Keeping the UK's bashment light aflame, The Heatwave are constantly pushing the sounds of dancehall music across the UK and even further afield. With their Hot Wuk nights a favourite for the bash fans, last years Showtime DVD showcasing the significance of dancehall music on today's UK artists and Rinse FM's weekly sets a guaranteed decent podcast, we spoke with Gabriel from the triumphant trio to get his take on the current scene and more.
What influence has dancehall had on UK music?
I think you have to take it back quite far, because it dates back to a lot to sound system culture – the way people cut dub plates. All these things come directly from Jamaica, stretching back about 25 to 30 years. You can see it in UK music that’s sampled or used direct from Jamaican jungle, garage all the way to grime. Wiley said when he wrote Eskimo Dance he modelled it on Jamaica's Sting. Crews like Pay As You Go and Heartless Crew they all operate similarly to Jamaican artists.
Famous reggae DJ David Rodigan was recently awarded an MBE, what’s your opinion on this?
I think that’s kind of complicated. It’s kind of odd that MBE stands for ‘Member of the British Empire’ and I think the years of colonial history between Jamaica and England makes it kind of ironic. Centuries of oppression and mismanagement by the British government of Jamaica, and the impact that that’s had on Jamaican independence. I think it makes the honour system complicated. That’s all I’d say about that.
Does it validate reggae or dancehall any more?
The impact that Jamaican music has had on British music, I don’t think it really needs any validation from the Queen or the British Empire. It has the strength and the power that you see everyday from British music, and the British people. You see Britain influenced already in the slang, the music, the way we party, it’s valid without people getting awards like that. Young people understand the debt we owe to Jamaican people and their culture, but I don’t think the mainstream British establishment/media realises that.
How far does that kind of music reach today?
Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse, Bruno Mars, no one would really refer to them as reggae artists, but some of their hit tunes have been because of reggae music. They’ve sampled and borrowed from reggae records. People forget acts like, Boy George, with Karma Chameleon – that was a reggae tune. Even established stations like BBC Radio 1 and 4 talk about ‘bigging people up’, and ‘giving shout-out’s’, it’s penetrated quite far into British culture.
Sum up the history of dancehall in three sentences.
Broadly, it was about giving a space to people of the Caribbean, who were coming to a racist country to live in their own way and exist. Creating their own space and having their own parties. Soon after that people integrated as people realised this was something they could connect with as well, and I think that kind of tells the story of the 80s; Tippa Irie, General Levy, and then from the 90's onwards it really has integrated a lot deeper, especially into youth culture.
Tell us about The Heatwave DVD Showtime?
The DVD features a live event with 16 British MC’s who all admit to having a large dancehall influence but they all work in different genres; Skibadee in jungle, Wiley in grime, General Levy, Lady Chann, it takes artists back to their roots and shows that it all goes back to that one root. It’s all about showing that the current dancehall scene is stronger that it’s ever been in recent years. Since the days of General Levy, Topcat, Glamour Kid, there’s more people doing that kind of music now, and there’s people like Wiley doing bashment now. We had Jammer and Skepta spitting dancehall riddims on our Rinse FM show. With the influence of artists like Vybz Kartel – a lot of UK artists are seeing how important it is to connect with the older artists – but I don’t think we’ve come to the end of that cycle.
How do beginners connect to dancehall?
Heatwave.co.uk is a good place to start. I don’t think any other outfits are doing anything like his, also on Rinse.fm we do a weekly show and talk about weekly parties in London, Leeds, Birmingham, Manchester…and we tell audiences about those. Our message is this is the UK, this is what’s going on, and we’ve got the connection between JA and the UK, we play big JA tunes and the historical stuff.
What’s the dress code like at your bashment raves? What is the crowd like?
It’s not about fitting in, it’s about standing out against the crowd. Big mix, the people who come, love bashment, they love dancing, and having a good time. It’s all about being friendly and inclusive, there’s not really one type of person who fits that. It really connect people I think, having a good time partying, singing along, dancing – that kind of thing.
What to you are the ideal components for a good rave?
People that love the music. A selector that understands why people are there – to enjoy themselves and dance! And lots of girls, whistles and horns.
What is your biggest and best memory from the Heatwave events?
Either Showtime or supporting Sean Paul last year at Bristol Academy. It was a 90% female audience, the promoters got in touch and booked us D Double E and Mz Bratt.
How is the reaction from Rinse FM listeners?
Good reaction, you get to reach a worldwide audience, we used to get worldwide bookings because they’d heard of us on the internet. Not when we play abroad they know all the new tunes, and the people that come are a lot more knowledgeable – the whole thing about a radio show is that idea of being able to share things with people, and educate so that when you turn up in a rave you’re not having to lay tunes that are lie ten years old, you can play all the latest things and people will know what they are.
Keep track of all of the goings on next week for Notting Hill Carnival over on The Heatwave website and regularly checking the twitter feeds as well as tuning in every week to Rinse.fm on Sundays 1pm-3pm.