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Posts tagged as 'Reggae'

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One Stop: Reggae in London’s East End

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Pictured, the Crown Sweater, part of our Bella Freud X Fred Perry collaboration

We recently launched our AW14 Blank Canvas collaboration with British knitwear designer Bella Freud for our Laurel Wreath Women’s Collection. With the Bella Freud X Fred Perry collection heavily influenced by reggae and dancehall music we recently met up with Gio Di Stasio - DJ and promoter of East London-based Reggae, Rocksteady and Ska night “One Stop” to find out more about the scene that gave inspiration to the collection.

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Gio Di Stasio pictured above DJing at “One Stop”

Originally from Rome – Italy, Gio initially got into reggae music through the Italian Mod scene - he heard Reggae, Rocksteady and Ska played alongside R&B, Soul and 60s and started to investigate further – “It started me off buying records. The scene wasn’t always huge back home, so everybody would come together on the Mod scene and it helped me to discover different music”.

Moving over to London in 2004, Gio discovered a broader scene with more variety compared to what he was used to – “London is a huge city, with so much history behind it. The Caribbean community moving over to England in the 1960’s meant a much wider scope for access to reggae music. Not just in London – but in places like Birmingham and the North too. Meeting and talking to people you discover new music and things, my record collection started to grow”.

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Gio soon started to DJ on and off in Italy from the late 90’s to through the early 00’s, guesting at nights but never quite establishing a regular night.

Over the last few years he has come back to DJing in London, and soon started to look for venues to start a night of his own – “It can be tough to get venues to take new nights on at first. The weekends are the busiest time, and Friday and Saturday nights are when venues want guaranteed crowd pleasers to make sure they are busy.” 

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Ridley Road is a famous market street located right in the centre of East London’s Dalston area. Ridley Road Market has strong roots within the East London West Indian community, famous for selling exotic produce from around the world. Ridley Road Market Bar located right in the middle of Ridley Road seemed like an ideal venue to approach with the possibility of starting a Reggae, Rocksteady and Ska night says Gio – I always lived in Dalston since I moved to London in 2004, and it’s amazing how the area I live in has both today, and in the past a very strong connection with reggae music.

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Back in the 60’s Ridley Road Market had a large West Indian population and record shops were very popular in the area as well. “Muzik City”, one of the first record stores in London was originally located on Ridley Road – “Muzik City” had direct links to the prolific reggae label “Trojan Records”. There was also a “Roy Shirley’s” shop on Birkbeck Road, “The R&B Record Shop” (owned by Rita and Benny King) in nearby Stamford Hill, “The Four Aces Club” on Dalston Lane and many other places where music (reggae in particular) were a key aspect of life.

For me being Italian - and therefore coming from a different background - it seems amazing to be able to run my own night in London, a night which is now getting recognition from people that have being doing these things for a long time”.

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Gio was soon offered the choice between a Thursdays or a Sunday night slot at Ridley Road Market Bar. Choosing Sunday’s “One Stop” was soon born, and runs every second Sunday – “So far it’s going really well. We’ve been going nearly a year now and the night seems to get bigger every time. Reggae nights aren’t all about the dancing, it’s more about the music and the atmosphere, and I think “One Stop” has a really good atmosphere about it.     

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Running the night takes a lot of effort too, as I do everything by myself - all promotion, the design for flyers, planning everything - but there’s nothing as rewarding as seeing people coming down to my night and having fun, truly appreciating the energy and passion that I put into it”.

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Every month has a different guest DJ from inside the community – Sammy D played most recently. Gio says “running a night can be really competitive. London is a huge city with so much choice. I’m really pleased “One Stop” has had a good run so far. Ideally I’d like to it run for many years, becoming a regular fixture on the scene”.  

We asked Gio for his Top 5 favourite records to DJ, a task he didn’t find easy – “I don’t really have a top 5 as such as I like loads of tunes and always try to discover new ones - I like to say that the best tunes are the ones I don’t have yet.

Some tunes that I always enjoy playing are:

The Viceroys – Promises

Delroy Wilson – Somebody has stolen

Don Drummond – Smiling

The Paragons – Memories by the score

The Kingstonians – Put down your fire

Thanks to Gio and http://www.camillacandidadonzella.it/ for images

ONE STOP – Every second Sunday at Ridley Road Market Bar, Dalston. Facebook/Instagram/Mixcloud

See the Bella Freud X Fred Perry collaboration online HERE

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One Stop

Head down to East London's Ridley Road Market Bar on the second Sunday of each month for One Stop; a new night playing Ska, Rocksteady, Reggae and Roots. Resident DJ's are joined by new guests each month.

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For more info you can visit the night's Facebook page, or for a sample of what's in store, visit One Stop on Mixcloud. The next event is on Sunday 11th May 2014.

Don Letts - Culture Clash, Chapter 16

We Only Wanted To Be Loved 

My first venture into making music videos was courtesy of John Lydon for the debut single of his new venture Public Image Limited, the band he’d formed after the break up of the Sex Pistols. Before the PiL promo, I was Don Letts DJ at the Roxy, dread with a camera. All of a sudden I had a 20-man film crew around me. This was a situation created by the ACTT film union and as I was not a member at that time I was a ‘ghost’ director. Due to my total inexperience I went for the safe option going for a performance piece. It’s only John’s dynamics with the band that gives the video any substance whatsoever. Working with PiL was always tense as they were so volatile. The original line-up of Lydon, Keith Levene, Jah Wobble and Jim Walker fused dub and rock into a warped, paranoid and claustrophobic sound. As long as I had known John, he had always been listening to reggae and avant-garde stuff like Can’s Tago Mago, Curved Air and Tangerine Dream. All these elements came together in the early PiL tunes. I was particularly taken with the King Tubby mix style of their first album, Public Image and its follow-up, the hugely influential Metal Box.

Don Letts - Culture Clash, Chapter 16, Don & John

Everyone in PiL was on ‘something’ different (hell we all were!) Some were up, some were down, and others were coming in sideways. The initial optimism they had soon turned dark and out of that chaos came moments of brilliance. Jeannette and I had been an item for a very important part of our lives, but around this time we split up. Girlfriend broke my heart. I’d introduced Jeannette to John, who then got her to manage the band. She’d go on to eventually become a part of PiL (that’s her on the cover of their Flowers of Romance album). When Jeannette got involved with PiL, I was off in a huff. Soon after, Keith Levene and Jah Wobble needed some money, so they ended up making a single for Virgin Records called The Steel Leg vs. The Electric Dread EP. They got me down to the studio to work on some vocals, even though I had never sung in my life. I remember sitting on the stairs with a microphone trying to write some words. Eventually I said, “OK guys, I’ll go home and work out some proper lyrics.” I never heard back from them and the next thing I knew the record was out. They’d used my demo vocals and stuck them with a track they’d worked up. The picture on the cover featured someone with a bag over his head. Now I’d come up with the title “Haile Unlikely” and I was messing around with this idea of “OK, I’m black, but I don’t want to go back to Africa.” I was basically saying, “I’m a black British Dread and I ain’t going nowhere! Now truth be told the record’s crap and looking back I can laugh at the whole thing but what’ll always piss me off is the picture on the sleeve - I mean people thought it was me for Christ sakes!

Don Letts - Culture Clash, Chapter 16, John & Jeanette

PiL’s headquarters were in Gunter Grove, Chelsea, where John Lydon lived. It was like the Addams Family house he even had a cat called Satan that he trained to fetch things for him. I once took reggae legend Dr Alimantado round to the flat to see John. After the physical and verbal abuse John was getting on the streets during the Pistols era, Alimantado became one of his heroes, and “Born for a Purpose” his anthem. “If you feel like you have no reason for living, don’t determine my life,” sang Dr Alimantado on the classic track which he penned after a near-fatal “accident”. In 1977, John Lydon, then Rotten, named it one of his top ten tunes of all time. The Clash would also later pay respect with the lyric “like the Doctor who’s born for a purpose” on “Rudie Can’t Fail” from London Calling. Joe Strummer once told me that Dr Alimantado’s “Poison Flour” was a tune that Paul Simonon played all the time, citing it as an example of how to sing about things that had an effect on daily lives. It was this reportage quality in the lyrics of 1970s reggae that captured the punks’ imagination (along with the bass lines and the weed!). So “Born for a Purpose” quickly became one of the few records to actually bridge the curious alliance that was punk and reggae during that period in the UK.

Don Letts - Culture Clash, Chapter 16

When you went round to Gunter Grove it was like a trial by fire. John would psychologically mess with you. If you had a weakness, he would find it. People would pop round John’s for a visit and leave psychological wrecks. It was only those that could stand there and take it that John would let back in. For Leo Williams’ birthday (Basement 5, B.A.D, Dreadzone) John decided to throw a party at Gunter Grove. The two tribes were on the floor with their Red Stripe, sensi and the heaviest dub reggae courtesy of the John Lydon Sound System. I can remember the bemused look on John’s face as he watched Althea and Donna, who were also in attendance, skank the night away. This was a “punky reggae party” before Bob Marley even penned the tune. One night there was a police raid. John freaked, all he knew was someone had entered the flat so he ran down the stairs with a huge sword someone had given him as a present. The police must have wondered what the hell was going on. Their sniffer dog chased Satan the cat, who climbed up onto a speaker in front of John’s teapot where his weed was stashed. The police thought the dog was barking at the cat, and didn’t think any more of it. Satan had saved the day! John was duly taken down the cop shop, bare-footed in his dressing gown and pyjamas and had to walk all the way back home dressed like that. He was seriously pissed off and moved to New York soon after.

Read all posts by Don Letts HERE