Paul Huxtable, Al Fingers and Mandeep Samra: Sound System Culture – Celebrating Huddersfield’s Sound Systems (One Love Books, 2014) (Book Review)

Paul Huxtable, Al Fingers and Mandeep Samra: Sound System Culture – Celebrating Huddersfield’s Sound Systems

(One Love Books, 2014)

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If Canada came off badly in the review above it’s purely because it seems slightly less exciting than the reggae scene in one town in the north of England. This is an impressive book: 10 inches square (same size as a dubplate), hardbound, thick paper. But most of all, lots and lots of amazing photos of Huddersfield soundsystems and the groups of people who ran them back in the day. The scene is set with some introductory text about the history of Jamaica and migration to London along with the usual photos of Windrush and sharply dressed first generation immigrants. It pains me to say it, but there is too much London in this book, worthwhile as it is. The first section does include a lovely shot of a 1976 dominos contest at the Derby West Indian Association though.

But all this is just preamble for the main event: Lush photos of blokes looking sharp. Blokes in garish 1970s living rooms, blokes fiddling with amazing gnarly pre-amps, groups of blokes styling for the camera at the beginning of a night out. All black, working class, dedicated to the hard work of humping speaker boxes around town, putting wires together, selecting tunes that will smash up a dance. The smiles and fashion of the portraits are in stark contrast to the drab shots of 70s and 80s Huddersfield town centre. If London was alienating for black kids at that time, the provinces (as I shall rudely call them) must have been doubly arduous. Michael Moore (aka Bones from Jah Lion sound) relates how he left Jamaica solo at 14 to come to Huddersfield to be reunited with his younger brother and mother, neither of whom he had seen for 4 years. And it was cold. Hard times. [Read more →]

Datacide 12 record reviews by John Eden

V/A – Nice Up The Dance: UK Bubblers 1984-87
(Greensleeves
2xCD)
This is a crucial compilation covering the UK MC explosion of the 1980s and more besides. When Saxon soundsystem unleashed a wave of unstoppable Mic Chatters it inspired a whole new generation to compete for room at the control tower. Lyrics became hyper competitive and related to life on the mean streets of the UK rather than harking back to Kingston. Vinyl releases inevitably followed, though Greensleeves were slightly beaten to the jump by South London rivals Fashion Records. This reissue showcases the 12” releases on Greensleeves’ mighty UK Bubblers sub-label and is very much a game of two halves.
Disc One is a nigh on perfect selection of deejay madness, backed by The Regulars band performing hard do-overs of Studio One riddims, often with soundsystem-style bass crossfading. It kicks off with Saxon’s Tippa Irie and Daddy Colonel at the top of their game on “Just A Speak”. The duo swap lines over the Answer riddim, fast chatting about everything from London bus routes to arguments with shopkeepers. There’s a bit of mickey taking out of each other, but all in the name of rocking the dance. Daddy Rusty follows on the same riddim with “No No Way” – a rhyming stream of consciousness featuring football, girls, grief with bus conductors and, well – you name it. The third tune on a ramped up Answer is Daddy Sandy’s massive “Riddle Bubble”: “I don’t teef, me not a criminal, I don’t take injections I don’t pop pill, I don’t smoke things that I can’t handle, electricity run through a cable, that’s how we get the power for the turntable, in other words you see this sound is operational, you throw rubbish in a bin you make a bundle, if a boy come jog me, he feel me knuckle, me take of me belt lick him with the buckle, if him don’t feel that me kick him in the temple. You fi bubble, seh you fi bubble bubble…” [Read more →]

Shaking The Foundations: Reggae soundsystem meets ‘Big Ben British values’ downtown


In October 2008 Ed Balls (the UK government’s Schools Secretary) announced an initiative to encourage teachers to spy on their pupils. This was of course done under the banner of “anti-terrorism” and “opposing extremism” [1]. For example identifying children with “radical” ideas. And presumably grassing them up. Essentially there is nothing new there (as with most New Labour initiatives). The opposition was sluggish and predictably along the lines of civil liberties.

In fact the main comment in the media was from Anthony Glees (Professor of security and intelligence studies at the University of Buckingham). Glees complained that the initiative didn’t go far enough, and that it failed to make a statement about “Big Ben British Values” thus allowing children’s identities to stem from a number of sources. Therefore, he went on, the ‘toolkit’ provided to teachers allowed religion to remain a legitimate source of identity, which “ultimately presents us with a security risk”.

This brings us back to the thorny question of national identity – something which has been problematic for most countries, but especially for the UK and Germany. “Big Ben British Values” shows us that the very concept of national identity is rooted in the language of the ruling class. Big Ben is attached to the Houses of Parliament in London. It’s like talking about “Reichstag Values” in Berlin. [Read more →]