This Saturday at Caribbean Village, DJ Indiana Jones and his longtime musical collaborator DJ Danger will be participating in Indy's first Jamaican-style DJ sound clash. Jones, a.k.a Ron Miner, has been a major force in the Indianapolis club scene for well over two decades. In addition to spinning hip-hop and Top 40 beats, he's well known for his connection with Jamaican music. Jones filled me in on the event's significance as well as his own personal history with Jamaican sounds.
NUVO: Can you explain what a sound clash is, for our readers who aren't familiar with the term?
Indiana Jones: The simplest way to break it down is to say it's a Jamaican DJ battle. In a sound clash, your sound system competes against two or three other different sound systems. You start off in the initial round just playing a warm-up mix. Then, you go into a round of counteraction between the sound systems. For example, one sound systems plays a song, then lets the other sound system respond with a song counteracting, then there's a counteraction to that, and so on. You have to be on your toes, and know what the artist is talking about in each song so you know what to play next in your response.
From there you go into what they call a dub for dub round. This involves each system going back and forth playing their dubplates – a specialized version of a song done by the original artist singing about a particular sound system. So it could be Sean Paul or Mr. Vegas singing about Indiana Jones and DJ Danger, and Crushstar International which is the name of our sound system.
This is the first event of its kind in Indianapolis. To be honest, I don't consider myself a soundclash-style DJ. But this being the first event of this type here for reggae, it was only natural Danger and I would enter. Whether we win, lose, or draw, we want to be there to support.
NUVO: How is a sound clash scored?
Jones: It's scored by the judges and the host, but you also have the crowd involved. They look at your interaction with the crowd, the quality of your dubplates and the quality of your selections and mixing. You have to interact with the crowd and talk shit about the competition, or talk shit to the crowd. Just get people riled up.
NUVO: Tell me about the other participants in this clash.
Jones: Roots Iric is a good friend of mine. He's a talented musician, producer and vocalist, and he has a lot of dubplates. He's a quadruple threat. DJ Teya has been coming to the reggae party at Casba since 1997; that's where I met the guy. He's an old school DJ from Jamaica, so you can expect to hear him bring that classic sound. His dubplate collection is fierce. The Chrome Matic Sound brings a lot of heat too, I'm curious to see what they do.
NUVO: What initially pulled you into working with Jamaican music?
Jones: I had two different gravitational pulls. In the early '90s, I met up with a bunch of kids who went to Pike High School that were really into straight-ahead reggae like Steel Pulse, Augustus Pablo, and The Wailing Souls. They put me up on the roots thing, but I wasn't really keen on the dancehall sound at the time. I wasn't really into the pop stuff I would hear like Maxi Priest. But then Super Cat and Shabba Ranks came with a couple hip-hop remixes and that got me interested.
When I moved to New York around '93 or '94, I went to a Rock Lobster-type college bar in New Brunswick. The DJ was playing standard Top 40 fare, but then he started playing reggae. Not like any of the reggae I was familiar with. He was playing Cutty Ranks, Beenie Man and Bounty Killer. I couldn't believe all these college kids were into it. It was bugging me out.
Later, as I started really getting into it in New York I would DJ for Mark Ronson's reggae sets. A hip-hop DJ would always bring another DJ with him to do the reggae set, or a house set. Really, you were there just to carry their records. [laughs] But I would get to do my little reggae set.
The music and rhythm of reggae was similar to the foundation of hip-hop. I really liked the roots and culture music, the religious teachings in it. And some of the revolutionary prose that reminded me of what I heard in hip-hop with Public Enemy, BDP and X-Clan.
NUVO: The Sunday night reggae party at the Casba has been going for seventeen years. How has Jamaican music in Indy grown since the Casba party started?
Jones: It's a totally different thing now. You have a diaspora here now. When I started you had the West Indian Association that had some traditional events going on, but they didn't do anything fun for the youth. Now kids are coming to Indy for college from Africa, and the Caribbean and staying here because they're enjoying themselves and the little bit of culture we're able to give them.
A Cultural Manifesto is now available on WFYI's HD2 radio. Tune in Wednesdays at 7 p.m. and Saturdays at 3 p.m. as NUVO's Kyle Long explores the merging of a wide variety of music from around the globe with American genres like hip-hop, jazz, and soul.