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Dub culture first in a museum setting

17 January, 2020 — By The Xtra Diary

THE sounds of the streets of north Westminster and Notting Hill will boom out across the City this May, as the Barbican-based Museum of London opens a new exhibition focusing on Londoners’ continuing love affair with Dub and Reggae music.

Dub London celebrates how this musical genre has shaped culture in our capital for the past 50 years, outlining its roots and its extraordinary influence across many other forms of music.

And, of course, the sound systems that make Notting Hill vibrate at carnival each year are heavily featured. Among the exhibits is a massive stack of speakers with woofers and tweeters from the Channel One Sound System that has appeared yearly at Notting Hill Carnival since 1983.

Channel One, now celebrating its 40th anniversary, is made up of selector Mikey Dread and MC Ras Kayleb and is one of the UK’s best known and most loved reggae sound systems.

Other highlights include a bespoke record shop created in collaboration with Papa Face of Dub Vendor Reggae Specialist, where you’ll be able to buy music to take home. And there will be plenty of tunes to listen to as you walk through the show.

A soundtrack put together by staff of a number of independent record shops around London which have strong links to Reggae and Dub Reggae music, such as Wallabie Bryan, owner of Supertone Records, Brixton, Peckings Records in Shepherd’s Bush, and People’s Sound Records in Notting Hill have contributed.

Curator Cedar Lewisohn told Diary that telling the story of Dub shines a light on the cultural lives of Londoners. He said: “The story of Dub culture in London is a fascinating one and one that hasn’t been told this widely in a museum setting before.

“Through getting out into the places and speaking to the people who have been instrumental in the Dub scene, we’ve been able to hear stories of how London was central for the emergence of Dub in the UK. Even though most of this music originated in the Caribbean and Jamaica, London quickly became important to Dub Reggae: Dub record labels were started in London, and Dub music was produced in London and exported to the rest of the world.

“With London still being home to one of the largest collections of Dub Reggae record shops outside of Kingston, Jamaica, this display will be a unique and impressive way to tell the story of how Dub culture has shaped the identity of the capital and us as Londoners.”

Dub London will not only explore the musical influence but the wider cultural and social impact, Cedar adds.

He says it will show how Dub has also been an inspiration in other cultural and social areas, ranging form Dub poetry by the likes of Linton Kwesi Johnson to food, fashion, religion and spirituality.

He added: “The show also illustrates how London has long been a hub for artists and production since the mid-1970s, with recording studios, record labels, record shops, radio stations and clubs peppered across the city.

“It has influenced multiple genres from drum and bass, garage and hip-hop, as well as genres intrinsically linked to London like punk and post-punk with bands such as The Clash, The Slits and PIL all integra­ting it into their work.”

Dub London opens May 8 and is free – see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london/whats-on/exhibitions/dub-london

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