Drum and Bass is Black Music…
On the 30th anniversary of the 1981 Brixton riots, a historic reaction to the hostility and xenophobic environment that informed the policing of African and Caribbean immigrants, I examined the ruthless desire to keep Britain White. I pulled from Sam Selvon’s 1956 novel “The Lonely Londoners,” which tells the story of the Caribbean community’s communal response to the English brand of white supremacy and their cultural preservation as a means for survival. Additionally, I sought the political, social, and musicological context of a sound that takes root in Sly and Robbie’s Reggae Music—Drum and Bass. Inspired by these histories, I’ve created a musical essay that epitomizes my long-term relationship with Black Britain and the parallel strategies of resistance that Black Americans have employed to attain basic human rights. Shout out to drum and bass pioneers Roni Size, Goldie, LTJ Bukem, Kemistry and Storm, Krust, and all the other sons and daughters of “The Lonely Londoners.”
I'm excited to introduce a new series of liner notes. As a part of the WildSeed Cultural Group Independent Artist in Residency program in Atlanta, Georgia (2011-2012), I will be working with my favorite thinkers, writers, cultural critics and scholars to help contextualize my mixes. The first to launch the series is Esther Armah, a fierce Black British writer, speaker, moderator and leader in the emotional justice movement. Thank you Esther for being willing to participate in this project and for helping to make "Entertainment with a Thesis" a reality.
DJ lynnee denise (feel free to repost and pass on)
Liner Notes by Esther Armah*
We made it. Not bodies. They were battered, bruised, brutalized, buried. The drum beat landed. Intact. Slipped unnoticed between bodies, souls, minds carried from West Africa’s shores via the West Indies. Landed unbent and unbroken in this new land - West London. We were the language left when mother tongue was dragged screaming from its source, we were the unshed tears of the middle passage. Company came. Sought us out. Hands grabbed at us from Empire Wind-rush bodies, carried to this place from Caribbean islands. A new language, new accent from this new nation called England. Black backs bent and shaped by British labor, sweat collected from a generation invited and despised in the same breath. Our mamas and daddies, silent and deadly. That racism DNA pounded and flattened, birthed into frustrated beats and a new generation. Defiance became the breath of those born to these Caribbean bodies mangled seeking refuge from racist rants. This was now Black Britain. Sound changed. Started to gather new notes from new generation. April 1981. Brixton streets, injustice exploded, caught fire, consumed and cleansed. Remnants of those unshed tears from that middle passage put the fire out on the streets, left it burning within Black Britain. Fragments of rage wrapped in that drum, dirt from boots pounding those streets caught between notes. Fragments, pieces, floated, landed. Sound from snatched pieces of leftover 1960s signs that screamed: ‘No Niggers, No Dogs, No Irish’, sound dragged from police officers’ brutal batons before they rained rage on nappy heads, sound from untold injustice - all fashioned into language. Called it bass. The sound from an unwelcome land. The double consciousness in the mirror whose reflection you couldn’t see. Mangled beauty drenched in righteous rage. Drum n bass. 30 years on from Brixton; bodies, boots, batons echo, haunt, haint. Now. Press play.
So honored to write these liner notes. Drum n bass are the fragments of us blown across waters and oceans, drum n bass was for the journey where it all got too much, where there was no voice, it is the emotionally unspeakable - the soundtrack of diasporic journeys. Love, love, love this Ms Lynnee...
Esther Armah is a Black British award winning international journalist, an author, playwright, radio host, company director and public speaker. She has worked in the US, UK, Africa. She is the founding director of Centric Productions, a multi-media production and creative marketing company based in New York, London and Ghana. In the UK; she has worked in print, radio and television. In print, she has written for 'The Guardian' newspaper, 'New Nation' newspaper, and in 'Pride' magazine. In radio, she has worked right across BBC radio as a documentary maker, an investigative reporter and a radio host. In tv, she has appeared on Sky Television and BBC television.