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Notting Hill Carnival 2012

Notting Hill Carnival 2012

Notting Hill Carnival 2012

By on - Photos by Emma-Louise - Comment

Our guide to the sights sounds and sub bass frequencies of London's largest weekend.

London's Notting Hill Carnival is Europe's biggest street party - with a million people descending on the west of the city across the August Bank Holiday weekend. As well as traditionally signalling the climax of London's summer festival season, Carnival this year coincided with 50 years of both Jamaican and Trinidadian independence - with musical and cultural events taking place all over the capital. To mark this extra special occasion United Reggae spent a heady Saturday and Sunday, imbibing a fraction of the reggae related delights on offer during the final big weekend of a music-packed summer.

Nothing Hill Carnival 2012

SAT. 25th AUGUST - Necessary Mayhem birthday bash and pre carnival party.

2012 marked the sixth birthday of London's Necessary Mayhem Records. So to celebrate producer Curtis Lynch threw a pre-carnival soiree at the Big Chill House in Kings Cross. Entry was free, so by midnight the place was heaving as Lynch and friends took to the decks for a night of reggae, dancehall and jungle mayhem.

As the clock struck twelve Tippa Irie grasped the mic, announcing "Sorry we didn't invite the Spice Girls - we only invited people with talent!" referring to the recent Olympic Opening Ceremony and introducing his humorous, constantly-updated anti manufactured music swipe No Talent. Other gifted guests included DejavuFM's Joe Grime; sometime Mayhem lady mc Stush; BBC 1Xtra's Robbo Ranx (who followed Lynch's rhythms like Gorilla and Champion Sound with some crowd pleasing Jamaica themed sides like Welcome To Jamrock and Cherry Oh Baby); and Necessary Bass producer Marcus Visionary plus his designated chanter Serocee.

Christopher Ellis sang his father Alton's hits and his own both upstairs (with North West London's Silver Star sound) and downstairs (with Robbo). Late to the party was Necessary deejay numero uno Mr Williamz. He would, however show up at Notting Hill on the Monday.

Nothing Hill Carnival 2012

SUNDAY 26th AUGUST - Notting Hill Carnival 2012

Carnival Sunday is traditionally the less busy "Children's Day". But with a mass influx of visitors in the city for the Olympics and Independence the streets were packed as many a Monday.

There were many great moments at this Notting Hill - Dennis Bovell sang on Gladdy Wax sound, Johnny Osbourne made an appearance with Mr Williamz at Saxon, to name a few. Perhaps less star-studded yet just as important in carnival folklore, was the inaugural set by Solution Sound system - taking over the hallowed spot on the corner of Talbot and Ledbury from the Mighty Jah Observer. With Austin Spiderman Palmer now retired to Jamaica there was a weight of expectation as to whether the multiple generations who had been coming to his sound would take to the new arrivals.

Nothing Hill Carnival 2012Fortunately, with guest selector Nick Manasseh and appearances from Ital Horns and Jah Observer's longtime mc Roots Man, everything went to plan. While Solution's speaker boxes were only on one side of the road they were twice as powerful as Observer's warmer if somewhat aged valve rig and the crowd was huge and merry.

There was a sense of an era's end as Manasseh and Solution's Mark Anderson leant heavily digital in the middle of the day. Not that there is anything wrong with digital reggae of course, but because this style is well catered for at nearby sounds like Channel One where Observer's corner tended to be a stronghold for original roots music. However, when Anderson dropped the needle on Dennis Brown's House Of The Rising Sun-inspired Life's Worth Living to conclude the day it was a carnival moment up there with Observer's best.

On the Monday, Bunny Lee, meant to be at Solution signing copies of his new book 'Reggae Going International' at the Jamaican Recordings record stall, would get lost in the throng with Tappa Zukie. On carnival weekend you have to go with the flow!

Frankie Paul and Errol Dunkley live at Brixton Hootananny

On Sunday evening Brixtonian reggae specialist promoter Cecil Reuben welcomed two smoky voiced singers gracing his venue for a second time. Both were famously compared to Dennis Brown in their early careers yet both are connoisseurs' favourites in their field.

Putting a show on at carnival weekend can result in half empty venues for less experienced promotion outfits. While the backroom of the Hootananny wasn't opened the front was well occupied for this great value double bill.

Nothing Hill Carnival 2012A stripped down yet tight four-piece resident Artist band were put through their paces by the diminutive, ever smiling Errol Dunkley, on first. His inimitable hypnotic late night grain was still very much in evidence as he sang his procession of hits - from major key pleasers such as OK Fred and Darling Ooh to minor key meditative masterworks Created By The Father, Black Cinderella, and his comparisons-to-Dennis riposte Little Way Different. You get the impression he knows exactly how many big tunes he has delivered through the years and is happy to share.

Where Errol was all about his own classic (often self-produced) sides, hyper-prolific dancehall dynamo Frankie Paul used each rhythm as a platform for three or four songs: his own, other notable cuts on each backing (by contemporaries like Half Pint and Michael Prophet) and flights across other genres (an impressively competent rap freestyle). As Frankie has told United Reggae on several occasions - his improvisational style depends on whatever's in his head at the time. His energy is unstoppable and his sugary burr of a voice seems unchanged from his heyday.

Local support came from female harmony group True Identity, who blended serenely with covers of the Abyssinians' Satta Amassagana, Marcia Griffiths' Dreamland and the Wailers' Long Time.

Described by Cecil Reuben in his closing speech as two of "my personal favourite artists", Errol and Frankie definitely knew how to entertain on a day when punters could easily vote with tired feet. One of the best shows at the Hootananny since their reggae renaissance began.

The London International Ska Festival Carnival All Nighter

Enos McLeod at Nothing Hill Carnival 2012The final stop on carnival Sunday was a celebration of the music of independence: a relentless vinyl marathon that gave even United Reggae's busy itinerary a run for its money! Sean Flowerdew, organizer of the London International Ska festival, had put on an all night party at Islington's Metalworks featuring some of the capital's finest selection talent - including Tighten Up's Mistah Brown who had been spotted proffering more modern dancehall fare at Gladdy Wax earlier in the day.

As the great Asher G spun ska and rocksteady in the first room, United Reggae chatted to the Jamaican veteran Enos McLeod - who had come along to enjoy the pumping festive sounds. "Ska music touches the heart and moves the soul until your legs have to move and then your whole body," said McLeod, an orphan who came up during the 60s and was acquainted with the Maytals and other groups from the ska era "It can let you get crazy on the dancefloor". Enos was less effusive on the subject of Jamaican independence: "I'm a patriotic person but what is independence? If Jamaica is really independent take away the governor general because he represents the queen. The queen still holds Jamaica - that's not independence".

Look out for a full length interview with this underrated singing and production giant on United Reggae in due course.


This isn't meant to be a definitive guide to the carnival period by any means. And with 40 official sound systems and countless other parties - the technology to beam people into several dances at once can't come too soon! One thing's for sure: we certainly had nonstop fun all weekend (we took time off reporting to enjoy the carnival on the Monday) and we hope you will join us next year.


Reproduction without permission of United Reggae and Emma-Louise is prohibited.

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