The sound system concept originated in the 1950s in Kingston, Jamaica. DJs would load up a truck with a generator, turntables, and huge speakers to set up street parties. The sound system scene is generally regarded as an important part of Jamaican cultural history and as being responsible for the rise of modern Jamaican musical styles such as ska, rocksteady, reggae and dub. When Jamaicans emigrated to the United Kingdom, the sound system culture followed and became firmly rooted there in the 1970s. It is still strongly linked with those Jamaican-originated music genres, and some bands or producers still call themselves sound systems, such as Dub Narcotic Sound System and the On-U Sound System. When Asian Dub Foundation are advertised as Asian Dub Foundation, the whole band performs, but when they announce themselves as Asian Dub Foundation Sound System, members of the band mix and play music (by other artists, as well as their own) while one or two MCs rap over the songs like DJ Pro. The term also has become connected with sound reinforcement systems by DJs such as the Valve Sound System.
Sound system is also used to refer to a free party sound system, also known as a rig. The equipment will be a van, loudspeakers, amplifiers, decks and cables but larger rigs might also have a fog machine, lighting, projectors and an electrical generator. A sound system collective is usually five or more people, with larger sound systems having more members. Equipment is owned by some and others are DJs, record producers or enthusiastic ravers that help out. They will be the people who organise free parties and teknivals and will be a group of friends with similar interests. Some owners purposely use second hand equipment, as they will not care if the equipment will get damaged, stolen or confiscated. This type of rig is called a suicide rig and usually used at unsecure locations where it may get stolen or damaged and if police will have knowledge of the party.
Sometimes a soundsystem is well known for its travelling nature and can be described as modern Nomadtribes or New age travellers. In this context the word sound system is used interchangeably to describe either the group of people or the equipment. The techno travelling scene of the 90's was made of such sound system like Bedlam sound system, and Spiral Tribe.
The Free party community has come under much criticism from wider society in recent years. Through the general unsightly appearance of attendees to such events, accusations of high levels of substance abuse of illegal drugs such as MDMA, Ketamine, Amphetamines and LSD along with complaints about mess left behind by such parties have given the scene a negative reputation. However, despite such complaints the scene continues to grow with a large following in Bristol, Abergavenny, Newport, London, Devon and Cornwall.