It’s Offical: Brixton Loves Roots of Reggae

Alice listens to a guest's memories of reggae music

After weeks of careful planning and  more Tweets and Facebook updates than is probably sensible we held the first-ever Roots of Reggae event last Saturday. The event took place Upstairs at the Ritzy Brixton and featured an amazing line-up of performers representing reggae music in all its forms,  supported by a capacity crowd of people of all ages and backgrounds.

All of the performers generously volunteered their time and talent to make the event a success and received no payment. Thank you once again to all the performers for supporting Roots of Reggaes and to everyone who attended on Saturday.

Roots of Reggae: What’s In a Name?

Joe Smith's fantastic design for Roots of Reggae FREE launch event

Roots of Reggae brings together people from different generations and backgrounds to develop an appreciation of Reggae music and culture. Roots of Reggae aims to highlight the contribution older generations have made to reggae music and culture and provide a fun and inclusive space for people of all ages and backgrounds to socialise over some great music.

Roots of Reggae a creative solution to many of the problems our society faces. By offering a space where people of all ages and backgrounds feel welcome and their contributions are valued, we can tackle social isolation  and build greater understanding and respect between generations and communities.

Watch This Sound

Mistah-Brown Selector and Keith Lawrence  kicked off Roots of Reggae in fine style  by selecting some blinding tunes from reggae’s golden age. Mistah-Brown Selector heads up Tighten-Up Crew, a group of DJs and MCs that play all over the UK and, increasingly, Europe too. Keith Lawrence has his own reggae show every Wednesday evening on Colourful Radio. Keith’s also active as a producer and has worked with UK hip-hop stars such as Blak Twang and Rodney P (who you may know from their collaborations with Roots Manuva).  For the next hour or so a growing audience was warmed up with a fine selection of mellow rocksteady and dub,  all from Mistah-Brown and Keith’s amazing collection of 45s.

Straight Outta East Dulwich

With the crowd nicely warmed up, next up to perform were Sly and Reggie, East Dulwich’s premier purveyors of Middle Class Dub. Over a booming, bass-heavy soundscape that had staff from the cinema screens beneath the bar asking us to keep it down, Sly and Reggie sang songs of middle class angst and alienation. Opening with Sly and Reggie’s Christmas Message, which starts with the chorus ‘everybody’s happy because Santa’s got a CRB’ and goes  onto deal with with the impact of  public sector job cuts on the standard of this year’s Christmas presents. Sly and Reggie also performed tracks off their new album, including Sly and Reggie Vs Sly and Robbie, a fictionalised account of a heated encounter between Sly’s mother and Sly Dunbar at the Rainbow Theatre that has to be heard to be believed.

Sly and Reggie bring Middle Class Dub to Brixton Ritzy

At first glance the inclusion of Sly and Reggie may seem a bit out there but, in my view, they perfectly represent what Roots of Reggae is all about. Sly and Reggie are living proof of reggae’s music ability to reach out to people of all ages and backgrounds. And by combining an authentic  dub sensibility with satirical lyrics they are encouraging a new audience to discover the roots of the music they make.

You can listen to Sly and Reggie’s Middle Class Dub sound on SoundCloud by clicking here.

You can follow Sly and Reggie on Facebook by clicking here and on Twitter @SlyandReggie

Local Legend Roy Gunter

Roy Gunter performs his reggae poetry to a warmed up Ritzy crowd

After our excursion into Middle Class Dub we brought things back to the roots with a stellar performance from reggae poet Roy Gunter. Roy performed a mix of spoken word poetry, gritty dancehall tracks and romantic, lovers rock-backed songs. Whatever style Roy was performing in, he held his audience captive with by virtue of his stage presence and  the universal calls for peace, love and understanding he expressed in his performance.

You can read my profile about Roy Gunter here.

MC DaddyRanks, Mistah-Brown Selector and Keith Lawrence take in Roy Gunter's performance

Nice Up The Dance

Guests getting down to MC DaddyRanks' stellar performance

For the final hour and a half of Roots of Reggae Mistah-Brown Selector and Keith Lawrence returned to perform an amazing set of  reggae classics. Covering the full spectrum from ska-pop mega hit My Boy Lolliop right through to  the heaviest of sounds of The Mighty Diamonds. Mistah-Brown and Keith got everybody up on their feet and having a great time. They were aided in doing so by the vocal talents of MC DaddyRanks, who freestyled over instrumental tracks and enhanced classic vocal numbers by Toots and The Maytals. MC DaddyRanks brought along with him an up-and-coming MC, Indiana Jonez, who showed great respect for the Roots of Reggae and is definitely someone to keep an eye out for in future.

MC DaddyRanks relaxes on the microphone

MC DaddyRanks brought along up and coming MC Indiana Jonez

Alice’s Magnificent Memory Machine

Sly from Sly and Reggie tells Alice how reggae has inspired the music he makes

Roots of Reggae brings together people from different generations and backgrounds to develop an appreciation of Reggae music and culture. In addition the wonderful performances, one of the ways we sought to do this is by asking guests and performers to share their  memories of Reggae music and culture the role it has played in their lives.

To make this a fun experience, Roots of Reggae’s good friend Alice Osborne designed a ‘memory machine’. Alice asked people of all ages to tell her about how they first discovered Reggae and what the music means to them. Alice then typed up people’s thoughts using an old-fashioned typewriter, producing a sheet for each person. The result of Alice’s excellent work is a set of personal and touching recollections which show how much Reggae means to people of all ages and backgrounds.

With a Little Help from My Friends

Guests enjoy the classic tunes being supplied by Mistah-Brown and Keith Lawrence

Ringo Starr is a man of many talents;  drumming innovator, ‘characterful’ singer and  Thomas The Tank Engine storyteller are three that immediately spring to mind. But for me, Ringo is above all else, a philosopher. In 1967 he memorably sang, ‘I get by with a little help from my friends‘. Have truer words ever been sung? The Roots of Reggae launch event would not have been possible without the help of some amazing friends, both old and new.

Me with Sue Taylor from Age UK Lambeth

Most important of all, I want to thank my partner Sarah Morris for believing in the project and for all her support. I also want to thank my old colleagues Joe Smith for designing an amazing poster for the event and Alice Osborne for the brilliant memory machine activity. My little sister Deborah also did a great of photographing the day.

I am also extremely grateful to the Ritzy Brixton and Trudi Veremu in in particular for believing in Roots of Reggae and providing the venue for the launch event. I am similarly grateful to  Age UK Lambeth for taking an interest in the project and putting their name to the Roots of Reggae launch event.Thanks once again to all the performers and everyone who took the time and effort to put me in touch with people I needed to speak to.

Last but by no means least I want to say thanks to David Katz, author of Solid Foundation: an Oral History of Reggae and DJ at the Brixton Ritzy, for inspiring me to develop Roots of Reggae and for his generous support throughout the development of the project.

All that remains to be said is see you all at the next Roots of Reggae in 2012!

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3 Responses to “It’s Offical: Brixton Loves Roots of Reggae”
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  1. […] 8th July (put it in your calendars now). Michael was impressed by December’s Roots of Reggae launch event and has asked me to get involved with the festival with a view to showcasing how ska evolved into […]

  2. […] For the uninitiated, it is fair to say Roy Gunter is a man for all season. By day, Roy works for my old employer Lambeth Council, where he is a Key Worker for young people with serious problems linked to crime and offending.Roy manages to balance his day job responsibilities with a passion for creativity that is strongly influenced by Reggae music. Outside of work, Roy has written poetry and had it published. He has also written and recorded songs which span the spectrum of Reggae style, from lovers’ rock and roots through to gritty dancehall. I’ve previously written about Roy on my personal blog, Intensely Relaxed. You can read that post by clicking here. You can also see pictures of Roy’s performance at December’s Roots of Reggae launch event by clicking here. […]

  3. […] with our Roots of Reggae launch, we are again hosting the event in association with Age UK Lambeth. Our events aim to provide an […]



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