Get ready for a classic bit of journalism in the Standard by none other than the editor of The Independent:
Amol Rajan: It’s high time London got its reggae mojo back
"Long experience has taught me that you have to be fabulously stoned to enjoy dub step in its purest form, it being a genre of music designed to void reggae of its main virtues: beat, lyrics, soul. So there I was at Village Underground in Shoreditch on Friday night, my dope days years behind me, trying my utmost to bop and bubble and boogie to Congo Natty, a celebrated producer who has in his time made magnificent music. And two things dawned on me very quickly.
First, what a shame reggae has been near hijacked by the cult of Rastafarianism. This capture predates Bob Marley’s contribution to it but he made things worse.
On Friday, as we waited patiently for any semblance of a lyric or dance-friendly drop, the dude on the mic who was MC’ing produced an incessant stream of superstitious propaganda and nonsense, wailing about “da siss-tem” that had clearly caused him such hardship. At one point, he said: “Jah have fi bless us when we take down da siss-tem. People have fi rise up.” Then: “We runnin’ wid da Almighty. Bring down dis siss-tem.”
I had a good mind to sidle up to him, grab the mic and say, “But my dear fellow, the iniquities of capitalism notwithstanding, this system you denigrate is surely better than the alternatives. What with the slew of encouraging manufacturing data coming out of China, there’s hope yet for an export-led recovery for the global economy.” The good denizens of Shoreditch would have loved it.
The second thing that struck me was a source not of anger but sadness. It is becoming impossible to find a decent reggae night in London. For nigh on 15 years — half a bloody lifetime — I have been on the hunt for good reggae in this, the greatest city on the planet. But it strikes me, as an increasingly casual observer, that it’s getting harder by the minute.
For example: back in the day there were nights that did the business at Fridge or Mass or The End or Bagleys. Now the first two have endless house, which is the devil’s music; and the latter two are gone. Gaz’s Rockin’ Blues on Wardour Street was a regular and inspiring Thursday night haunt, with brilliant young talent and live acts. But it was stuffed full of Westminster School teenagers, and there comes a time in life when you can’t spend whole evenings with such people.
Put “reggae in London” into Google and you’re immediately presented with a website crammed with dates — and Rasta propaganda. Even this newspaper’s indispensable Going Out app is light on reggae nights that you can’t miss.
It used to be so different, I’m sure. Not just when I was growing up but further back when ska was the thing, or further back still when the Q Club on Praed Street in Paddington boasted the greatest sounds on the planet. I can’t believe there are no decent reggae nights on today, and I don’t have my ear to the proverbial underground — as it were — like I used to. I mean, the hype around Congo Natty was immense but the vibes were terrible.
So if any Standard readers know of a great night, with proper reggae, can you let me know via Twitter? In the meantime, Jah bless."
Amol Rajan is editor of The Independent. Twitter: @amolrajan