Socialist Worker

Dread Meets Punk Rockers Uptown: This is Dynamite

by Hassan Mahamdallie
Issue No. 1777

Along with about 80,000 others, I will never forget the monster Rock Against Racism carnival in Victoria Park, east London, in 1978. 'We are black, we are white-we are dynamite!' was the slogan of the day, as people rocked both to reggae band Steel Pulse and punk band The Clash – who leaned heavily on black music and struggle for their inspiration.

A new dub reggae collection by DJ Don Letts, Dread Meets Punk Rockers Uptown, brings back that period when black and white working class rebellions fused together. Don Letts, in his album notes, tells how it was reggae that most punks listened to in the early days of 1976-7.

You could go to the Roxy or the Marquee clubs in Soho and watch the punk bands thrash through their set, but in between listen to DJs like Letts play reggae, both Jamaican and homegrown. We could all relate to U Brown's 'Train To Zion' – a call to a promised land of black and white unity. As Letts writes, 'By the mid-70s the establishment had managed to alienate its own white youth. It didn't have to try hard to alienate me since I was a first generation British born black of Jamaican descent and already well pissed off. The popular music of the time no longer stood for the people.'

Bob Marley anointed this musical solidarity with his song 'Punky Reggae Party'. He was impressed by The Clash's anti-racism and the lyrics referred to both punks and dreads as 'rejected by society, mistreated with impunity'.

For myself, in the face of a renewed Nazi threat I would like to see a modern equivalent of those times. Nitin Sawhney, Asian Dub Foundation, Primal Scream and Manic Street Preachers-I'd travel to Oldham to see that one!


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Reviews
Sat 1 Dec 2001, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1777
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