History was upon us. It’s been 51 years since Jamaican independence and this most musical of countries have managed to keep their music, heritage and vibes red hot. Whilst Wray & Nephew swapped Kingston for Hackney, two things remained unchanged: the ska, reggae and dub was nearly endless … and the revellers were enjoying Wray and Nephew Overproof Rum punch together as people caught the Jamaican Independence vibe.
We were in the sunny confines of the Britannia Pub’s rolling beer garden, being tempted by the smells of curried mutton and jerk chicken as the rum punch drifted by in the hands of a capacity crowd. A single measure of Jamaica’s finest spirit was the base for all of the drinks at the bar on the day, and the varieties of fruity concoctions were as elaborate as they were tasty.
The proposition of Trojan Soundsystem’s set in the evening meant the crowd was going nowhere, the ringing laughter paying testament to contented groups settling in for all 12 hours of fun. The day started though with Hackney’s Four Aces DJs Newton Dunbar and Winstan Whitter playing their gently lilting mento and calypso. Drawing us all the way back to 1950s Jamaica, before the euphoria and change of independence hit the island and reminding us of what a hotbed of reggae talent Dalston was in the 1960s and 1970s.
True to all Jamaican celebrations Wray & Nephew was ever-present. Throughout the afternoon, the garden rum bar played host to Wray’s Nephews who challenged the most confident to try their hand at pouring a single measure freehand, something only accomplished bartenders do well. The most successful emerged with a coveted Wray and Nephew t-shirt adorned with the distinctive black, green and gold of the Jamaican flag.
As day slipped into night and our attentions turned indoors as the Reggae Roast DJs were seriously stripping back the flack with their sizzling arsenal of roots and steppers reggae. They were true to their name. That floor got hot under their touch and their new tune out soon, 'Dubplate Fashion' by Tradesman and Parly B is pure dancefloor ordinance as evidenced by its crucial deployment in the Britannia.
The main course however was yet to come. DJs Gateshead and Daddy Ad brought up their killer vocalists Superfour and Jah Buck to form The Trojan Soundsystem and simultaneously unleashed their audiophile fidelity to the ears of Victoria Park’s revellers. Abounded in legendary 7” vinyl and copious 12” versions they rooted the assembled crowd to their swaying spots with the quality of history lesson you are unlikely to ever receive at school.
A day of sun, salubrious company and relaxation was thus brought to a close. And the only surprise? That it all just flew past too fast in a flurry of racy fun and rhythms. Roll on next year.
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Words: Pip Oxley
Photography: Liam Bundy
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