Museum takes dub-step to celebrate London’s reggae roots

The Museum of London has announced that a display – Dub London: Bassline of a City –  which was delayed due to covid-19, will now open on October 2.

Last year’s Notting Hill Carnival, where sound systems featured loud and proud. Photo: Eddie Otchere/MoL

The free display will celebrate dub reggae music and culture in the capital, from its roots in Jamaica to the way it has shaped communities and culture over the last 50 years.

According to the Museum, “Dub, a way of creating music by using the recording studio itself as an instrument, has had a far-reaching impact across the music industry and the history of London. It has influenced multiple genres intrinsically linked to the capital including punk, post-punk, drum and bass, garage, dub-step and grime, and even extends into many areas of mainstream pop.”

They say that the Dub London display “will not only explore the music’s influence but its wider cultural and social impact including the origins of the record shop as a community space, the continuing role of sound systems at events like Notting Hill Carnival both historically and up to present day and the religious, political and spiritual themes that form the pulse of dub culture and music”.

The Museum of London display shows how record shops like Supertone in Brixton served as community hubs for the Windrush generation and since

Key objects and aspects of the display include:

  • The speaker stack belonging to Channel One Sound System that has appeared every year at Notting Hill Carnival since 1983
  • A bespoke record shop created in collaboration with Papa Face of Dub Vendor Reggae Specialist with a selection of 150 vinyl records available to listen to chosen by 15 London-based independent record shops
  • Collaborations with notable names and organisations including Mad Professor, Rastafari Movement UK, Sisters in Sound, Channel One Sound System and representatives of various independent record shops across London
  • Historic and contemporary photography and oral histories

“Through collecting objects, memories and personal stories from some of dub’s most influential people and places from across the capital, Dub London: Bassline of a City will plunge visitors into the heart of dub reggae and invite them to discover its rich and varied history,” the Museum says.

Sound systems used at the Notting Hill Carnival have grown in size since this photograph was taken in 1989

“Reggae record shops are very significant because when people came to London through Windrush, the primary way of finding out what was happening back home was through music,” says Papa Face, of the Dub Vendor Reggae Specialist.

“I think the Museum of London doing this project is hugely important as its archiving memories and objects which might otherwise have been thrown away. It’s important for the next generation to have this archive and realise how important they were.”

Dub London: Bassline of a City is part of Curating London, a four-year contemporary collecting programme with funding from Arts Council England, and will be free to visit from Friday October 2 until January 31, 2021.

It is part of the Museum of London’s SoundClash season following The Clash: London Calling – now in its final weeks and closing on September 6.

Find out more about Dub London: Bassline of a City and book your free tickets for its opening days by clicking here.

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