So, you may or may not know that London is hosting the annual Notting Hill Carnival this coming bank holiday weekend (28th & 29th August). There was some doubt a couple of weeks ago (after the London riots) over whether it was going to go ahead, but happily the authorities have seen sense, and it’s a go (although the music is shutting off at 7pm this year).
Of course it would have been a little ironic to cancel, as the Carnival was set up in 1959 in response to the Notting Hill Race Riots of the previous year (a fact that seems to be missing from the official sites these days). For those who have never experienced or heard of it, it’s the world’s second-largest street festival (after Rio’s Carnival) and attracts crowds of up to 2 million people over the weekend (weather permitting, naturally. This IS London, after all), and celebrates the best of London-West Indian culture.
There are three main elements to the Carnival – The procession, which is huge, and features music, floats, costumed dancers and bands, and is really something to behold. Then there are the stalls, which sell (mostly) West Indian food – also something to behold!. Finally, my favourite element, the soundsystems – These are littered about in the streets inside the carnival route, and feature the best of black music from R&B to soca to drum & bass, and, of course, real authentic reggae music. My pick of the best of these are Gaz’s Rockin’ Blues for variety, CMC/Matrix for rowdy drum & bass craziness (can get a little too rowdy on occasion, so please take care here) and finally, my personal favourite, the Channel One soundsystem, a Rasta system with the best vibes of the festival.
I will, of course, be representing to the full, and will bring my report next week, in the meantime, if you want a warm-up, or can’t get down there, this weekend’s radio show at Spiritplants will be a carnival special, all authentic conscious reggae, dub and dancehall music (any excuse, frankly!)
Don’t forget your whistles and Red Stripe!