Congratulations to Toronto’s Step-A-Choice Sound, who, in last Saturday’s very sticky Sound Rage Sound clash (at Hickory House) emerged victorious over rival Sounds Soul Survival (2011/2012 Fully Loaded Champions), Lion Heart (2010/2012 GTA Cup Champions) and Magash Int’l (from Switzerland)!
When I walked into the clash (just before 2 AM), I was pleasantly surprised to see 200 – 250 clash heads at Hickory House. The promoters (Jill Richards + Mello Vibes) must have been happy with the numbers. The promotion for this event started out on a high note, but, ended on a low one. Hickory House, now turned ‘clash house’ offers some comfort for promoters – not only is it affordable, but, it’s also easily accessible to T-Dot’s East + West ‘enders’. The clash crowd has become comfortable there and on this night, they were’ in the zone’, enjoying the clash.
The clash started just after Midnight. Round One – First up…Magash Int’l, followed by Soul Survival, Lion Heart and Step-A-Choice. This was Step-A-Choice’s weakest round from all reports and Lion Heart had a bad start due to technical difficulties (mic and audio) beyond their control. This round was good for Soul Survival and Magash Int’l, even though there was no ‘official’ voting at the end of the round, either Sound could have been declared the ‘winner’.
Round Two (Elimination Round) was interesting! At the end of the round, what mattered was not who won the round, but, what Sound would be eliminated from the clash. By now, it was clear that two Sounds were reigning supreme – Soul Survival and Magash Int’l. They both had great second rounds and had won over their respective fans. There are still lingering arguments as to who (if there was a vote) would have been declared the ‘winner’ of this round.
Yet, one Sound had to go, either Lion Heart or Step-A-Choice. Both Sounds had a mediocre second round, but both Sounds had what seemed like an equal amount of loyal fans in the place. This is where things got interesting. When it was voting time, the voting audience was literally split 50/50! I can attest to this as I was invited on the stage by MC Ranger to help count hands – when I did, it was a virtual tie – that’s why Ranger decided that a ‘chune-fi-chune’ showdown would determine which Sound would stay and which Sound would go.
When all was said and done, Step-A-Choice played the better dub and advanced, so Lion Heart was out. There was no disputing anymore, the crowd made it loud and clear – after one tune, Step-A-Choice (with a bigger and better sound system – to be addressed later on) had won the unscheduled ‘chune-fi-chune’ elimination tiebreaker. We still big up Lion Heart – a young Sound with a promising future! All they have to do is keep clashing and not worry so much about ‘the victory’. They may have been the first Sound to go, but, they did turn it up a notch at this clash and have nothing to be ashamed of. Big Up Alfire! – this youth still has work to do as an MC, but, he keeps on getting better with every clash appearance.
Now, we move on to Round Three (Singing Round). Magash Int’l was the first Sound up and played what could be best described as, ‘adequate’. This was a round where Magash was supposed to bring it – the fascination was over and the tunes were in the box, but, for whatever reason, Magash failed to step up to the plate and take things to the next level.
At this point, I’m going to break from my review and take a paragraph or two to address the Magash situation. Big Up Magash Int’l! This young selector has a bright future ahead of him. Watch the social media posts – people are congratulating Magash for having the strongest first and second round performances. Magash wasn’t perfect, still learning the game, but, this young selector had certain advantages over the other Sounds – a good ‘clear’ voice, a solid presentation and supreme knowledge of his dub collection. Magash (Alex – playing solo all night) was pure entertainment and demonstrated a versatility and confidence that qualifies him to play anywhere in the world whether it be in clash or juggling.
The Sound Rage clash would mark Magash’s first time clashing in Canada and his night wasn’t perfect as he himself would later attest to. Magash still has to learn the ‘Canadian’ style of Sound clash and the expectations of a misbehaving and sinister Canadian Sound clash massive. Playing out dubs for an extended period of time, although okay in other clash territories, proved to be a detriment here – racing though dubs has become the norm or expectation from Canadian clash fans. Personally, I liked Magash’s clash style, it was refreshing to hear tunes played for more than twenty seconds before getting wheeled out. Thanks for that Magash, thanks as well to Silverhawk, hell, I’ll even throw David Rodigan in the mix – I like hearing more than twenty seconds of a dub!
One more thing, a negative for Magash Int’l – As Magash were playing, Step-A-Choice were off to the side of the stage waiting for their turn to play and grew impatient. They started to make heckling comments to Magash (Alex) for exceeding his playing time (which is the responsibility of the promoters/organizers to control). We see this all the time in Sound clash, soundmen heckling, whether fair or unfair, but, what we don’t usually see is racism in our Canadian dancehall. Magash (Alex), a Caucasian selector playing in front of a chiefly Black audience responded to the Step-A-Choice man dem – “Monkey – calm down, monkey – relax, a why yu a gwaan so!”. I didn’t find it funny and I’m still wondering if it’s even excusable.
That was the end of Magash right then and there! English is not their first language, but, should we buy the argument that Magash (Alex) didn’t know any better? I’ll leave that for you to decide. Another thing, as Black people in the dancehall, why did we all stay quiet when Magash issued that racial epithet? I was there, I heard what he said, I looked around and NOTHING – not even a pop can was thrown nor was there a single ‘boo’ from the crowd (SMH). Where were the hecklers when we needed them? In defense of Magash Int’l, here is an excerpt from their statement posted on-line in the aftermath of the clash.
Bless up Canada. I wanna big up all people that attended Sound Rage on saturday! Like i said it was a great honor for me to clash in a historical place like Scarborough and it was an amazing experience for me! I also wanna apologize for the monkey argument in the 3rd round, i of course never ment it that way and didnt even realise it could be taken that way. I guess that hurt me big time and 3rd round was a str8 downfall from there, and being by myself didnt help. A so clash stay, a so you learn. I hope you enjoyed the Ma Gash style anyway and I swear I will be back to war it out again! Big up all 3 sounds for representing well. I wont even wanna get into the end of the clash, lets just say that one way or the other, this is making a BIG controversy and that is what our sport is depending on! So promoters, line up Steppa vs Soul Survival, its a sure ting right now! Big up di whole a unno, soundclash to di world!
Now, back to Round Three (Singing Round). Magash Int’l and Lion Heart are gone leaving Soul Survival and Step-A-Choice (last year’s Sound Rage Champions). Both Sounds played equally well, no surprise to Soul Survival who had done well in all rounds, but, for Step-A-Choice, it was arguably their best round in the dance. The clash is about to enter Round Four featuring Soul Survival and Step-A-Choice.
At this point, things started to go south. Each Sound was supposed to play for ten minutes in a ‘no elimination’ round (according to the rules of the event) followed by ‘chune-fi-chune’ – that never came to be. The promoters had only secured the venue until 4 AM and the clock was ticking. They were pressured by venue management to end the event on time. This was communicated to the MC (Ranger), who then made the decision (which he may or may not have been authorized to do) to alter the rules of the event. Ranger announced somewhat speedily, that if there was a landslide (what if there wasn’t a landslide?) in this upcoming round, then the clash winner would be announced cancelling out ‘chune-fi’-chune’. After the announcement was made, nobody protested – it was time for each Sound to play their hearts out.
The clash went on and Soul Survival (who some would argue had won every round up until now) played differently compared to their previous rounds. If this was their ‘final’ round, why were they playing the wrong selections featuring unknown dubs by the likes of Toba Chung (R.I.P.) and jiggy radio tunes featuring Potential Kid? If you watch the video, you’ll see them dancing and having fun, they definitely weren’t playing like they were at war, making one wonder…had they run out of tunes or were they confused by the sudden change of the rules. This was supposed to be their ‘biggest’ round, where they pulled out all the stops, yet, for Soul Survival, it ended up being their weakest round of the night.
Step-A-Choice did what a Champion Sound was supposed to do in Round Four – ‘drop the big tunes’. This put the crowd into a frenzy and in the end, there was no dispute as to who the winner of the round was. Clearly, they heard Ranger’s announcement. When the crowd was asked, who win the clash?, a few hands went up for Soul Survival, the majority of hands went up for Step-A-Choice – infact, the crowd went beserk. In clash, that is called a ‘landslide’. Ranger’s sudden change of the rules worked to the promoters advantage – no need for ‘chune-fi-chune’ and the dance would end on time. As far as the Sounds go, that’s a different story.
So Congratulations once again to Step-A-Choice, whose victory (irreversible) was not without controversy! The question still remains – when the ‘clash’ rules were suddenly changed and announced, did the MC communicate them in a clear and concise manner so that the two finalist Sounds understood that there would be no ‘chune-fi-chune’ and that the clash winner would be decided immediately following Round Four? Step-A-Choice seemed to understand the change of rules and played their hearts out in their final round.
In the aftermath, Soul Survival and their fans are claiming ‘foul’, upset about the last minute change of rules. It is arguable, that if Soul Survival did understand what had been said on the mic by Ranger, they would have also played their hearts out as they had the tunes in their box. If Soul Survival did not understand the change of rules because the information was not communicated it a clear and concise fashion, it is understandable why they may have held back tunes if they were pacing themselves for a final ‘chune-fi-chune’ round.
I also want to say something to the promoters of Sound Rage. A few lessons have been learned here about the need for rules and structure in Sound clash. In a pivotal stage of any Sound clash, promoters have to be accountable. They have to be in the arena protecting and managing the outcome of the event. Understandably, there are administrative things to do that may seem equally important, but, unless Ranger (MC) is part of the promotion, he should never have been left to make such a critical decision on his own. Despite his experience, confidence and his ability to control the crowd, that is the event promoter’s responsibility. By not being there, you are scapegoating – hence, why Ranger, who did a great job up until that point, is getting so much flack for poorly administrating the final stages of Sound Rage.
I also want to ask…if the venue was indeed pressuring the promoters to end the event by 4 AM, why didn’t the promoters do like every other promoter of an event at Hickory House does – put a likkle change inna di owna hand in exchange for a likkle overtime? I’m willing to offer some understanding here however, as I’m also a promoter of Sound clash. For those who don’t know, Sound clash don’t make money. When Hickory House seems packed, promoters barely bathe and those who do, only do so after scrapping and scraping and exploiting and underpaying Sounds, staff and promotion to save money on their event budget. My guess is, if the overtime was indeed an option, it wasn’t worth it that night for the promoters to go into their pockets.
On more question to the promoters, who, by the way, did a good job overall despite being crucified in the aftermath by the on-line clash massive…what was up with the sound in the place? Why, when Step-A-Choice played (wireless mic), were they allowed to dominate with two stacks of speakers inside the venue, while all the other sounds only played over a one stack speaker system (wired mic)? I laughed when someone at the clash said, “Step-A-Choice played in quadraphonic sound while the others played in mono” – Nah, i’m just bluffing, but, I did talk to the promoters about the ‘sound’ issue – here’s how the story unfolds.
Just like last year’s Sound Rage, the promoters had hired Stereo Prophet to provide the sound system for ‘the clash’. However, they had “allowed” Step-A-Choice to provide their own sound system (at their own expense) to play on. This decision could’ve gone either way, but, on this night, it was advantageous to Step-A-Choice Sound as their sound system was far superior to that of their competitors (other Sounds).
I can’t tell you if the promoters anticipated any problems when making this ‘allowance’. In the early days of sound clashes, sound systems would bring their own sound equipment. Nowadays, things are different. Many Sounds own spectacular dubs, but, sacrifice the sound system. On most occasions, the promoter(s) will provide the sound system – it’s just not logical anymore for the Sounds to bring their own. Think about it…if all four Sounds insisted on bringing their own sound system to Hickory House, there would only be room for fifty people and the Sounds ‘clash’ price would go up resulting in over budgeting.
I’ll close my review with an excerpt from the Canadian Dancehall Fraternity Page on Facebook. In the aftermath of Sound Rage, there has been daily squabbling on the Web Pages and Websites criticizing the promoters. I feel for them, because I too, have been in their shoes. People, I can’t tell you to behave, the Sound clash arena is one of the last places where people can talk their own version of the “truth”, though it often is unfair or subjective. Respect the promoters please, they are a special and rare breed of people who love Sound clash so much that we put up with your abuse and bullshit and still promote clash anyway! Nobody’s perfect, but as promoters, MC’s, referees, hosts and soundmen, we are working our butts off to please you with no financial gain. Here is the excerpt:
WORD FROM PROMOTERS OF SOUND RAGE
Im going to address the situation and speculations surrounding SOUND RAGE CLASH. First off I want to thank everyone who supported this event. I want to thank the sounds involved MAGASH, LIONHEART, STEPACHOICE & SOUL SURVIVAL. Congrats to StepaChoice on their win. Big up to Angelina Montana for her early warm and Ranger for being the host.To clear the first bullshit rumour: This clash has only 2 promoters ….JILL & SKULLY (Mellovibes/Swan Ent) That’s it! I have never in the past nor will i in the future ever use sponsors or private silent investors. Its always my own money put into my clashes. This particular time it was me and Skully.
Any errors that took place at this clash are my fault and I willing take the blame. I dont hide from my mistakes or cry bout them. the sound system situation was fuked up. Stepachoice used their own (which was ok’d by me)and used 2 towers. The other system only had one tower. Obviously its going to sound different. As the promoter its my job to make sure the systems are equal and fair for all parties. I didnt realize how the towers of speakers made such a difference. I should have paid closer attention to that.
2nd thing was the rounds. I choose Ranger to host this clash and I have to trust his judgement and back his decisions. The rules that were sent to all sounds indicated that the 4th round was optional based on the timing and it would be 10min no elimination THEN tune fi tune. Towards the end The owner of the venue kept coming up to ranger (host) telling him it was time to rap it up. Ranger then took the mic and said this 4th round will be the deciding round. Whomever wins this round will win the clash. At this point there wasnt any noticeable objections from the crowd so it continued.
Problem is: SoulSurvival did not hear what ranger said and played like they still had more time to go. Stepachoice heard and played put their 4th round to win. When Ranger asked the crowd who won, the crowd gave it to Stepachoice and won the clash. Would i have done it this way? NO! I would have rather seen a tune fi tune to decide a winner but the host felt due to the time constraint it was the best decision at that time. I completely take blame for that as I hired the host and put my trust in his judgement. So dont blame him.
Our job as promoters is to put the clash together just like the flier says. We did exactly that. At no time was there any negative intent or conspiracy planned thru-out this or any clash Ive ever done. I really dont have the energy to go back n forth to defend myself either as i do not make any profit From clash. I use my hard earned money to put clash together and only get joy from it. I do it cuz i love it and Im determined to help Canadas sounds on the map. There isnt a single sound or person Ive delt with that can say anything negative about the way Ive worked with them. I pride myself on that. I’ve spoken to SoulSurvival and extended my apologies for any misunderstandings and things have been worked out. Audio will be released next week. Sounds get their copies first then the public.