Photo by Pixelat

Dancehall Tradition is a Romanian reggae label based in Bucharest and run by Sheba. The label reached this year its third anniversary and is preparing to launch a new release with riddim by Injektah and vocals by Austin James. 

Like most of the independent labels, Dancehall Tradition is also founded by the passion and love for music. The interview with Sheba is following the label mission, collaborators and future plans in the amazing world of reggae music.  

The event for the forth label release will take place in Bucharest on the 9th of March, in Bucharest. More details on the Facebook event page.

What was your incentive for starting a label, other than your passion for reggae music?

First of all, the name of the label refers to the old Jamaican word used to speak about the place where sound system dances took place, the dance hall. From this point of view, we could say that the purpose of the label would be the promotion of the musical culture brought from Yard with a wide range of musical styles. You can hear it when listening the singles we released and, maybe in the future, Dancehall Tradition would put out some rocksteady or some stepper. Who knows?

I remember something Mutabaruka said, "if 1970s reggae was red, green and gold, then in the next decade it was gold chains". So, my next question is: where would you place dancehall in today’s music spectrum?

Well, it depends of what you understand by dancehall. In Jamaica, many dancehall artists expose their wealth since the 80’s, remember Shabba Ranks. Others use slackness and crime apology lyrics. In the same time, in Europe but not only, other singers are reviving the rub-a-dub and digital area with modern lyrics, sometimes conscious, sometimes not. Both movements are ruling the dances and making this style evolve. Check out Tonto Addi’s style on our third release, a pure dancehall deejay with original and well written lyrics.

Dancehall Tradition is now three years old and has a number of four release so far, the forth is on the way. How do you feel people responded to your music? Do you believe you have managed to create a core target for the label?

From near to far, I would say that the hardcore fans are not locals, unfortunately. We have many people ordering our records as fast as they are out from bandcamp or straight on Facebook. Generally, those people are involved in the reggae music business, from sound systems to reggae radios but also collectors or music lovers. Most of our fans are based in western Europe, Japan or the US but still, a few people from Romania are supporting the label works from the first day. People from Japan seem to particularly appreciate our records as they reached nr. 1 in their website chart in the category modern dancehall or juggling.

How do you handle distribution? Do you work with online platforms and record shops?

Most of the shops dealing with reggae records have websites and online order options. We deal with almost all reggae specialists from England to Japan. We also get a lot of support from Patate Records in Paris, one of the few reggae retailers that still works in a physical shop (for 27 years) and from Buyreggae in Berlin that also keeps the record shop vibe alive.

Do you feel that being based in Bucharest is an impediment in the distribution process?

I love this town with all the good and bad things so I would say no, even if the shipping cost and the lack of visibility can be a problem.

Music wise, for every release, except the first one, you have worked with the Romanian producer Injektah for the riddim section . What is the reason for working with only one producer?

I knew about Injektah’s works since the early days of the Fyah Burn Sound from Timisoara and had the occasion to meet him at a festival. We worked together on a tune with Echo Minott on the vocal and I loved the result. His riddims are modern but full of musical culture and a foundation vibe that mix perfectly with what I prefer in Jamaican music. From another point of view, Dancehall Tradition is a Romanian label and I am proud to see a local artist going international. Our digital showcase will also feature a remix done by a very promising Romanian reggae producer, known as Jah Order.

By the way, check the brand new Krack City riddim produced by Raggattack and almost fully mixed by Injektah for NAPEM Records (Echo Minott’s label) with a bunch of Jamaican well known historical singers and new comers. He will be live mixing some dubs and riddims at our records and digital showcase launch party in Bucharest, on the 9th of March, on the Irie Warriors Sound System!

After well-established vocalists such as El Fata, Echo Minott and Tonto Addi, your next release announces Austin James, a new comer in this genre. How have you heard of him and what is the story behind this release?

His tune, Mafia World was featured on the krack city riddim, we have been seduced by the sweetness of his vocal technique. After a few discussions, we sent him a preview track of Injektah’s riddim that he loved and as he is working in a recording studio in Kingston (RMR Studio), the tune have been recorded fast and clear. Our new vinyl release is his first appearance on wax but definitely not the last as he is preparing many projects with producers from Yard and Europe.

Same as the previous releases this one also comes in the form of a 7inch. Will this format remain a standard for the label or can we expect other vinyl formats?

The first reason for the use of the 7”is economical. This is due because of the pressing costs that are growing every year due to the comeback of vinyl records. We definitely would love to release projects on 12” and I hope it will happen soon. From a personal perspective, I love this format that have hosted almost all the greatest Jamaican music recordings.

Some time ago we had a conversation and you said you would like to sell the music only on vinyl, but I saw you announced your catalogue will soon be available under a digital format too. What made you consider digital as an option?

We had this conversation almost three years ago, just after the release of the first single. By the time it was difficult to foresee if the project would work economically and artistically, so the exclusive and hype of the vinyl was perfect for that period. Three more releases after, I consider that this small catalogue should come out in a more democratic and modern format that will touch more people, not only the hardcore reggae fans. Vinyl lovers, don’t be afraid, the dub side of the My Selector 7” will remain only on physical format! So, get ready to catch the Dancehall Tradition Showcase on streaming and download on all the platforms and on Bandcamp.

Do you have plans for other releases this year?

We are now working on a few projects without knowing what will come out first but we sure would love to release a single every three months and a LP by year!