Life Between Islands - Soundsystem Culture: Black Musical Expression in the UK 1973-2006: Triple Vinyl LP
Various Artists (Soul Jazz Records)

Life Between Islands - Soundsystem Culture: Black Musical Expression in the UK 1973-2006: Triple Vinyl LP

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Label: Soul Jazz Records
Release Date: 28th January

When it comes to weaving cultural narratives in a compilation few do it better than Soul Jazz Records who on 'Life Between Islands', which casts its gaze on Soundsystem Culture formed by Caribbean communities with a focus on the joy of dance music, beefy dub, base and funk. This collection takes in a wide variety of sounds from soul to jazz, to free funk jazz, to reggae, dub, fusion, jungle and dubstep. 
Early contender for comp of the year this.

For those who dig: soundsystem dancer music from the 70s to today. This comp has everything for those who love music made for dancing, for escapism and feeling music through your bones and into your soul.

Soul Jazz Records’ new ‘Life Between Islands’ collection is inspired by the launch of Tate Britain’s exhibition of the same name. This landmark exhibition explores the links between Caribbean and British art and culture from the 1950s to now.

Soul Jazz Records’ album, subtitled ‘Soundsystem Culture: Black Musical Expression in the UK 1973-2006’, focuses on the most important Black British musical styles to emerge out of the distinctly Caribbean world of sound systems. The album features an all-star line-up including Dennis Bovell, Shut Up and Dance, Cymande, Digital Mystikz, Brown Sugar, Funk Masters, Janet Kay, Ragga Twins and more.

The album is a lightning-rod journey across Roots Reggae, Jungle / Drum & Bass, Jazz- Funk, Lovers Rock, Jazz, Dubstep and more. Much of Soul Jazz Records’ catalogue comes out of these genres and this album is partly an overview of some of Soul Jazz’s earlier releases (including Digital Mystikz’ long-deleted groundbreaking and now highly- collectible single ‘Misty Winter’) alongside some choice rare and classic tunes that span over 30 years of sound system culture.

Many of the tracks represent how Black British artists defined their own identity, with songs such as Brown Sugar’s righteous ‘Black Pride’, ‘I’m In Love with A Dreadlocks’ and Tabby Cat Kelly’s powerful ‘Don’t Call Us Immigrants’. Aside from being musically rooted in the distinctly Jamaican-born phenomenon of the sound system, much of this identity is also shaped by the triangular relationship of being British-born, of Caribbean heritage, and with an equal love of African-American Jazz, Funk and Soul, as evidenced with many Lovers Rock tunes reggae covers of American soul tunes (such as those of Jean Carn, William de Vaughan and Rose Royce featured here). This stateside influence can also be heard in groups such as the Funk Masters, a group formed by reggae radio DJ Tony Williams, whose jazz-funk music successfully crossed over into New York’s clubland, as well as the great Cymande, whose unique street-funk became staple material for numerous US hip-hop artists in the years that followed.

In the early 1990s, jungle and drum and bass artists took the essence of reggae’s soundsystem culture - MCs, dubplates, crews - and applied them to their own music, applying heavy reggae bass lines to intense double-speed drum breakbeats. At the forefront of this new movement were the duo Shut Up and Dance, working closely with The Ragga Twins, aka Deman Rocker and Flinty Badman, both MCs for North London’s infamous Unity reggae soundsytem. In the early 2000s, dubstep, spearheaded by Digital Mystikz, became the latest instalment in this ever evolving soundsystem culture.

Black Slate - Sticks Man
Dee Sharp - Rising To The Top
Asher Senator - One Bible Cymande - Fug
Digital Mystikz - Misty Winter
Winston Curtis - Be Thankful For What You’ve Got
Trevor Hartley - It Must Be Love
Shut Up and Dance featuring The Ragga Twins - Java Bass
Brown Sugar - Black Pride The Terrorist - RK1
Black Harmony - Don’t Let It Go To Your Head
Pebbles - Positive Vibrations
The Ragga Twins - Ragga Trip
Janet Kay and Alton Ellis - Still In Love
Funk Masters - Love Money
Cosmic Idren - Compelled
Harry Beckett - No Time For Hello
Sandra Reid - Ooh Boy
Tabby Cat Kelly - Don’t Call Us Immigrants
Brown Sugar - I’m In Love With A Dreadlocks

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