Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Summer of '84: Reggae & Hip Hop

Back in July 1984 there was actual sunshine in South London, and some fine music too.

Reggae Sunsplash

On 7 July Capital Radio sponsored a Reggae Sunsplash festival at Crystal Palace football ground.

'Crystal Palace had its biggest crowd for years at the weekend - but not for football! Instead, 28,000 music lovers enjoyed a six-hour feast of reggae, featuring both Jamaican acts and homegrown talent at Selhurst Park. Reggae Sunsplash came to town - and brought some of the hottest weather this summer with it. There were rastas in shorts, toddlers with dreadlocks, bare-chested punks and skimpily-clad females providing a vivid splash of colour. The park itself was jammed with bodies - sitting, reclining or dancing to the sounds coming from the massive stage'.

'Police deliberately kept a low profile, turning a blind eye to the widespread use of "sensimilia" (marijuana) which is part of the Rastafarian faith. But the high quality of the performances needed no stimulants' (Jaswinder Bancil, South London Press, 13 July 1984).

The line-up included the Skatalites, Aswad, Black Uhuru, Sly & Robbie, Musical Youth, Dennis Brown, Leroy Sibbles and King Sunny Ade, plus DJs David Rodigan and Barry G.

Breakdown Spectacular
1984 also saw the spreading influence of hip and electro culture in the UK, with the release of the film 'Beat Street' and the popularity of Morgan Khan's Street Sounds compilations. Amidst all this the South London Press put on a two day 'Breakdown Spectacular' at the end of July at the Albany Empire in Deptford. It was enthusiastically promoted by Jaswinder Bancil  who announced 'Attention, all B-Boys and Girls! You have been invited to the most comprehensive celebration of hip-hop seen on this side of the river... For two nights at the Albany, rappers, scratchers, mixers, breakers and poppers will rub shoulders and gain the chance to win super prizes - including Phillips beat boxes, Nike trainers, records and much more. Any crew will be allowed to get up and challenge the skills of the Broken Glass posse from Manchester'.
He later reported that 'Hundreds of youngsters from all over London' joined the 'hip hop celebration nights at the Albany Empire' on 27 and 28 July. There was New York DJ Whiz Kid, graffiti art from Dean and Dolby D and  'crews, individual performers and B-girl posses - all popping, locking, cracking and breaking to great effect' (SLP, 3 August 1984).


John Eden said...

There's a 45 minute film of the 1985 Sunsplash here:

Feaures the late Smiley Culture at 30:00 onwards.

Jim mac said...

I remember it so well. Five days after my 22nd birthday, blazing heat, plenty ganja, hashish, brilliant BLACK UHURU, DENNIS BROWN, KING SUNNY ADE AND MANY MORE, THERE WITH SOME FRIENDS ALL SCOTS WHO WERE SQUATTING IN SUMMER RD ESTATE PECKHAM, a truly brilliant day. And I don't think any of us even thought to take any photos or kept any memorabilia. I suppose that was our kind of way, move on to the next gig. All seems like a life time away now 32 years later!!!.