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Giddeon Family, Natty and Babylon at London's Passing Clouds

Giddeon Family, Natty and Babylon at London's Passing Clouds

Giddeon Family, Natty and Babylon at London's Passing Clouds

By on - Photos by Adelina Royal - Comment

Nights that bring people together to explore are a must.

The recent BBC documentary and concert series Reggae Britannia attracted both praise for its accessibility and controversy for what it left out. But whatever you thought of its content, its broad-brush approach to the music is what's putting reggae back in the mainstream right now. A similar ethos could be found at Steppin' Raiser: a balanced mix of music, film, politics and prayer at Dalston's Passing Clouds on Friday night. Curated by its own headliner, Natty, the Vibes and Pressure event paired the reggae-pop crossoverist with the orthodox roots of the Giddeon Family, along with a screening of Franco Rosso and Martin Stellman's classic 1980 film Babylon - showing the breadth of London reggae culture both now and then.

Passing Clouds

Ras Lawi and the Giddeon collective started at 9pm with their internationally acclaimed Nyabinghi drumming workshop. They led a swelling audience in chants of suitable groundation material like Rivers Of Babylon and Birds In The Treetop (recorded by Ras Michael). Many bright young things joined in on the funde, akete and bass to pound out a single heartbeat until the exertion caused chant leader Lawi's blue turban to fall from his head and his plentiful dreadlocks to burst free.

Passing Clouds

One floor up, the Babylon screening took place, after which youth mentor "Corrd The Seeker" chaired a discussion of the film - which he explained was prescribed viewing for a government commission following the Brixton Riots. Babylon asks tough questions about identity and race relations in the late 70s, yet Corrd was careful not to frame the debate in these terms . Multiculturalism, terrorism, social networking and the media's vested interest in scaring their suburban readership were all touched on and linked to a picture that remains an essential rite-of-passage 30 years on.

Downstairs Heads High's Duke Etienne played a Gregory Isaacs selection before eclectic songstress Aruba Red's folky, earnest acoustic set. Upstairs the equally versatile Daddy Leroy spun soul, funk and hip hop as some partygoers spun on the floor demonstrating break-dancing moves. Even if not everything on the bill was to your taste, there was always something compelling or diverting going on above or below.

Passing Clouds

At 12:20, with a queue of late comers held at the door, Natty took the stage. His 2008 debut album Man Like I irked purists (including an unnecessarily scathing review from this writer at the time). But while its guileless lyrics and student friendly indie-meets-reggae fusion may target a specific age range, Natty deserves respect for his originality and charismatic live performance, which has rightly won him devoted fans. He opened with a new track - Gaia, from his forthcoming second outing - in a far more traditional one drop style, a direction that could see him appease the reggae old guard.

Passing Clouds

At 1:45 Natty's following surged home, or upstairs to Daddy Leroy's dreamy rocksteady and early reggae like Queen Of The Minstrel - as the Giddeon Family set up on the main platform. One of the UK's most formidable backing bands, Giddeon are now stepping forward with their own new album, First World, and their unapologetic roots music was the perfect crown to Natty and Aruba's more winsome feel. Sister Iyata Rodney gave an opening blessing, irrepressible drummer Rim Bim lived up to his name with his bone cracking snare shots, while bassist Barry Dread, saxophonist Errol Matis and Lawi on percussion shared vocal duties. Only a few sound problems with King Padget's keyboard and a crackling monitor caused the odd minor delay. The group is one to watch in the UK heats of the Rototom European Reggae Contest 2011 - especially with a strong singer like female guest Jodian who joined them for some lovers vibes. By 3am, Natty was sitting at the foot of the stage drumming along to Rivers Of Babylon, bringing his unique event back to where it had begun. In our fussy, fragmented society, nights that bring people together to explore are a must.

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