“the story of don letts – superstonic sound: the rebel dread from punk to dubstep”

April 29, 2011

AP Fam! We’d like to share this article about pioneer punk DJ/filmmaker Don Letts, written by Trilly D. Millions for Freshly Serious. It mentions his appearance at the 2005 Afro-punk Festival at BAM (Brooklyn Academy Of Music)!
“Don Letts is an unsung hero of British music. ‘Superstonic Sound: The Rebel Dread’ is a documentary about the Letts family legacy that mirrors the history of BASS in the UK from Dub, Reggae and Punk to 80s pop, Hip Hop and Dubstep; a musical, cultural and personal link between past and present.

Don’s father was amongst the first Jamaican immigrants to Britain and he brought his sound system with him, introducing London to Jamaican Dub with its heavy BASS accent.

Don grew up in Brixton, immersed in Dub and Reggae. In the context of Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech and KBW – Keep Britain White – grafitied across the walls of London, Don became the lone Rebel Dread crossing musical and cultural boundaries between black and white. He became DJ at the first Punk club, the legendary “Roxy” where in between live Punk sets, he played hard core Dub-Reggae and fortunately for him…

His son Jet, now 24, is trying to make it as a DJ and producer of Dubstep – the latest sound in British music and a direct descendant of Dub, Reggae and Hip Hop. If Reggae was black music and Punk was white guys influenced by Jamaican music, Dubstep is perhaps the first true combination of black and white musical and cultural traditions in today’s post-racial London.

Three generations of DJ; the Letts family has been an integral part of British music for over 50 years. Their story IS the story of BASS in British music.


Don Letts’ reputation has been firmly established in both the film and music world by a substantial body of work, from the late 70′s through the 80′s, 90′s and well into the millennium. His work has been exhibited in The Kitchen N.Y.C, The Institute of Contemporary Art, The N.F.T in London and was honoured at Brooklyn’s BAM festival. [note from Afro-punk: this was for the Afro-punk Festival!] In March 2003 he won a Grammy for his documentary ‘Westway To The World’.

He came to notoriety in the late 70′s as the DJ that single handedly turned a whole generation of punks onto reggae. It was whilst DJing at the first punk club ‘The Roxy’ in 1977, that Don adopted the punk D.I.Y ethic and began to make his first film ‘The Punk Rock Movie’. Shot on Super-8mm, it is the only documentary on the U.K punk scene featuring The Sex Pistols, The Clash and many others. This led to a period directing over 300 music videos for a diverse range of artists, including The Clash, Bob Marley, Elvis Costello and Beenie Man.

From the days of Punk Rock to the present, he has always been drawn towards musical projects. He created the band Basement Five, released a single with members of John Lydon’s P.I.L, managed The Slits and collaborated with members of Trouble Funk.

In the mid 80′s he formed the group ‘Big Audio Dynamite’ with Mick Jones (ex-Clash). He went on to perform and co-write four albums with B.A.D, achieving several hits on both sides of the Atlantic including the hit “E=Mc2″.

As the ‘Dub Cartel Sound System’ he has performed DJ sets for The Rough Trade 25th Anniversary, Jarvis Cocker’s Desperate Sound System, Trojan, Lee Perry’s Meltdown, Glastonbury 2003/4 and Stussy’s 25th anniversary.

His credits as a director include a variety of films and documentaries, including ‘Dancehall Queen’, ‘Westway To The World’ and ‘PUNK: Attitude’.

Don has also released several compilation albums: 1996′s’Time Warp Dub Clash’ (Island Records), 2002′s ‘Dread Meets The Punk Rockers Uptown’ (Heavenly Records), 2003′s ‘Don Letts presents: The Mighty Trojan Sound’ (Sanctuary Records) and in 2004 ‘Dread Meets B-Boy Downtown’ (Heavenly Records).

In March 2007, he released his autobiography “Culture Clash: Dread Meets Punk Rockers”.

He is currently working as a DJ for BBC Radio 6 and continues to make documentary films – his most recent work “Strummerville” is set to become another hit in a career as varied and distinguished as anyone in British music today.”