Last week I had the pleasure of joining the panel for British Underground’s ‘Bass Culture Clash’ event at the BME in the o2. As our Word Sound & Power: Reggae Changed My Life exhibition is currently in residence at the BME – hopefully providing a valuable focus during Black History Month it seemed appropriate to the organisers that Swifty or myself should add our penny’s worth to the discussion. As my roots in the UK reggae scene go way back I readily accepted the task.
While a previous Bass Culture discussion I’d experienced lacked a satisfactory focus this session was glued together by the very excellent Paulette Long. who has along history in the industry and proved quite capable of making the audience sing the words to ‘Uptown Top Ranking’, ‘Cockney Translation’ and ‘Silly Games’.
Interestingly, it was a full house. The keen and predominantly young crowd was peppered with the odd veteran and activist from the UK reggae scene including Wozzy Brewster of Midi Company, Nick Page of Dub Colossus and Leroy ‘Lepke’ Anderson of DBC – the UK’s first pirate radio station dedicated to reggae music.
The panel itself was a revelation and featured several engaging contributions from the perceptive new generation promoter Jack Robinson – who worked on the Dub to Jungle, Dub to Dubstep and the Outlook Festival in Croatia. The contemporary frontline was more than adequately represented by Ras Kwame who, following on from his BBC 1Xtra residency, is now devoting his energies to the new wave and his Electrobashy set-up.
Sitting comfortably alongside Ras Kwame was the inimitable Lady Chann who rose to notoriety on the UK dancehall scene through her involvement in Stonebridge’s Suncycle crew. Raised in a reggae household amid record and speaker boxes, Lady Chann is not one to mince her words and she a gave the audience an insight into the journey that’s led to her emerging as a full throttle UK dancehall MC.
Working the ‘Bass Culture’ concept to full effect was Mykaell Riley – former Steel Pulse vocalist and founder of the Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra. Today, Riley is engaged with academia and numerous off shoot projects and in a positive move, Paulette Long quite quickly established that we were all on the same page when it comes to recognising that Jamaican music and culture provides the DNA for most contemporary dance music. As such, we all agreed that respect is due to those underground forces that built the reggae nation.
It was therefore interesting to be engaging with three people who are working their respective corners from a totally contemporary perspective. From my point of view, the music remains very much in the margins. It’s impact on the mainstream is clearly evident and while Bass Culture, as a brand, may have it’s uses it’s no substitute for a well organised co-operative approach to promotion and marketing.
Seems to me that it’s hard to make a living in the cultural world these days. Everybody wants sump’m for nuthin’. So, if you are going to donate your skills and your energy you might as well do it with like minded people who are looking to build a career that allows development and longevity!
Anyway, while the session wound up with enthusiastically received live sets from Natty, Lady Leshurr and the Rasites I’m going to wind up this piece with a snippet of old skool – post Two Tone – footage featuring the mighty Jah Shaka and the yout’ from the Metro Youth Club steppin’ in fine style. Bass Culture? For sure!