Fanzine Review: 'Reggae Hit the Town' by Jenni Stalmach
This one away, 30 colour page zine is a valient, if somewhat patchy attempt to map the history of reggae in Huddersfield, one of those oft forgotten mid-size towns that played no small role in the process of making reggae music the popular form that it is today in the UK (see also Southend and Bradford for potential alterative histories). It's not ALL about the London, See?
It does this by firstly discussing the venues where reggae could be heard in the 1970s and 80s (namely the now destroyed West Indian Social Club on Venn Street and Huddersfield Poly), before switching tack and briefly interviewing a number of people involved in the revive/dubstep scene in the present day (Axis Sound System; the people behind the Chicken Scratch and Powah nights).
The early material is a nice, though very brief overview over well trodden grounds, with a local twist- yep, Steel Pulse, Matumbi and Aswad all played the town, whilst Eek-a-Mouse shows his face; a sense of place is fleetingly touched upon, where 'commercial reggae' is the norm, but roots and culture could be found if one persevered.
Whilst in his interview, Dr Huxtable (Axis Sound System) mentions half a dozen, mostly long forgotten, sounds that have run in the town over the past 30 years, alongside some interesting additional miscellania.
The problem with this approach is that it begins to feel like an opportunity missed. It is well documented that sounds such as Shaka were playing in towns like Hudds in the 70s and 80s, but of this there is no mention and the interviews tend to focus on the issues surrounding white people playing reggae and incredibly cliched charts, rather than the role the music played (and plays) in the formation of community and identity in a cold, wet, northern mill town.
In Woofah 1, Mark Iration commented that Huddersfield was an important place in his development as a selector, but the period when sounds like Iration Steppas were playing in the town regularly (the 1980s and 1990s) don't really get a mention. These are the stories I would have really liked to be told. Given that figures such as Earth Rockers soundsystem and Dan Man are name checked, but not interviewed is an opportunity missed.
However, saying that, Reggae Hit The Town remains a nice primer on its subject and a potential starting point for more research into a much neglected area of UK bass music, for which the author should to be praised. Not to mention the joy of reading a paper copy of someone's labour of love.
Reggae Hit The Town costs £2.00, From Wall of Sound records in Huddersfield, or from their virtual shop.
Jenni Stalmach's Blog