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Chet Singh Dubbing the Right Thing with a Swing

Occupation Nation is the sixth release from Chet Singh, a foundational member of the local dub, spoken word, and activist communities. He pairs with local dub wise professor Jarett Prescott to create eerie, sick dubs that match the fiercely political content of his poetry.

As a Trent alumni, Chet, was active in the 1980’s as a part of the band One Mind, a latin reggae fusion band with now reggae guitarist Rob Wilkes, then a punk rock musician. He also organized Cultural Outreach, which is still a strong tradition at Trent. Chet cites the downtown colleges as a place for great creative expression, that would usually be found in larger urban campuses, because of the mixture of students and the Peterborough community.

After the success of Recessionary Revolutionaries, his previous release that deals with the culture of fear produced by supposed economic turmoil, Occupation Nation does not back down from calling out oppressive forces that seek to create fear and author history. The title track, ‘Occupation Nation’, is a critique of what it means to live on occupied territory. ‘Red Canoe’ is another indictment of the Canadian identity in the face of a growing fire that is burning down traditional settler narratives.

Occupation Nation
is musically diverse and interesting. In an interview on Trent Radio’s the anth co dub-Station, Jarett Prescott described the collaboration between the two as “a genuine pushing of both of our styles together,” where Chet wanted Jarrett’s “interesting, high brow sound,” but did not want it to be ”too disco” or “too swanky.”

Unlike one of his dub heroes, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Chet does not start with a poem and a band builds a dub around it. Instead, Jarrett presents ”a palette of different dubs, and different feelings” to Chet, and the poetry and music evolve together.

Part of the diversity on the record comes from the many collaborators and the thematic continuity comes from Jarrett at the controls as well as the rock solid foundation of Chet’s poetry.
The track ‘Occupation Nation’ was produced by Toronto dub master Dubmatix. On another episode of Trent Radio’s the anth co dub-Station, before his Juno win, Dubmatix described an excitement from finally getting to collaborate with Chet and get into the spoken word side of dub.

As Jarrett characterized it, dub poets are “used to where the bass line sits and where there is room for vocals to take off in the mid-range, and the tinkling and rattling and the polyrythym of the hats. It [dub] fits poetry perfectly.”

Another producer found on the album is Nicholas Murray, who produces the track MADAWASKA. Jarrett drew a lot of inspiration from this particular collaboration because “in England there is a funny new way of mixing… shifting the landscapes of tracks very slowly.”

Early “dub tactics” are also used, such as de-tuning the bass and horns as well as building phasers and EQ sweepers. “Dub has always historically been full of great tricks,” Jarrett says, “it’s always about the tricks, secret tricks sometimes.”

Apart from production collaborations, musicians such as Nick ‘Brownman’ Ali and locals Beau Dixon and Mike Duguay also provide guitar, bass, and horns for the album. Many tracks were also recorded at Electric City Studios, in the basement of the Queen Street restaurant Electric City Gardens.

As Jarrett puts it, “The album has a real cozy relationship with the restaurant,” which is not just a restaurant but a “haven for the arts and creative types.” Once production costs are recovered, all proceeds from Occupation Nation go to the Idle No More movement.

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