DJ Steve Casey Spins Reggae



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Written By Brett Levine
Photography by Beau Gustafson

For Birmingham-based record collector and DJ Steve Casey, reggae music has always been a labor of love. “The first reggae album I ever heard was the soundtrack to The Harder they Come,” Casey begins, referring to a well-known album that accompanied the early 1970s movie starring reggae legend Jimmy Cliff. “But although that sparked a love for reggae music, and really all the varieties of music that it is—ska, rock steady, reggae, dancehall, dub—it probably was only about 15 years ago that I began thinking about collecting reggae music more seriously. The challenge was that apart from records by Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff, you just couldn’t find the music.”

The reason for this was that outside of the Bronx and Miami, the reggae–influenced music scenes in the U.S. simply were not very large, so many of the key records that were being produced in Jamaica were not being shipped to these shores. “It’s really pretty incredible,” Casey continues, “that per capita, Jamaica probably produces more music than almost anywhere else in the world.” The majority of these releases found homes in the U.K., but seldom stateside.

Casey’s passion for reggae eventually led to him performing, doing DJ sets opening for reggae acts touring through Birmingham. The opportunity astounded even Casey himself. “It surprised me that anybody was interested in anything I had to play,” he says laughing. “But I start from the idea that it is always about entertaining. This style of music is all designed around dancing, and the selector—what we call the DJ—really has to have a feel for the crowd. For me, one of the great things about playing these various forms of reggae music is that they can be enjoyed without necessarily demanding all your attention.”

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From the DJ perspective, what fascinates Casey is how significant reggae’s influence has been on various forms of popular music. “What most people don’t realize is that so many musical innovations have stemmed from reggae music. Twelve–inch records were very popular, as were dub remixes, that is, songs without vocals. So between the studio innovations and the music innovations, like the influences on rap and dub, it’s pretty clear how incredibly influential reggae has been.”

Casey enjoys the ways in which his passion for music can converge with his love of playing and performing. “Music has been my hobby my entire life,” he remarks. “With DJing, it gives me the chance to share that with anyone fascinated by the music.”

What this means is that Casey is now building an audience for his diverse approach to this music. Whether playing an opening set, or doing a full set at a venue in town, every opportunity to perform is also an opportunity to explore and share. “I think one of the great aspects being a DJ with a passion for and knowledge of reggae music is that it allows me to play music where people’s tastes might branch out just a little, where they might enjoy something outside their comfort zone.” At the same time, he admits that his love of music means that listening, and performing, are simply two parts of the learning process. “Even though I love the music, I’m also a collector, so I’m fascinated by the creative output of the artists working across these fields.”

For now, the best way to catch one of Casey’s sets is to find him at a local venue spinning his unique selection of sounds. Maybe he’ll drop in a set of Lover’s Rock—rub–a–dub, as it’s called. “It’s basically anything that is a song about love,” Casey says, “and the great thing about it is that it transcends genres.” Sounds like the echo of a beat everyone can love.•

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7 Responses to “DJ Steve Casey Spins Reggae”

  1. henry says:

    BIG UPS and Vibes. Roots

  2. Christopher Oliver says:

    Cool article. I need to check DJ Steve out. He sounds like a true music enthusiast.

  3. Steve Casey says:

    Hop City on 3rd Ave South on July 9th from 4 to 7pm. No BS reggae.

  4. Bill Gilbert says:

    What a handsome man ! And he’s single girls !!

  5. Steven Casey says:

    Please feel free to email me at alabamareggaeselector@gmail.com for any inquiries or information.

  6. Orson says:

    Master Steve brings the jams! I’ve never seen anyone play 4 hours of reggae without hearing a single tune I recognized. Do not judge this book by its cover, Steve could rock a block party in the spookiest of Jamaican neighborhoods. Strictly roots, political gold, waiting for an excuse

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