the impact of jamaican music on british culture is huge, so why don't we talk about it more?
The University of Westminster is launching the first investigation into the history of Jamaican music’s contribution to the culture and heritage of Britain, and it’s about time.
From garage to grime, drum and bass, jungle and trip-hop, a huge about of genres coming out of Britain over the past six decades has been influenced by Jamaican music, yet its importance and value is rarely talked about. Tackling this lack of awareness, the University of Westminster have launched the first investigation into its impact on British music, as well as the contribution it's had to the culture and heritage of Britain. The project has aptly been given the title Bass Culture as the umbrella term used to frame the wide-spread influence Jamaican music has had, and over two years will collate memories and experiences from three generations of musicians, music industry participants and audience members.
"It's a bit like watching a movie in black and white on the assumption that this is the only version - when the movie was actually filmed in colour," explains Mykaell Riley, Senior Lecturer of Music, Film and Communication at the University of Westminster, who will be the lead researcher of the project. "Given recent sales in the US and the fact that Britain sits at the apex of pop music, British pop is more successful now than it was in the 60s, however the black British contribution over this period remains little known. Historically the promotional lens of the British rock and pop media have painted a picture that now requires revisiting and that's where this research fits in."
In addition, having an in-depth retrospective like this is not only exciting for Jamaican music, it also highlights the status of Black British music in general as something that deserves scholarly investigation. It provides an opportunity to educate and share the importance of a culture that hasn't been given the recognition it deserves. "When we look back at any historical event or events there are always multiple perspectives. Given we're now in the digital age of immediate updates and access to everything, last week is not just the distant past but a vast minefield of information," Riley adds. "This project aims to investigate, collate and decipher said information to present a lesser-known narrative within British popular music and culture."
Text Lula Ososki
Image courtesy of the University of Westminster