Last year, two-tone legends The Specials released an album entitled ‘Protest Songs 1924-2012’. It featured covers of tracks by Bob Marley, Leonard Cohen, Big Bill Broonzy and other legends of protest music – but not one song penned by a British person, despite the band’s Coventry origins. This, UEA Professor John Street tells me, was part of the impetus behind the project Our Subversive Voice: The History and Politics of the English Protest Song.
by Lisa Insansa Woods
Norfolk’s music, gig and free party scene is a vibrant stream of colour, with bright red, gold and green gushes moving through the illuminous pool. Reggae, dub, jungle, drum n bass and techno can easily be discovered blaring from a stack of speakers in a venue or elusive field in and around Norwich. Norfolk loves sound system culture, but many of those same people who dance to this music are quiet in the struggle against racism.
“Babylon A Fall,” they shout. But what does that actually mean? Continue Reading
by Sara Harrington
Part of a series exploring great music from the DIY music scene that you may have missed.
Hi Niels, thanks so much for letting me bother you with lots of questions! How are you doing today?
No worries. My pleasure. I’m pretty good today – currently in an airport, waiting for a plane to Copenhagen where I’m going to visit an old friend and see a Guns ‘n’ Roses show. Ten year old me is stoked.
So, I’m pretty late to the game and only just stumbled across you and your musical endeavours – Can you tell me a bit about ‘Stöj Snak’ and how it started and who is involved?
Stöj Snak is a ScreamerSongwriter band from Denmark. I started Stöj Snak as an acoustic solo act around 4 years ago – basically just me recording songs in my apartment as a hobby project. It was never meant for anyone to hear.
Since then the band has grown to a four piece with drums, washboard, upright bass and other trash instruments but the attitude towards the music is still very much the same – we do everything ourselves and because it’s fun. It’s basically the antithesis to Guns ‘n’ Roses.Continue Reading
By Rowan Gavin and Liam Hawkes
“We break the rules”
So says lead singer Amy MacKown on Simple Tune, the penultimate track of the debut album from Oxford’s current premiere Reggae outfit, ZAIA. We wouldn’t say they break the rules so much as blend and bend them, juggling genres and playing with preconceptions throughout this fascinating and infectious summertime record.
By Chris Jarvis
Yes, yes, we all know that 2016 has been an unmitigated cluster-fuck, with rising fascism, worsening humanitarian crises and intensifying conflict. In moments of darkness, many of us turn to the arts world – especially music – for comfort, for release, for explanation. With David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, Glenn Frey, Paul Kantner, Maurice White, George Martin, Phife Dawg, Erik Petersen, Leonard Cohen, Nick Menza, Greg Lake, Sharon Jones, and too many others all having passed away, many have found music to have also fallen on dark times.
That notwithstanding, 2016 has been a year of some undeniably and uniquely brilliant music too, especially music that espouses messages of a better world, of political analysis, of radical alternatives. Here are the 20 best of those radical releases from the past year.
by Chris Jarvis
Describing themselves as “more than simply a group of musicians” and as “part of an ever growing, international, revolutionary movement continuously moving towards freedom, justice and peace, Dead City Riot are one of Bristol based Riot Ska Records’ greatest imports. Blending hardcore, ska and reggae, DCR’s imagery, sound and lyrics ooze their political values and beliefs. A brief look at their Facebook page is illustrative of this, with its “Refugees Welcome” images, calls to celebrate International Workers Day and the description of their genre as “revolutionary music”.Continue Reading
by Chris Jarvis
The Midlands have been for many years a breeding ground for the very best talents on the UK ska scene. In the 1980s, it was the pioneering sounds of Coventry’s two-tone bands – The Specials and The Selecter that led the way. Nowadays, Birmingham has a lively and burgeoning scene of acts that are fusing traditional reggae and dub music with the energy and raw anger of punk and hip-hop. Building on the reggae vibes of Brummie legends such as Steel Pulse and UB40, Lobster and their peers have built a sound and a scene that brings together the many traditions of these musical legacies. Throughout this, they have maintained a focus on politics and conscious lyricism. Because of this, we decided to talk with Lobster’s frontman Spud about his and the band’s outlook and the implications this has for their music as part of our series Music That Matters.
by Chris Jarvis
February 12th saw the release of St Lucian born musician Taj Weekes’ fifth full length album Love Herb and Reggae – a collection of fourteen bouncing, mellow reggae tunes with his band Adowa. In 51 minutes, Taj’s lyrics cover the full assortment of reggae’s lyrical history, touching on politics, human rights, marijuana and love. And yet from the opening hook, to its final, fading gasps, it never slips into cliché or stereotype, proving itself to be original and unique and without doubt their strongest record to date.
by Chris Jarvis
Hailing from Colchester, eight piece ska band New Town Kings offer a rounded sound drawing influences from across the history of ska and reggae music. Since 2007, they have been sharing stages with some of the bigger names in the scene, from Reel Big Fish to Gentleman’s Dub Club and from The Skints to The Aggrolites. Next week, they will be playing on the same bill as Zion Train and Mungo’s Hi-Fi. The long and varied list of acts New Town Kings have played with demonstrates the diversity in their sound – blending traditional ska, two-tone and reggae with hints of ska punk and the odd hip-hop vibe. Although not necessarily known for their political music, and more so instead for their strong and energetic live performances, New Town Kings recordings, whether it be News Stand, La La World or Change are steeped in political undertones. For this reason, I interviewed frontman Dabs Bonner to discuss his and the band’s political outlook, the relationship it has to their music and how he views it in a wider political context as part of our series Music That Matters.
by Mike Vinti
On Wednesday, Later…With Jools Holland returned to our screens for its 47th series. Featuring Foals, Disclosure and My Morning Jacket among others, it was an entertaining, if safe, start to the show’s latest run. Later… is the flagship programme for BBC Music and much of the British music scene generally, and has always hosted a mix of established and up and coming artists. However, recently its bookings have become predictable, their performances lacklustre and the show itself stale. Continue Reading