fusion of the most popular genres from the last 50 to 100 years. It’s all about bringing people together.”

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