Veteran Chicago drummer Ted Sirota founded his latest band, Ted Sirota’s Heavyweight Dub, in 2013. An accomplished Jazz drummer and leader of Ted Sirota’s Rebel Souls, Sirota began practicing and playing Reggae drums along with his favorite records as a teenager in the early 1980’s. Sirota modeled his style after the great Jamaican drummers of the era – Carlton Barrett, Sly Dunbar, Style Scott, Grizzly Nesbitt, Santa Davis, Lloyd Knibb, Horsemouth Wallace and others.
Sirota began working professionally as a Reggae and Soca/Calypso drummer while studying at Berklee College of Music in Boston in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Sirota performed up and down the New England Coast with, amongst others, Hot Like Fire – one of Boston’s premier Reggae and Soca bands. After moving back to the Windy City in 1992, Sirota quickly became active on the Chicago Reggae scene playing with various groups at The Wild Hare, Exedus II and many other venues. Eventually, Sirota drifted away from the local Reggae scene to concentrate on the formation of his Jazz ensemble, Ted Sirota’s Rebel Souls, and his steady Saturday night tenure with Sabertooth at the world famous Jazz club, The Green Mill.
With Rebel Souls Sirota continued to play and write Jamaican inspired music, albeit filtered through the lens of Jazz improvisation. After releasing five critically acclaimed records with Rebel Souls on the Naim (UK) and Delmark labels, touring Europe and the U.S., and performing at the 2004 and 2010 Chicago Jazz Festival, Sirota decided to branch out and revisit his first musical love – Reggae (concentrating on the instrumentally focused Dub sub-genre). Sirota assembled a stellar cast of Chicago musicians and enlisted Anthony Abbinanti, leader of The Drastics, to live dub mix the band and add electronics to the sonic palette. The remaining members of Heavyweight Dub are some of Chicago’s finest:
Roy McGrath-Tenor Sax
Cosmos Ray – Vocals
Yanira Marin – Vocals
In April of 2013, less than a week after the bands’ first gig, Sirota came into contact with legendary Jamaican engineer and Dub pioneer Hopeton O. Brown, AKA “The Scientist”. After a serious phone discussion about music, the pair planned to record together and quickly embarked on a successful Kickstarter campaign that reached its’ goal of $25,000 and enabled Sirota to fly The Scientist from L.A. to Chicago, where the band recorded their debut album with the “Dub Chemist” at the controls. The resulting musical document, “The Scientist Meets Ted Sirota’s Heavyweight Dub” was released in September 2013 on Sirota’s own Liberated Zone Records, and began turning Dub heads around the globe.
With Heavyweight Dub, Sirota aspires to resurrect the full, rich, fat sound of the “Golden Era” of Reggae music. Taking his cue from the great Jamaican studio bands and musicians of the 70’s & early 80’s, Sirota hopes to put some of the spotlight back on the fine musicianship that was the foundation of Ska, Rocksteady, and Reggae music, but has taken a back seat to “star” singers in recent decades. Although Heavyweight Dub is dedicated to the Roots tradition, they continue to look to the future by experimenting with sound, electronics, and incorporating modern riddims into their original compositions. As critic Anderson Muth aka “The Groove Thief” recently wrote, “The future of dub is the present. Ted Sirota’s Heavyweight Dub has met The Scientist, and what has emerged is pure heavy, funky, hazy dub. Ted Sirota and his deep ensemble of musicians hold their own on this impressive overture to dub’s golden age, when the b-side was in demand on the 7”s, while not ignoring the times we live in. If you know dub you definitely want to hear this.”