Simmer Down Sound

It’s close to evening and you been waiting…
You got that feeling. No hesitating!
It’s strictly vinyl…It’s pure selection.
It’s always royal; the people dancing.
I’m just a simmer down, simmer down, simmer down champion!

Ska rockin’ steady, we gettin’ open.
Lovers rock and dancehall emotions.
It’s roots and culture; the deejays toasting
a big soundsystem with selectas coasting!
I’m just a simmer down, simmer down, simmer down champion!
Lyrics from “Simmer Down Champion” by Cosmos Ray

Simmer Down Sound (“SDS”) is a Chicago-based movement honoring the extraordinary musical culture and legacy of Jamaica. It was founded by Cosmos Ray in 2011 and started as a monthly event at the Double Door, an iconic Chicago music club. Many reggae nights in Chicago are focused on a single style of reggae and are attended by only one group of fans. However, SDS set out to create a night that covers as much territory as possible of the steeped fifty-year history of reggae music.

Our philosophy derives from Jamaican ska anthem “Simmer Down,” by the Wailers and the Skatalites. At the time of the writing of this song, Jamaican youth were embroiled in violence. In an effort to dispel the bloodshed, Bob Marley used his lyrics to plead with the youth of Kingston to simmer down. By the same token, SDS asks its participants to leave ideology, religion, politics and other divisive beliefs at the door, and to “simmer down” together around art and music in order to promote greater awareness, acceptance, and peace.

We feature resident and guest selectors (DJs) that honor the 45 rpm record and vinyl at large, as our monthly events are strictly vinyl. The amazing vinyl collections of SDS resident Selectors, The Graduate, Rad Brian, MarcusIyah and King Tony are a testimony to their deep love for Jamaican music. From original ska, rocksteady, roots, dub, lovers rock, rub­a­dub, and digi-dancehall to today’s newest anthems, these four aficionados have the choicest and rarest selections, which means that a visit to Simmer Down Sound guarantees you will hear a tune you have never heard before.

We also spotlight two sets of live performance from the best of Chicago’s musicians. Chicago’s best-loved vibrant reggae outfit Akasha, fronted by SDS founder Cosmos Ray, serves as the resident live band. Akasha embraces and embroiders upon the rich tapestry of the Jamaican canon, and leads the way in paying tribute to reggae history while forging its own unique sound.

We also create a space for toasters (a.k.a. deejays) from the audience to vocalize on the microphone over riddims spun by our selectors, giving a unique element of audience participation to the night. Finally, we also include a visual element to the evening, with Odd Obsession Movies screening Westerns and martial arts films, a strangely perfect counterpart to reggae music.

The combination of these elements has infused SDS events with a unique sense of
organized yet organic chaos. You never know what will happen next, from the style of music selected, to the films screened, to what vocalists will appear. In this way, we pay homage to the dynamism of soundsystem culture, and we keep our audience on its feet! We also maintain video and audio recordings of each night in order to preserve these one of a kind performances.

We are honored and grateful for our ever growing support, and for all the great talents who have been a part of our events. We look forward to continuing to expand our movement.