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Culture Reviews
Mad Professor
By Erik Jansma
You won’t know Mad Professor from any hits. He never topped any charts and never scored any mainstream successes. You might know him from the Massive Attack remix album “No Protection”, but you’re forgiven if you don’t. Unless you are a dedicated follower of Jamaican reggae and dub, Mad Professor probably is just a name you might have come across.

Still, the influence of Mad Professor, aka Neil Fraser, is almost beyond imagination. He and his mate Lee “Scratch” Perry were pioneers of the modern-day reggae and the electronic, experimental form of it called dub. Mad Professor took his experiments beyond musical boundaries and crossed over to producing Brit-pop in the Eighties. If you were around at that time already, you may remember that almost every act back then, from Madness to Selector to The Clash contained strong reggae influences. These sounds can be attributed to only Mad Professor, Lee Perry or people listening very closely to their work. Dub has influenced, if not defined dance music forms like Trance, Hip Hop, Trip Hop and Jungle. Music you hear in clubs and charts would have sounded differently all together, without Mad Professor’s invisible hand.

Therefore, many cheers go to recently opened club Ikra for booking such an impressive name. This is a sure way to be taken seriously by music-lovers. Thumbs up, way to go!

Arriving at the club, I’m a bit late, but have no trouble finding my way to the hall where the Mad Professor and two of his lab assistants operate the turntables and mixing panels. The atmosphere can only be called narcotic. Those who dance seem to be in another time and space and are completely sucked in by the trippy mix of reverb loops, repeated samples and echoed reggae beats. The hall itself is dark. Only the deck with three faces is dimly lit. There are no smoke effects, no strobes, and no gimmicks. It’s the ideal setting for joining the concerted trance and it works for friends who are with me. Mad Professor himself is leaning over the equipment and introduces each next track in Patois. I’m completely clueless about what he is trying to say, though terms like “special mix” and “remix version” are used repeatedly, but all are dubbed and over-dubbed. It doesn’t matter anyway. Ikra now could be any dance hall in London, Addis Ababa or Kingston.

The gig itself had many highlights and no lowlights. There was no proper beginning, middle and end. It had no predefined structure. It didn’t lack it, though. This was the sort of set that is supposed to last for hours. With hindsight, I actually have no idea how much time I spent dancing to dub that night. I hardly remember getting a cab back to my place. Reggae and dub are often associated with smoking the mind-altering stuff. But in this case, the music by itself did the job of disorienting the audience. Great stuff!

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