Bass Culture

Lead Research Organisation: University of Westminster
Department Name: Faculty of Media Arts and Design

Abstract

Bass Culture is a response to the disengagement and lack of education surrounding the heritage of Jamaican and Jamaican-influenced music in Britain over the last six decades. A direct line can be traced from pioneering British sound systems in the 1960s to modern chart-topping artistes such as Soul2Soul, Goldie, and Tiny Tempah. Jamaican music is recognised as a key catalyst in integration and multiculturalism in London and beyond. An understanding of the contribution made by the Jamaican community is also vital for anyone researching and performing popular music production, dance, and fashion.

This heritage is, however, largely a hidden history, and its value and importance is underestimated by both the Jamaican and wider communities in the UK. This history is neither readily available to schools or universities, nor to other cultural institutions such as archives and museums. In addition, in the absence of research and preservation this history is being lost. First generation pioneers are now in their 80s, making the capture of their experiences urgent. Many physical objects were not created with a view to longevity, and are often valued more as family heirlooms than community heritage.

This project will locate, capture and preserve memories, experiences and ephemera from three generations of musicians, music industry participants, and audience members. The term 'Bass Culture' has been adopted to identify the British experience, as separate to the Jamaican. Bass Culture will be the first in-depth retrospective of Jamaican music in the UK. The University of Westminster's Black Music Research Unit (BMRU) will operate as a central hub for research and link to the community, working with School of Oriental and African Studies, and Black Cultural Archives (BCA).

The research will be conducted through oral history and archival work, led by professional researchers but involving community volunteers at every stage who will receive training. Researchers will conduct 100+ interviews, with additional material solicited from the community directly. Archival research will be conducted primarily at BCA and British Library-Popular Music section.

Community volunteers will also work with Fully Focused Community, a youth media organisation, to create their own oral history-based 60-90 minute film, focusing both on key individuals within the history of Jamaican-inspired music in Britain, and also exploring the participants' experience of rediscovering this history.

Four inter-generational workshops will allow community members from three generations to share and discuss their memories and feelings as music makers and consumers. Volunteers will perform and talk about their music and what it means to them, and also curate a new soundtrack for the Exhibition.

The research will form the basis for a free landmark Exhibition at the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton, to be accompanied by a programme of events and publications aimed at both general public and academic communities. Running for 5 months, BCA anticipates 10,000 visitors. The project will have a further legacy when the Exhibition tours.

A Web Portal will provide an ongoing hub for publicising the project and opportunities for community involvement. The Portal will be used to solicit additional interviews or recollections from family, neighbours, etc, using personal equipment such as mobile phones or tablet computers, and will also extend our reach beyond London.

Academic outputs include an edited, contextualised volume of oral histories, and a monograph focussing on the period 1976-81. Two academic conferences will further explore the heritage uncovered before, and after, the Exhibition, and papers presented will be used as the basis for the first two issues of a new scholarly journal on black music research.

Planned Impact

The grandchildren of Jamaicans who arrived in the 1950s no longer cheer for Caribbean football sides: they support the English team. If you ask them about Ska music, they're more likely to mention The Specials (a mixed race band from the 1980s) rather than Millie Small. If you mention the term 'Dub', they'll likely ask if you meant DubStep? Bass Culture will uncover for the community the threads of its shared musical history, and forge points of connection - despite differences in terminology - to facilitate conversation across generations.

The project will;
- Connect memories and experiences of those who were key in creating the community's music history, with those keen to learn more about it,
- Provide an opportunity for first, second and third generation Jamaican families to participate in the creation of a comprehensive record of their musical heritage,
- Involve the Jamaican community, the general public and experts in a collective conversation about preserving and promoting this history,
- Clarify the rolling confusions concerning identity, cultural ownership and heritage, in relation to reggae's history in Britain,
- Provide official recognition of musical contributions made by London's Jamaican community to Britain's cultural heritage.

The community find it increasingly difficult to discuss its history as a continuous thread. This is due to timespan, generational differences, and the absence of links that allow the community to connect its memories and experiences together. 'Bass Culture' focuses on these connections, and aims to empower British Jamaicans to have conversations with each other. The project will uncover new information, but will also directly involve community members in taking charge of rewriting their history, so that it more accurately reflects the contribution of Jamaican music. Such activities and recognition will also instil pride and confidence from the satisfaction that their contributions have been finally recognised, transforming perceptions both inside and outside of the reggae community.

By combining professionals with community-based researchers, and by soliciting free-format contributions from Web Portal visitors, the project maximises the opportunities for the whole community. Community involvement also broadens the community skills base whilst educating members. The possibility of making low-tech contributions, i.e., via their own equipment to capture heritage, will demystify the process of 'research', making participatory involvement instantly rewarding and fun, whilst contributing to their own and other peoples' heritage; feedback loops further enhance community involvement.

We understand that some community members will be hard to reach, and this has informed our approach to developing the project elements. Local radio and community websites will be stakeholders in the research, events, exhibition, and dissemination of the project. For the general public, the project provides additional opportunities to participate in what was always a shared experience, giving opportunities to capture and feature their memories and experiences (particularly in the Exhibition and book).

The community research and resulting Exhibition primarily (but not exclusively) target first, second and third generation individuals of Jamaican heritage, a community which has totally transformed since the 70s, but has maintained cultural links through Jamaican music. The main groups who will benefit are:
- Jamaican elders and first generation individuals who have witnessed history unfold, but have never had a chance to share their experience,
- Second generation British-born Jamaicans and their families,
- London's contemporary Jamaican community, for whom this will often be the first opportunity to work with a major archive or university on a large-scale project where their history and heritage is being made public,
- The wider Caribbean/British community, who continue to support reggae.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title Filmed 1st person interviews 
Description Our first collection of of first person individual interviews on film, connecting four generations of music makers and audience member in the UK 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact Our initial set of interviews has generated intrest amongst BAME musicians and the wider, in researching their own contributions to the music and culture of the UK 
URL http://blackmusicresearchunit.co.uk
 
Description The removal of Metropolitan police Risk Assessment Form 696
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
Impact The of the report, was that it provided fact-based information that was not previously available. This enabled government ministers such as Matt Hancock Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, To support the removal of Risk Assessment Form 696 In the House Of Commons, Prompting Similar Support from the Labour Party. This culminated with a letter being sent to the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, raising his concerns over the Metropolitan polices implementation of what was viewed in the community as a racist policy.
URL https://www.channel4.com/news/matt-hancock-defends-grime-music-scene
 
Description Being Human Festival 2017
Amount £800 (GBP)
Organisation University of London 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 05/2017 
End 05/2017
 
Description Black Cultural Archives / expo, intergen music workshops, archive placements 
Organisation Black Cultural Archives
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution This partnership will provide exhibition content that will feature in the BCA public programme, plus associated workshops, events and a private view.
Collaborator Contribution This partnership allows us access to the BCA archives for research purposes, and the use of the BCA spaces and expertise for exhibitions and events. It also facilitated the up skilling and training of interns in researching their archives.
Impact To date we have collaborated on the delivery of two internships - each lasting 12 weeks. Internships were offered to community members seeking an opportunity to develop research skills - that would allow them to contribute the Bass Culture project. On completion of their training each community member had the opportunity to present their findings, at one of our academic events.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Northern Reggae Networking Partnerships 2017 
Organisation University of East Anglia
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We contributed to the staging of a two-day conference in London. On the second of the two days we provided the Regent Street cinema as part of a joint conference between the three universities. We assisted in the provision of administrative support, organising and promotion of the event, the provision of supporting images, text promotional and networking connections.
Collaborator Contribution As part of a two-day event partner institutions facilitated the first conference at Senate house. Providing teas coffees and lunch for all attendees. As well as marketing and promotion in the lead up to the event. This was all underpinned by administrative support throughout.
Impact Key outcomes of this collaboration would include but are not limited to a better understanding of research activities within the subject area of black British music. In particular, research into the impact of Jamaican music on Britain over the last half-century. The collaboration has also assisted in identifying the areas of research and the regional locations and institutions involved. it is also highlighted the extent to which the subject area operates as a multidisciplinary practice.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Northern Reggae Networking Partnerships 2017 
Organisation University of Liverpool
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We contributed to the staging of a two-day conference in London. On the second of the two days we provided the Regent Street cinema as part of a joint conference between the three universities. We assisted in the provision of administrative support, organising and promotion of the event, the provision of supporting images, text promotional and networking connections.
Collaborator Contribution As part of a two-day event partner institutions facilitated the first conference at Senate house. Providing teas coffees and lunch for all attendees. As well as marketing and promotion in the lead up to the event. This was all underpinned by administrative support throughout.
Impact Key outcomes of this collaboration would include but are not limited to a better understanding of research activities within the subject area of black British music. In particular, research into the impact of Jamaican music on Britain over the last half-century. The collaboration has also assisted in identifying the areas of research and the regional locations and institutions involved. it is also highlighted the extent to which the subject area operates as a multidisciplinary practice.
Start Year 2017
 
Description University of Leicester / Prof.Mark Banks, mentoring 
Organisation University of Leicester
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The research team is contributing to an ongoing and constructive dialogue with Prof. mark Banks of Leicester University, to further the aims of the research.
Collaborator Contribution Prof. mark Banks of Leicester University brings his experience and expertise to the research team in ways that tangibly benefit the progress of the work - helping deliver focus and structure. He has also helped work through practical skills-based questions, and offer useful suggestions for how we might best proceed.
Impact This collaboration is in its early stages and is focused on delivering mentoring support for me as new researcher.
Start Year 2016
 
Description BBC 4 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact As part of the Ticketmaster state of play Grime Report, principal investigator Mykaell Riley, was invited to talk on BBC radio4. THE interview focused on Bass Culture's contribution to the first big data informed report, on a black British music genre.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description BBC Live 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact As part of the Ticketmaster state of play Grime Report, principal investigator Mykaell Riley, was interviewed by BBC live. As part of the Ticketmaster interview focused on Bass Culture's contribution to the first big data informed report, on a black British music genre.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/41559356/academic-study-finds-grime-as-disruptive-and-powerful...
 
Description BBC Radio 6 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact As part of the Ticketmaster state of play Grime Report, principal investigator Mykaell Riley, was invited to talk on BBC radio6, The interview focused on Bass Culture's contribution to the first big data informed report, on a black British music genre.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Bass Culture Presentation at the Jamaican High Commission, Feb 21st 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Mykaell presented a 1 hour presentation on the Bass Culrure Research work - underlining the importance of capturing / investigating this particular music and cultural heritage, the gaps in the establishment representations of the culture and our aims for the research. He also made an appeal to the caribbean community present to share their stories with the projectr and to get involved in the research. This sparked a lively debate and contributions from the audience, and we made several new contacts of use to the research - some as oral history interview subjects and others at the policy making level.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Being Human festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A collection of interviews on BBC radio 4, 6 and BBC live, promoting the release of the Grime report
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Farah Nice Up The Dance! - Celebrating the Influence of UK Sound Systems 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Nice Up The Dance! - Celebrating the Influence of UK Sound Systems video: I was one of several interviewees, that spoke to camera sharing antidotal experiences on UK reggae Soundsystems. The short was posted on YouTube and to date has generated over 64,000 views. A key focus of the video is fashion and the extent to which Jamaican music and sound system culture in the UK has and continues to informed taste.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2k3KlE9649A&feature=youtu.be
 
Description Norwich symposium: Scoping the Field 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was a symposium used theme of reggae as the basis for networking, practitioners and other parties working in the field. Titled 'Scoping the Field', it did just that. It attracted a mixed group of academics, partitioners, curators students and journalist. It also provided an opportunity to share research and related activities. For the Bass Culture Project it was an opportunity to reconnect, update and in some cases initiate new interest in our research. I was invited to presented on the nature and scope of our research, chimed with those present generating offers to collaborate on future outputs. This includes the possibility of a joint symposium later this year.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://reggaenetwork.wordpress.com/blog/
 
Description Reggae Network London Symposium 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was collaboration between the The University of East Anglia, Liverpool University, under the heading The Reggae Research Network and the University of Westminster. The joint symposium provided a platform to actively engage in networking practicing academics, industry professionals and community members, with shared interest in the subject area. The second and last day of the conference, was staged at the University of Westminster, Regent Street campus. The event allowed us to present to a captive audience our approach to developing community-based research. An example of this was the all female panel, comprising of music industry professionals and community members, sharing their experiences with academics. This collection of presentations sparked very emotional discussions, that post the event, continued as emails and text messages. It was clear that this type platform had the capacity to produced responses that might otherwise remain hidden. One community member have since applied and has been accepted to study for a Masters degree.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://reggaenetwork.wordpress.com/london-conference-reggae-futures/
 
Description Talking Humanities blog 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact This article focused on developing a better understanding of the impact and legacy of Jamaican music on British culture and heritage over the last half century.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://talkinghumanities.blogs.sas.ac.uk/2018/02/15/theres-more-to-british-pop-music-than-meets-the...
 
Description The Conversation - Online Magazine 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This article focused on the impact of black British music on British culture and the challenges currently faced by black British musicians.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://theconversation.com/grime-is-the-new-punk-heres-why-85544
 
Description The Resonancia Music Conference in Bogota Colombia. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I was invited to present at the Resonancia Music Conference in Bogota Colombia. The focus was the international impact impact of the Bass Culture research project over the next three years. The audience comprised of a of a mixture of arts, education, technology and business individuals from a mixed demographic and age group. My presentation prompted many debates and offer of further collaboration.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.resonanciacolombia.org
 
Description The Times Education Online Magazine 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact This was an essay for the Times Higher Education online magazine. The article focused the publication of the Grime Report and the potential of its findings to impact on industry thinking about the genre.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010,2017
URL https://www.timeshighereducation.com/people/interview-mykaell-riley-university-of-westminster