The spookiest weekend of the year is upon us and what better way to celebrate than with a selection of haunted dub and reggae? We’ve probably all seen the iconic horror themed cover of Scientist Rids the World of the Evil Curse of the Vampires or heard Lee “Scratch” Perry’s Black Ark classic “Disco Devil,” but that got us thinking: where exactly do all the references to vampires, ghosts, and devils in reggae music originate from?
Dub music as a whole has a bit of a haunted quality to its sound with the echo effects and spring reverb playing out like shadows dancing around a dark, cavernous space. The term “vampire” is used in all sorts of roots reggae, dub, and even dancehall tracks. Peter Tosh’s “Vampire” comes immediately to mind as well as Cornell Campbell’s “100 Lbs of Collie” which includes the incredible lyric “don’t mingle with vampaya.” Perry seemed to actively embrace spirits and the occult with his wildly unconventional studio techniques.
Like many aspects of reggae, the truth likely lies in the roots of the music, Rastafarian culture and religion. A Google search reveals that a “vampaya” in Jamaican patois is someone who declares himself Rastafarian but doesn’t care about the religion itself. Further, Babylon, aka the material world in Rastafarian belief systems, is often depicted as vampiric, with some songs relating vampires to pale men who murder and suck the life out of the world. Whatever the inspiration, the result is wildly imaginative and, to our ears, some of the best music out there for the spooky season.
Below, a playlist featuring some of our favorite haunted dub and reggae tracks + a few more selects that are spookily not available on streaming…
Also, a special mention to Bauhaus’ Dracula goth rock classic “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” which was heavily influenced by dub music.
“We were very influenced by reggae, especially dub. I mean, basically Bela was our interpretation of dub.” – David J (Bauhaus)
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