Nowadays, Mungo’s HiFi is a Sound system that needs no introduction. A massive feat for a crew of White Scotsmen. But it would take a good 16 years of hard graft before the legendary “Tower of Power” had earned its title as one of the finest Sound-Systems going.
Initially comprised of just Doug and Tom, Mungo’s Hi-Fi was partnership of Reggae enthusiast, both men bowled over by the dusty catalogues of the True veterans King Tubby, Prince Jammy and the UK’S Unity Sounds. The pair of young, restless Glasgow students was swiftly bitten by the collectors “bug”, and were soon to become aficionados of Dancehall and Dub, playing out bars, running local nights in Glasgow.“I would have never got into reggae if it wasn’t for soundsystem. There was lots of work to be done, and it was a job worth doing.” remarks Douglas Paine, head runner of Mungo’s Hi-Fi – Sound system Maverick’s.
“The late 80’s/90’s were a good time for Reggae music” he continues. With the proliferation of Dancehall really beginning to catch wind in the UK’s Mainstream charts, Reggae based music was finally receiving wide and popular acclaim. With UK Black British bands like Steel Pulse and Aswad paving the way for a Black British Identity of Reggae. Meanwhile, back home in Jamaica, the death of early visionary King Tubby (1989) had shaken up the Dub corner. But the Digital age of Dub would be thrust into its existence 3 years prior, as Dub mix master Prince Jammy took the reigns in steering the Dancehall movement into its dominant digital age. Remember Wayne Smith’s Under Me Sleng Teng? A infectious riddim, with its charged lyrics, and those vicious horns. Certainly one to leave you saying “It’s weighing my br-ain…”
At first glance the Mungo’s Hi-Fi 7some; mixed bag of Dj’s, Producers, promoter’s, Sound engineers really don’t strike as the obvious choice for Soundmen. Selecting, producing and generally “running tings” for the UK Sound system scene. But clearly, there are always exceptions to the rule. So how has Mungo’s HiFi gone about paving the way for Sound-system culture in Glasgow, whilst bringing the sound to the people worldwide?
Doug: “We started off making, producing music, and playing out bars running weekly nights locally”. Slowly but surely, they were garnering enough attention; this steady exposure was becoming enough to aggravate the itch, and heighten their ambitions. Next up, was the grand project; building the Mungo’s HiFi seismic sound system. Cultivating the right sound was of course “a labour of love”, but a toilsome one at that. Mungo’s Hi-Fi’s DIY venture would mark a long period of struggle and expansion; the twosome quickly became four, later joined by Doug (DJ/Promoter) and Tom (DJ/Producer).
Flash-forward to 2010, some 10 years later, and the legendary globetrotting Sound-system is in high demand and in constant operation. Mungo’s Hi-Fi have triumphantly established themselves in the rank of top Global Sound systems. The same league as vanguard sounds with true Jamaican roots: Channel One, Iration Steppa’s and many more heads. When Mungo’s comes to town, you know “Mungo’s ah go put it down.” Expect the rattle of the bass, to wine up you waist and skank away all you blues with their fluid blend of Rub-a-Dub, Reggae, Ska, Dancehall, Dub, Drum n Bass.
I got given the golden opportunity to Skype with Douglas Paine, Mungo’s HiFi founder, who seemed more than happy to indulge in all things Sound-System. Here follows a few highlights, as we talked Sound System business, and “the Mungo’s HiFi story”.
On the guiding principles of the Sound system: Doug: “When it comes to Sound system it’s all about going into it with the right attitude. It’s about the people – this magical thing that is music that we enjoy together and that connects us at a level beyond race/gender/class. With the Sound system, you’re not on stage, your all there as equals. It’s all about creating that community – A concept of Oneness, banishment of the Ego and Spiritual Upliftment.”
On Performing, touring and travelling: Doug: “We have been very lucky to be able to travel. Brasil is an amazing place, a cultural melting pot. Places in Africa: Kenya & Uganda – The source of the Nile.”
Favourite place Mungo’s HiFi performed: Doug: “Probably Outlook Festival in Fort Pula. The Fort is really evocative; it’s a bombed courtyard with bits of rubble from the war lying in the Courtyard so it’s pretty special. We host the Sound system at Dimensions which is always an eye opener. Plenty of musical discovery.
On their brand new release No Wata Down Ting featuring YT: Doug: “It’s a record with new mixes, live mixes, new re-recordings. Prince Fatty has re-recorded some stuff exclusively for the record. YT is an artist with a great deal of respect. [He’s] so hardworking, passionate, skilled, a pleasure to work with. He’s on it.”
On the production process: Doug: “It’s taken us a good couple of years. These things can take ages. Even after it’s a finished album there’s still a good six months before it goes into release.”
On Soom T: Doug: “She’s from a similar generation to us. One of the very first artists we’ve recorded with. Things went well, but we’ve always done our own ting. I hope we’ll do more stuff together in future.”
On collaborating with vocalists: Doug: “We’ve always been quite promiscuous with our vocalists. The music came from a fluidity – it’s not static. You can’t re-create then, because it’s not then, it’s now. Music moves on. If I listen to something, and I can’t recognise it, then it’s exciting.”
On the recent Blow of Brexit: Doug: “It’s awful in every aspect. But we have to take the positives, make the best out of a terrible situation. Two of our guys are practically French, and we have to not take for granted that they might not be here. It’s complicated enough as it is. I thought the idea was to get rid of Red Tape. All I see is Red tape. It has shone a bright light in some dark spaces. All we can do now, is to use this information, use the energy and impetus to carry on doing what we’re doing.”
Mungo’s hi Fi have been grinding on the axel, since their inception 16 years ago. Releasing 6 albums to date, maintaining Scotch Bonnet Records and chugging exclusive vinyl releases, represses/reissues and Dubplates. Collaborating with a medley of Artists and vocalists worldwide; cramming in live sets, parties, festival shows, Sound clashes, guest appearances you name it. There’s an immense amount of effort being put in and much being put out. And, they’re back with their brand new single, BoomSound (featuring YT). Watch after the Jump.
Don’t forget to check out Sequences Festival, where Mungo’s HiFi are set to be making a guest appearance, powering the DEEP MEDI stage with their very own Sound System.
Tickets can be bought here