DJ Dossier: Tony Culture
If you missed Tony Culture spinning reggae and dancehall music during last weekend's ultra-packed First Friday celebration, don't worry. You can always catch the dreadlocked DJ working the turntables next month. Or the month after that. And then the month after that.
In fact, the Jamaican-born musician and platter jock has been a regular fixture at the monthly art walk, "spreading the vibe" by broadcasting irie music from his expansive collection in front of Afida's Hair Culture (which is run by his missus) adjacent to Carly's Bistro over the past three years.
Culture also spends a significant amount of time creating Jamaican-flavored jams with other local reggae musicians since moving to Arizona more than a decade ago. In that time he's seen the popularity of the genre ebb and flow throughout the Valley's small-but-growing reggae scene.
Name: Edmond Anthony Hendrix
AKA: Tony Culture
Regular gigs: I only spin reggae music on a regular basis here right now on First Friday, that is because it's my wife's place. It's my place as well, so I spread the vibe and keep my love for the music alive.
Preferred genre(s): Anywhere from dub to rockers to steppers to lovers rock to toots, though I try to stay away from disrespectful kind of tunes from personal bias because you don't have to play those to really get things going. Also R&B, I do that too. My love for music and my country is so vast that people will be surprised. Reggae is my forte of course, I was born and grew up into it but I like many of the different types and styles of music.
How do you draw a crowd on First Friday? I serve up a bunch of vibes. You might hear a couple of country songs, you might hear a couple of rock songs, a couple of R&B songs, a couple of hip-hop songs, some lovers reggae, some roots reggae, or a couple of dubs. It's a variety.
What music do you consider "disrespectful"? Music with explicitly bad lyrics or music that is explicitly a little too sexually raw far as the lyrics. If the sexuality is done in a humorous way, okay then, but when it's a little too raw, I would be embarrassed for my child being there to hear it.
How did you get your start: I've been a DJ since '78 or '79. I'd always wanted to do music. I always loved music legends like Bob Marley and Dennis Brown. I saw Marley perform live with his bandage on his arm, that was a momentous moment for me right there and that was the reason I made my decision [to be a DJ]. I just kind of fell into it because I wanted to do it and met a lot of people who had similar interests. Me and a couple of guys formed a sound system named Culture Sound in Baltimore, being DJ sfor many years up and down the east coast.
How did you get your first taste of reggae? My first exposure to music on the radio was in my home district there was a program called farm work. A gentleman came across during farm work and he came back home with battery operated turn table changers where you just put the record on and I remember staying a lot of times at his house listening to records and dancing and we would have to go and fetch water from the spring as a payment for him playing the music. It continued on from there when I went to little dances here and there.
What other musical endeavors do you work on? Mostly what I've have been doing for a number of years is my live music where I perform live with my band. I have a couple of live shows coming up. I've been doing the live music a lot more lately. I work with several different bands including Casper and the Mighty 602 Band, and main band is A-Dub-Rock Band based in Colorado that's comprised of Jamaicans and Americans.
What do you think of the Valley's reggae scene: I would say Phoenix has a small reggae scene, yeah. I have seen it fluctuate and go through changes and seen it when it was a little bit hotter than it is. Hopefully it seems like it's started to make an upturn, but the Valley is so spread out, so the people who wants Reggae might be all the way on the west side and might not necessarily know about what's happening in Tempe or downtown Phoenix.
How would increase popularity reggae locally: If I could do anything, the first thing I would do is get an hour or two to play on one of the major FM stations on a regular basis at a good time [slot]. Every major place that reggae is really booming has a radio station going. It would really be able to bring the people who wanted it because they would have a place to tune for what is happening.
Then get a night going at a club with a good capacity where you have a couple of DJs playing on the card each night where you get a variety of music so you trade off like one DJ does a turn, another DJ does a turn, back in the thing and bump it like that. A mix of different styles and flavor.
Favorite Jamaican restaurant in town: Man, I can't tell you that. If I tell you that I'm going to get in trouble.
Where do you get your music: I shop for music at Ameoba when I go to California or [at shops] on the east coast. Otherwise I get my music via the mail. I have a large collection that I've collected over my many years of doing music and I've never stopped collecting. A lot of the collection comes from Jamaica and some that I've acquired here and I still get music from both places.
How many records are in your collection: That's a good question, I couldn't tell you right off, I need to do a recount as I don't even have my whole collection with me here. Part of my collection is in Georgia with my brother. I would say a few thousand.
Last album purchased: The two last albums I bought were Kashief Lindo's What Kinda World and Many More Roads by Ky-Mani Marley.
What's your most prized record: I have quite a few of those. One would be a Roy Shirley record, one would be a King Stitch, and a Dennis Alcapone.
Track that's been stuck in your head lately: It happens to be an old song by Dennis Brown, "Here I Come."
Any future projects coming up? I'm working on my second album right now. It's basically complete, I just got the artwork and I need to put final touches on the mastering and it should be good to go. I'm hoping to get everything finished by Christmas, if not early next year.