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Arrows International (Hi-Fi) Sound System

Updated: Jun 2, 2022

Arrows Hi-fi Sound System
Arrows Hi-fi Sound System

I grew up in the Mountain View Avenue area of Eastern Kingston, Jamaica where the lower half of Mountain View Avenue just below Jacques Road and emptying into Windward Road provided accommodation to many “dances” or sound system performances. The Dance scene was the outing of choice for the Working Class people of Kingston and that scene was fed by a multitude of sound systems including V.J The Dub Master, the immortal Coxsone’s Down Beat, Duke Reid The Trojan, Top Deck, Sir Percy The Welterweight, Sir George The Atomic, Tom The Great Sebastian, El Suzy A-Go-Go, Merritone, Swing Disk, Supreme Of Love, Sanatone, Stan the Soul Merchant, Ray Symbolic and Tubby’s Hi Fi, One of my earliest experiences with a sound system was listening to Arrows International HI-Fi playing out in the 56 Mountain View Avenue area known then as “Big Yard.”

Arrows Disco

Arrows Disco, was formed in 1965 by the trio of Ivan Linton (Sonny), Phillip Linton (Bilbo), and Robert Johnson (RO), the latter being the inspiration for the name. Johnson was referred to as “RO” and Jamaicans quickly rolled that into “Arrow” and the rest was history. Robert was the Electronic brain who built the sound’s first amplifier from a ‘Grundig Radio, a ‘Garrard’ turntable to play the 78, 45 and 33 1/3 RPM records, and wooden Sardine cases with 8” speakers as boxes. As a credit to Robert for putting this makeshift system together, the system was aptly named after him as “Arrows!” The sound grew in much the same way among the plethora of sound systems at the time, and its record collection mushroomed over the years due to links with Federal Records and Joe Gibbs Records. In the year 1971 the trio were introduced to a technician in Jones Town by the name of Aston ‘Soul King’ Lindo. King, as he would later be called. He was responsible for the dangerous sound of the system's three pieces of tube amplifiers, Bass, Mid. and Treble. Built into the treble amplifier were a spring reverb section and a wicked microphone stage that was never duplicated by any other sound in the world, giving it its signature sound in the dance hall. In early 70’s Arrows adopted the style of playing ‘Dub Plates’ with hardcore reggae and rub-a-dub style music, receiving exclusive tunes from producers & studios such as the immortal Studio 1, Treasure Isle, Channel 1, Tubby’s, Bunny Lee, Carlton & AstonFamily ManBarrett (Wailers), Phil Pratt, and many more just to name a few. Arrows, at the time, joined a handful of other systems that were playing Dub Plates including the established Prince Patrick Hi-Fi, John the President, and the Mighty King Tubby’s Hi-Fi. When Jackie Burch (owner of Prince Patrick) decided to emigrate to Canada, the Arrows trio bought his entire Dub Plate collection and acquired his DJ, an old school mate of theirs, called Delroy ‘Crutches’ Jones.

According to Ivan “Sonny Arrows” Linton, the very first dance the sound played as a ‘Dub Sound’ was promoted by a friend of theirs, Bobby “El Bebo” Phillips, held at a lawn on Milk Avenue in Rollington Town in 1971. Sonny recalls that it was indeed a “life changing experience as that night we won the hearts and following of the hundreds who were in attendance with the type and style of music we played and it just got better from there on as we found ourselves playing all over the country every Friday and Saturday nights Public Holidays, and some mid-week nights for the next fifteen years.”

Arrows International

In 1974 they became the very first sound in Jamaica to travel the USA and play whereupon the sound took on the name ‘Arrows International.’ They would play again in the USA the following year and earned the name ‘Arrows the Ambassador!’

The sound continued its growth over the years, acquiring DJs such as Puddy Roots, Hugo Brown, Captain Sinbad, Jah Boney, Zu Zu, Major Worries, Nigger Charlie, Liberty, Shaka Shamba, Joe Mannix, Mello Ranks, Chicken Chest, Bennie Man, Cutty Ranks and Professor Nuts, and the singing talent of the great Leroy Gibbon. The sound also acquired selectors such as Zaggalu and Papa Screw. Arrows would feature in major “sound clashes” against some of the best sounds of the era including Tipper-Tone Hi-Fi, King Jammy’s Sound, Emperor Faith, Jack Ruby, Sir Norman, Killer Tone, Ripper-Tone, Stereophonic, Volcano, Metro Media, Black Star, Killamanjaro, Black Scorpio, Sugar Minott’s Youthman Promotion sound, Black Harmony, Stereo-mars and Socialist Roots Hi-Fi.

With the political climate in the island changing towards the end of the 1970s, Arrows International took to overseas playing engagements in an effort to escape the violent confrontations that were a fixture of the political climate. Arrows also traveled to the United Kingdom where it played against the likes of Saxon, Java, V-Rocket and Unity in London. In the USA they challenged Down Beat the Ruler, Earthquake and Gemini coming out victorious and defending its reputation as one of Jamaica’s most enduring and Champion sound systems. By the end of the 1980s Arrows International Sound System gave way to Arrows International Recording Studio which opened its doors at 57c Windward Road in East Kingston. Unfortunately, it was at this location that its founder 51-year-old Phillip “Billy Arrows” Linton was gunned down by “unknown assailants” on March 4, 2004.

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