On the 25th October, I was lucky enough to be invited to the opening of a new exhibition exploring the impact of Jamaican and Jamaican-influenced music on British culture. The exhibition is staged by Bass Culture Research, a three-year Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project set up to explore the impact of Jamaican music in the UK. Mykaell Riley who is Principal Investigator and Director of the Bass Culture Music Unit at the University of Westminster led the talks and spoke to me a little about the history of Jamaican music and art in the UK.
Just to mention, I’m not someone who has great knowledge on Jamaican culture or history. I have always been an admirer of their musical legacy, but have never really understood the scope of their impact and influence on British identity. I was going to this exhibition more for an educational experience, and from the get go, I felt a soulful, beautiful energy just being there. I met some absolute legends in the scene, some of which have not been in the same room for about 40 years. Again, the energy and vibrations I got from just being present around all these people made me not only appreciate their legacy, but made me fall in love with the art, music and culture of a country that has given so much to people not only in this country, but on a truly global scale.
Contributors include Benjamin Zephaniah, Steel Pulse, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Sir Lloyd Coxsone, Don Letts, Blacker Dread, Carroll Thompson, Dennis Bovell, and Janet Kay, all of which were at the opening of the exhibition. As for how it was all organised, Mykaell Riley gave us a small tour around the exhibits, with some iconic pictures of reggae icons, pop stars and contemporary music legends together. There were live performances from some talented artists, with free wine and snacks available too. The feeling was overwhelmingly positive for the most part, as the pictures highlighted inclusivity, the beauty of multiculturalism and genuine heart. It was however, very political too, with an emphasis on the 1981 Brixton riots and the social struggles locals faced throughout that time in London.
Overall, this exhibition was insightful, educational and highlighted the overwhelmingly positive impact Jamaican culture has had on British culture. You get a sense of really being part of an extended family there, and everyone who I met on the night was open for conversation. An amazing exhibition, truly. I wanted to say thank you to Mykaell Riley for the warm welcome as well as Katie O’Leary for personally inviting me.
It is a free exhibition that runs until the 23rd November, so make sure, if you’re in London, to find time and explore this one. On the 9th November there is a ‘Rude Boy Catwalk’, in which you are invited to come dressed the way you were were when you first experienced a gig influenced by Jamaican music, be it ska or reggae, jungle or grime. The collaborative catwalk will be the first of its kind to reflect on five decades of fashion inspired by these genres.
Location: Ambika P3, 35 Marylebone Road, NW1 5LS, more information here.
I wanted to give a shoutout to my good friend Nahlah Alsree, who was on photography duty for me. A very talented graphic designer and upcoming photographer you should definitely check out!