Carnival Season Kicks Off With St Pauls In Bristol
The first Saturday of July sees Bristol – the UK’s capital of counter – host St. Paul’s Carnival in the cities Jamaican neighborhood, just outside the city center.
You can smell the jerk chicken before you arrive, feel the dub vibrate down the street and see the colours getting more tropical and as you approach. You feel the infectious atmosphere thickening for Carnival.
Carnivals started in the Caribbean and made their way to places like Rio and eventually the UK with an influx of Caribbean immigration (you’ve probably heard of Notting Hill Carnival, the 2nd biggest street party in the world with 1 million attendees).
So what place does Carnival and Sound-System culture have in our digital music age of Soundcloud & Twitter? What's St. Paul’s deal when it comes to doing Carnival differently?
Well it's basically a fat street party where everyone abandons the British culture of being too ‘polite’, reserved and never talking to one another. They get dressed up overly ostentatious and sexy, drink far far too much rum and red stripe, then dance and do the dutty wine all day to epic Caribbean music, actually smiling for once and sharing good vibes (P.S thank-you Jamaica!). Sound fun? Get to St. Pauls Carnival!
And the music... Bristol is currently the UK’s second great city of electronic music, and local artists like Buggsy & Redlight hit the streets to do loads of sets, for free, for fun, for the people.
It’s a community ‘ting’, that means its for all people and all ages. I saw 3 West Indian men in their 70’s taking turns to DJ and MC to kids in their 20’s dancing their hearts out in the street. It was like flashing forward and seeing myself in 40 years (I’m also a Soundcloud generation DJ: http://www.mixcloud.com/jamsounds/) and its sights like these that bring everyone together in communality and spirit. St. Pauls is about the experience, not just one aspect.
These men are from a culture where music is life, and the West Indian communities brought Sound-System culture to England with them. Without it the boom of rave culture may not have happened, putting the UK on the map as the world no. 1 for electronic music, ahead of USA and Germany.
But Carnival has come to mean a lot more than that, for both community and music. Like I said it’s a Caribbean thing, but its in the UK, so it’s a multi-cultural thing, and that it is, a celebration of culture. And everyone parades it, their original nationalities and their British ones. Irish, Jamaican, Indian, everyone represents at carnival! But they do it by showing respect to one another, which is rare. So You gotta give it up to Carnival for that if nothing else.
There’s dance showcases, spoken word, poetry, song and art. It’s a complete collaborative festival of urban culture! Food, music and dance…
And remember one more cool thing about St. Pauls, this is Bristol, it isn’t London! There’s no feeling of imminent violence, and fewer trust-fund-felines taking selfies (as has become a common sight at the Soundsystem’s of Tavistock Road at Notting Hill Carnival). Replace the agitation with positive attitude, and pretentious West London girls with beautiful hippies (as much as we all love West London girls), that sounds more like St. Pauls.
So in the modern world of digital music marketing, for there to be a physical space and movement where crew’s of friends, MC’s & DJ’s, sons and granddads independently build Sound-Systems, to tour the country and play the music they love, just to share it (usually at no monetary profit), be it Jungle, Dub, Hip-Hop or any other genre, I think its pretty epic!
Sound-System Culture and Carnival are inextricable to music in the UK, certainly electronic music and festival culture, plus it benefits social stability. Unlike most of the music world, money doesn’t effect it and the industry can’t touch it. And it doesn’t hurt if it’s served with a rare sense of unity, endless bottles of rum, delicious jerk chicken, dutty winning and smiles. That’s just a bonus that keeps me coming back every year.
JAM recommends – miss any carnival at your own peril and watch out for Notting Hill in August bank holiday for more good vibes (and those west London girls!).
Written By JAM