No Bass Like Home

The story of how Harlesden, reggae and Trojan Records changed Britain forever

During the 1970s, reggae exploded in Brent. The decade began with Wembley Stadium playing host to the first major Reggae Festival in the UK (with a line-up featuring The Pyramids, Pioneers, The Maytals and Desmond Dekker) and ended with the formation of Britain’s first black-owned pirate radio station.

In between, Bob Marley lived in a semi-detached house in Metroland, Trojan Records' output sold millions of copies to teenagers across the country and Janet Kay became the first British-born black female artist to top the UK charts with a reggae song. All of this took place within a few miles of Harlesden’s Craven Park Road where, each weekend, people from across London would flock to find, make and record reggae music. In the music and its making, they found something that felt like home.

Harlesden is both a bridge between Jamaica and the UK, and the place where something new comes from the connection. Britain's first homegrown reggae band, The Cimarons, met in a local youth club. Long before grime became London music, people around Harlesden pioneered lovers rock, jungle, drum n bass and other London variations on Jamaican sounds.

This is a story which has never quite had the platform it deserves, in the borough or around London, and in 2020 we want to tell it through the No Bass like Home programme, and support the upcoming talent in the area.

Firstly, No Bass Like Home will gather a map of stories, images and objects that tell the story of reggae and bass culture in Brent, which will be launched on this website in January 2020. The story will be brought to life in October 2020 for the Harlesden Weekender - an epic gathering of sound systems, performers and artists taking place on Harlesden High Street.

Throughout 2020 a series of 'Bass Invasions' will take the programme out to central London venues with the aspiration to elevate Brent’s reggae roots and enter museums, galleries and institutions with a national profile across the capital.

No Bass Like Home will tell the stories of sound-system builders, DJs and selectors, musicians, fans, clubs, promoters, record labels, record shops, recording studios and more. It will also uncover new stories, such as the role of women and pirate radio stations in the development of reggae, its musical precursors and how the legacy of reggae influences music being made in the borough today.

If you would like to get involved, have a story to share, or photographs about the history and importance of reggae in the borough, please email zerritha.brown@brent.gov.uk

With thanks to the members of the No Bass Like Home Engagement Board who are guiding the project:

Brent Museum and Archives
Bryce Morodore – Brent Blueprint Collective
Daniel Bailey – Community Advisor
Delroy Washington – Federation of Reggae Music (FORM)
Khaleel Williams – Brent Blueprint Collective
Kyron J. Greenwood – Community Advisor
Marianna Zappi – Community Advisor
Michael Smith – Community Advisor
Dr Monique Charles – Author, Hallowed Be Thy Grime
Mykaell Riley – Bass Culture Research
Patricia Wharton – Community Advisor

Thanks also to the Harlesden Working Group, developing the Harlesden Weekender:

Carole Joie Thompson – Bang Edutainment
Clary Salandy – Mahogany Carnival Design
Delroy Washington – Federation of Reggae Music (FORM)
Errol Donald – Mindspray
Grace Nelson – Brent Town Centre Manager
Kwaku – British Black Music
Minal Patel – Red Tower Ltd
Patrick McKay – St Michael and All Angels Steel Orchestra
Sparky Rugged – Reggae Artist and Reggae Historian