Sometimes, if you can’t find what you’re looking for, you just have to go out there and make it happen for yourself. When a young Jesse I moved to Melbourne from country Victoria in 1997, he assumed his love for reggae and dancehall music would be fully catered for. However, as Jesse started exploring his new home, he began to find out that the sound system culture he craved so much was sadly lacking from the city’s music scene.
“There wasn’t really that much happening,” he recalls of his first experiences. “At that time reggae was sort of relegated to Sunday afternoon chill sessions, whereas, of course around the world in reggae and dancehall scenes it’s the main focus, dancehall especially. If you’re going to go to a dancehall gig you’re going to be dancing till six in the morning – it’s full on party music!”
Taking matters into his own hands, Jesse teamed up with Ras Crucial; a kindred musical soul whom he’d met DJing one Saturday afternoon in Revolver. Together they formed Chant Down, a DJ and MC performance collaboration in the Jamaican sound system tradition. Chant Down was an opportunity to give the energy and power of the music they loved so much the centre stage, late night platform it deserved. “The first Chant Down gig was in Oct 2000 at Revolver.” recalls Jesse. “That was a clash against Nasty Tech from Sydney who were fairly well established at that time so we brought them down to Melbourne for a Jamaican style sound clash.”
Those yet to witness a reggae or dancehall sound clash should certainly seek out the experience. Picture a musical face off between two opposing crews, the winner being the one who the crowd judge to have played the best tracks at the right time, to have outdone their counterpart in terms showmanship on the microphone or to have trumped them by dropping the more exclusive dub plates – a one-of-a-kind remix that would carry your custom sound while ideally dissing your opponents. On that particular night, Jesse claims to have won the clash in Melbourne but lost the return leg in Sydney leaving the result tied. Now, we all know a draw is an unacceptable result so, after all these years, Jesse and Ras Crucial have managed to arrange a friendly rematch of sorts to commemorate the anniversary of the gig and celebrate Chant Down having achieved a hugely impressive 10 years in the game. Rarely does a club make it to such a milestone so hats off to them.
More Fire, the club night Jesse runs with Ras Crucial is the longest running reggae night of any kind in Australia with a supremely loyal crowd. “At the last night two weeks ago, I was speaking to a guy called Charles who’d missed the previous month,” tell Jesse. “He was like, ‘Oh, I was so disappointed, that’s only the third one I’ve missed in 10 years!’”
With the next More Fire being the 115th, surely that kind of attendance ratio is worthy of some kind of award, although apparently it’s not unusual. ”There’s quite a fee people in a similar boat”, confirms Jesse, “so it’s really good that we have these loyal friend and followers who’ve been coming since the start and still come month in month out.”
Luckily for them, there are no signs of winding things up just yet. “I can’t see us stopping anytime soon that’s for sure,” says Jesse. “Hopefully we’ll be doing this until we’re old men. As long the obsession with Jamaican music continues – and I can’t see that stopping – then I cant see us stopping Chant Down.”