Opening on 26 October, Bass Culture 70/50 will showcase a vast array of images exploring Jamaican and Jamaican-influenced music in Britain spanning from Windrush to grime. The free exhibition at Marylebone’s, Ambika P3 marks 70 years of Windrush and 50 years of reggae, as well as the first ever catwalk inspired by Jamaican music, and a mini film festival. The exhibition runs for four weeks and documents previously unseen artwork, specially commissioned by industry leaders.
It’ll be staged by Bass Culture Research, a three-year Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project, created to explore the impact of Jamaican music in the UK. The project made headlines last year with the release of The Grime Report detailing the evolution of grime and exploring the political connotations of Black, British music. The Grime Report led to the withdrawal of Form 696 last year, a controversial risk assessment conducted by London’s metropolitan police, criticised for its discriminatory methods which negatively targeted genres such as grime.
As well as the artwork, Bass Culture 70/50 features a film, live performances and over 70 hours of individual testimonies linking — for the first time — memories and experiences of Black, British musicians, practitioners, academics and audiences. Contributors include the poet Benjamin Zephaniah alongside Steel Pulse, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Sir Lloyd Coxsone, Carroll Thompson and Janet Kay. Mykaell Riley, former member of Steel Pulse adds that the the exhibition “is the story of the soundtrack to multiculturalism, a hidden history that is still impacting on new music”.
Additionally, the show offers an industry first with an exclusive Rude Boy Catwalk and mini film festival. Rude Boy Catwalk invites participants to dress as they were when they first experience a gig influenced by Jamaican music, whether it’s ska or reggae, jungle or grime. Showcasing on 9 November, the multidisciplinary catwalk will reflect the five decades of fashion inspired by these genres; a predominant fashion influence still to this day! The mini film festival will premiere a 60-minute commissioned documentary titled Bass Culture, exploring the impact of Jamaican music from a youth perspective.
Jamaican music and culture is a fundamental aspect to Britain’s current, multicultural society. Arguably, Jamaican influence has never been truly recognised for its contributions to mainstream culture from music, dance and art — to the Caribbean patois that has become integral to the colloquial English language, particularly in London. Bass Culture 70/50 seeks to raise awareness around the importance of Jamaican influence, as well as challenge the negative connotations attached to Jamaican-influenced music genres. For instance, with the increase in police stop-and-search powers and with claims that genres such as drill are fuelling gang wars, racial discrimination risks being on the rise again. This exhibition offers some essential recognition of Jamaican influence into the musical canon, celebrating the masses of creative impact that Jamaican culture has brought to British culture and identity.
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