From dressing-up to dancehalls, Rockers, Soulheads & Lovers: Sound Systems Back in Da Day explores the golden era of African-Caribbean sound systems from the 1950s to the early 1980s in London.
Told from the perspective of local people, this vibrant exhibition curated by Michael McMillan in collaboration with Dubmorphology (Gary Stewart & Trevor Mathison), takes the form of an atmospheric audio-visual installation, conjuring a Blues party environment within the galleries. It brings to life an important cultural history, explored through a display of historical objects, personal accounts, film footage and photographs, reflecting upon how these dynamic cultural practices have had a significant impact on British music and dance ever since.
Sound systems (sounds) refer to custom-made high-powered mobile hi fi’s, and the equally important collective of ‘operators’, ‘box boys’, ‘engineers’, ‘selectors’, ‘toasters’ and DJs/MCs. As Caribbean migrants were often not welcome in pubs and clubs in the UK they created Shebeens, Blues and house parties in their homes where they could socialize in a racially mixed environment. Although sound systems originated in Jamaica, it would form its own expression and identity in Britain and with reggae as it’s cultural foundation it has since absorbed other black music genres: Soul, Funk, RnB, Hip Hop, Jazz Funk, House, Jungle, Garage, Drum & Bass, Dub Step, Grime.
The title, Rockers, Soulheads & Lovers, represents the diversity of subculture within sound system culture during the 1970s, from Reggae to Soul and Funk, to Lovers Rock, popular amongst many women and men. -video material, historical and contemporary. The exhibition functions as an archive, with photographs from personal collections, and objects and furniture of the moment, which come alive in the gallery.
Rockers, Soulheads & Lovers: Sound Systems Back in Da Day will be at 198 Contemporary Arts & Learing from Monday 21st March and will run until 21st May 2016.We went to their screening of the classic film Babylon. Directed by Franco Rosso and starring Brinsley Forde, Karl Howman and Trevor Laird this movie features music by Reggae greats including Aswad and Dennis Bovell.
Michael McMillan – Mike Urban (pictures) more on http://www.198.org.uk/node/258