Profile: Dandelion Sound, Freising/Germany
This issue, Irie Up speaks to Dandelion Sound from Bavaria in the south of Germany, an original and independent crew who are carrying forward the soundsystem tradition with their own handcrafted equipment, their own style and plenty of warmth and humour to the reggae scene.
Greetings Dandelion Sound. Tell us something about the place you are from, and the place you work.
Jah love & light to one & all. We live and grew up in small villages around Freising, a small city 40 km away from Munich. We love the countryside way of living here in Bavaria, the beauty of creation all around, and the fruitful land with a nice agricultural tradition. For example we have the biggest fields of hops in the world. Hops are very closely related to hemp. In autumn it smells so sweet all over, that I always start whistling the great Desi Roots song “Weedfields”. Everyone should be happy.
But we are also in one of the so-called ‘richest’ places in Germany with everything full of business. The problem seems to be that they want to defend their material richness and illusion confusion from any changes. To achieve that, they want to destroy or at least control everything that is different from their plan. So, especially as a youth and even more when you don’t look ‘normal’, you must be aware that there’s an intensive and dirty police search every time and everywhere.
In the last years, most of the time we worked for the Soundsystem in some way. We did a lot of regular sessions inna I region, most of them very countryside, because we love the vibe much more than in Munich. Also we have toured around Europe to countries like Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Austria, Croatia, Poland, and Hungary and of course all around Germany. To earn money brother BasstafarI works as an independent carpenter, Acusto builds speakers and is going to establish a business where you will soon be able to get Soundsystem equipment. Treasure Irie is selling organic food, and I-man Ical Ises work in a youthclub and for an independent living wheelchair driver.
What was your inspiration for getting into reggae music? Were there other soundsystem crews around in your area, or coming to play?
On one side it was the wondrous beauty of creation and the way we felt thankful about it. On the other side, the unbelievable injustice and silliness in the world. As youths we were looking for a way not to get depressed about that. Soon it was the vibes and the messages by men like Bob Marley or Burning Spear, which fitted best to the way we thought and felt at the time. So we went searching for Reggae music more and more. In Munich there was a massive dancehall scene in the end of the 1990s, and it was nice but more the party side of reggae, not the uplifting vibes we were looking for. We gravitated towards the Roots and touched by sessions of the mighty Japhet Sound or Ishen Rockers both from Augsburg. After a while we got first in touch with the so called “UK style”. I remember buying my copy of Errol Bellot’s ‘RastafarI is the Rightful Way’ when he was playing at a dance in Freising with the mighty Chanter. They mashed up the place. The next one was a great session with the man called I Natural with a 20 min applause after it. The third one I can remember was with the lovely and inspirational man called Jah Free! That was the vibe and the message that we loved. But there were no real Soundsystems around at that time.
A little later we found some infos about I Livity from Hamburg and King David Soundsystem from Berlin. Most of all and massively we got inspired by the mighty King Shiloh, the Nr. 1 Soundsystem ambassador on mainland Europe. Heartical thanks and bless up to the King Shiloh family, every time!
When did you start to build up the Dandelion Sound? Where did the name come from?
Well, in the end of the 90s we used to go with our friends to the Summerjam festivals in Cologne. I remember one year there was a well known artist on the main stage, if I remember right it was Anthony B, but I felt like walking around. I came to a tent and went inside. It was completely different to what I have seen before. There was a wild collection of speakers, I recognised a Twinkle Brothers tune, but it sounded so different! I looked around to see the artist playing in these tent during the whole 3 days of festival. I didn’t find out and decided to go back to my friends to the main stage.
But HIM was there. The artist was the mighty Jah Shaka. Back then I completely could not get the picture what happened in this 15 minutes in the tent but I realised something changed completely. This experience that I totally could not arrange back then, work strong on I and we tried to find out more and more about cultural reggae and Rastafari’s Revelation. On this point I would love to say thanks and bless to Sister Ifua for the strong works.
The year after we all went back to the Summerjam. That year there was a nice area from the great ‘Grow-Magazine’. The Soundsystem, which was playing there for three days, was King Shiloh from Amsterdam. Since the first time I entered their space, it was pure vibes and it clicked and made everything clear. That was the same magical power I was feeling one year before inside the Shaka tent. It was the fullness! Pure glory and praise! It was a traditional Soundsystem!
Back home we bought a broken down truck and immediately started to build the Dandelion Set! For me, it’s like Shaka planted the seed and Shiloh make the plant come out of the earth.
I remember being nearby the beautiful river Amper, a place where we used to be a lot, thinking about a good name for the sound. And it was that plant that was everywhere, the Dandelion, that was a nice symbol of that spreading and planting seeds. Also in Germany the plant is called ‘Löwenzahn’, lion-teeth. A soldier in Selassie’s army.
Dandelion Sound is a very unique sound, can you tell us a bit more about it? I heard that one of your crew, Acusto, is working in hi-fi too.
Yeah Acusto, he is a genius. He comes from the highest Hi Fi school, building top-a-top speakers for high end freaks. He planned the first and the second generation of I System. One outstanding thing about I speakers is the brilliant combination of the knowledge and curiosity of Acusto and the blessed gift of BasstafarI to create something great out of wood.
We currently use a home-made five-way preamp created by the brethren Ical Dub. We use a Xilica controller as a crossover, equalizer, and so.
Contructionwise, the four Infras are a mixture of transmission-line and back loaded horns. As drivers we use 21” B&C. One of the special things is that you can take apart the complete box into two parts and put the upper part in the lower to get half of the transport size. It took three years planning and four years of testing, measuring, different locations, changing elements to have the final versions. The aim was to find a way to get sub-bass more effectively than out of a scoop. At the end them play from 23hz to 60hz by -6dB. That’s very deep and that is one reason why we sound different from other Soundsystems.
The Kicks are bass reflex, front-loaded horn combinations, which each get cooled by two different cooling circuits. We use lightly self-customised Void 18” speakers in them. For mids we use Pornhorns aka Jerichohorns with 12” drivers and for highs we use Limmer horns loaded with a passive separated, coaxial 2” and a 1” driver in each top (BMX4590). The speakers have an extremely good pack size and a degree of efficiency higher than 105dB@ 1m@ 1watt. For power we use one Crest for the highs, one Nova for mids and two Void amps for bass, one for kick and one for sub-bass.
Who makes up the crew of Dandelion?
Dandelion main members are BasstafarI, who is the lead craftsman and the keeper of the plant oil truck, called Simba. When we play out he plays thrilling percussions, sirens and effects. Acusto is the speaker builder and electrician, and in the live sessions, he takes care of the sound quality and the speakers. I operate the preamp, do selection and micworks. Since the beginning of Dandelion our brother Treasure Irie supported us on the mic at a lot of sessions. Also, we can’t forget Professor Ical Dub, the builder of the siren and the preamp and technical supporter over the years. A strong thing within the Dandelion story is, that there is a big family behind us who supported and pushed I’n’I works in so many ways. Thanks so much!
What are some of your favourite and most memorable sessions?
That’s a difficult question. Every dance is a gift and a blessing.
A session in Potsdam comes to my mind. It was around 2004. There were five guys in the dance and our girlfriends, coming over from Munich by train. So them were eight. It was nice.
One specialty we learned to do, is to run our sound mobile on the street at demonstrations. It’s a very exciting frontline experience and could be a future of peaceful but heavy telling of opinions.
Going to other countries is always a great experience, especially to places where no Soundsystem has been before. That is an honour. Last year for example the Vienna Dubquake was massive, we had 500 people skanking till the morning. The day after inna Budapest was an unbelieveable blessing and cultural flash for all people involved. But the most satisfying thing for us to see is, that the youths love what we are doing and start to continue the works. Since that time things are getting much better.
After many years with only a few people on the dances, nowadays we have about ten Soundsystems in a circle of 150 km around Munich and between 250 and 500 people coming to our dances. I think the important thing to realise is, that the work and success of one, makes also the other strong! I see it like a tree, that the youths have massively pushed forward.
You are also making productions in the last years, can you tell us about that?
Yes, since some years we work close together with the gifted brother called Trulaikes out of Cologne. We came together because he worked out some tunes with German lyrics on UK Roots riddims, which was also a part of I mission. So he started to give I tunes that we tested and played out on sessions. Somehow naturally we decided to start a label and put one of the tunes out. It was a 7” by Lyrical Benjie called ‘The Earth is the Lords’. So 2008, New Flower Records was born. One year after we released Ras Seven’s ‘IsmSkism’ with the ‘Rising Flute’ by the great Dubcreator on the flip. The next release is planned to be a sweet Trulaikes riddim again. I Natural will be on the vocal side with the powerful Fitta Warri and the upcoming star Sister Sherin. It’s planned to come as a 10” at the beginning of next year.
Also two years ago BasstafarI started a live roots and dub band called “Ifreecan“, which sooner or later will hopefully release some of their works.
In 2010, you were running the Rootbase area at Fusion, a great corner of the festival in a circle of trees, for the second year. How did that happen?
During the last ten years we did numberless sessions, events and also some festival areas. So we were setting up a better infrastructure year by year. At one point we asked us what we can do to get more professional in what we love to do and can do best. We decided to work more on the concept to combine ‘Chakula’, who is a former member of the crew and now running a great mobile vegan food system, ‘El Movimiento’, a genius visual architect out of Argentina, and I Dandelion. Fusion was always an aim, because it’s a fantastic, unique and monster cultural gathering with thousands of artists and fifty thousand guests.
When I was there for the first time, I was amazed to see and hear the massive influences of the sound and the tradition we love in each of the 25 festival areas that I visited. From the music history side Fusion needed the Rootsbase in our humble opinion. Also the philosophy and organisation of the festival, the strong link between political, cultural and spiritual people, all working on the aim to celebrate life and get a short view of an alternative society. We loved that!
And so we did an application, to show what we could do, and they said:
Yeah, you are welcome!
All praises & thanks to Jah RastafarI!
Zion love to one and all!