For most reggae, dancehall and soca fans in Europe, Notting Hill Carnival is the event of the year. While big name dancehall artists unfortunately don’t get to too many shows during the year here (promoters take note), you can guarantee that guests will always show up in West London, probably doing an impromptu and even unpaid gig to the thousands gathered around the stacks on the corners.
Out of all the million or so people that go, there are probably thousands of ways to experience carnival – you’d need about 20 versions of yourself to hit up all the amazing pre and after parties too. Some years I’ve spent at King Tubby’s, Gelly’s & Saxon, I’ve played on the Extra Stout system, and last year I was at the RBMA party for Machel Montano & Sean Paul. This year I checked out a new sound on the road, all curated by Radio 1 DJ Toddla T. It’s well known that it’s nigh on impossible to get a soundsystem at Carnival, so shout out Toddla for pulling it off and bringing in a different sound that represented the current and classic sounds of the UK well. I couldn’t make it everywhere but I heard that UK MCs Mr Williamz and Gappy Ranks did the damn thing at Saxon, that the Marley brothers lit the stage at Rodigan’s Ram Jam, and that Munga & Konshens were wandering the streets (can anyone confirm?!).
I reached early with my family from Hipsters Don’t Dance and walked past the beginning of the parade; we definitely saw some crazy floats – even a Shakespeare one, so English. After hitting the Nigerian corner for a second as it warmed up, we hit Toddla T’s soundsystem. It was pretty non-stop – Stush did a live PA with Serocee (who gave us some lethal rum punch), then Ms Dynamite showed up on Annie Mac’s set for ‘Boo’ (think everyone in the crowd knew ALL the words), before Bunji Garlin performed ‘Differentology’ (as well as the huge ‘Tun Up’) alongside Jus Now. As if that wasn’t enough, the day ended with Stylo G & Robbo Ranx, and Atumpan doing a rendition of ‘The Thing’ – a big hit in the UK right now (plus later on D Double E who we missed). Standardly for carnival, there was no stone left unturned, garage, jungle, reggae and dancehall all repped, and a fair bit of hip hop and UK house music this year too.
The soca floats were constantly moving past – playing some of the best (and probably newest) music we heard all day. Of course, there was ‘Palance’, ‘Differentology’ over and over (Bunji performed three times across carnival), Fuse ODG’s huge afrobeats hit ‘Antenna’, and ‘Stranger’.
Salute to everyone involved & everyone we ran into on the road. Only 364 days to wait, and hopefully only one more til my ears stop ringing.