The alternative Notting Hill Carnival

Review by Gareth Morgan

Notting Hill Carnival is one of the biggest annual events in the UK. It is the biggest carnival anywhere in Europe, attracting millions of visitors over its official 2 day party.

The carnival is in an area of west London known as Ladbroke Grove, which has always had a rich musical history, with bands such as Aswad and The Clash hailing from there. I go over to Grove (as it’s known informally) quite a lot, to see friends and visit bars where I know I’ll hear good music.

So, it’s the Thursday before Carnival 2010 and I decided to make a weekend in and around Ladbroke Grove listening to a diverse range of dance music…I proudly present, an alternative guide to Notting Hill Carnival.

On Portobello Road, there is a small but friendly bar Called Mau Mau. On Thursday evenings two guys, Adam ‘Rock’ Moses and Justin ‘TopRock’ McKenzie, run a night called Jazz Refreshed. I had been hearing a lot about this night, namely that although they have a resident DJ playing, the night revolves around live music and musicianship. This particular Thursday had a very talented musician, Mark de Clive Lowe. Mark is a well known name in the modern jazz, broken beat and soulful house scenes. He’s a fantastic keyboard player and is renowned for his very technical use of equipment.

Mark de Clive Lowe

Mark’s set up comprised of Rhodes and Nord Lead keyboards, a MPC drum machine and various samplers and sequencers that are beyond the scope of this feature. His musicianship is second to none, the way he started playing keys had the crowd rocking from the off and it was a pleasure to watch a very technical musician playing hats and rim shots ad hoc into the MPC, looping them and bringing them into the live mix and, all on the fly too.

Jazz Refreshed

The night came and ended and I could tick Jazz Refreshed from my list. That said, I intend to become a regular at this excellent night and credit must go to Adam and Justin for putting on such a musically diverse night.

Friday…a friend of mine Kev Beadle was DJ’ing at a pub called The Paradise near Kensal Rise. Kev is a resident DJ at Southport Weekender, so I knew the music would be right up my street and, it didn’t fail. The night finished at 2am so I trundled off home ready to hit Westbourne Park and Panorama tomorrow. The Paradise is a definite place to check out!

Panorama is a steel pans competition where several bands play to the judges and, the judges then crown the winners at the end. Another friend of mine, Tafrina, plays in a steel band called Ebony who had won Panorama for the last three consecutive years so I was quite eager to see them.

If like me, you love all forms of good live music, you will LOVE Panorama. I’m a fan of steel pans and drums, I love the resonance and warmth of their sound, so hearing Ebony (who must have numbered at least 50) was a real pleasure for my ears. Some of the melodies played, you could almost lose yourself and think you were listening to an orchestra they were that good!

Ebony at Panorama

Panorama is the real start to Carnival in my opinion. You’re all huddled in a park just off Kensal Road, where they beam the bands onto a big screen for you to see and the atmosphere is superb. This should be advertised more, it was such a good night of music and free too. Right, with that over I’m homeward bound and a well earned day off. Back on Monday!

Hmm, Sunday I decided spur of the moment to head over to Carnival for a nice chilled day. Being outdoors listening to music certainly beats staying in the pub.

So Monday… I did attend Carnival, hanging out around Good Times and KCC sound systems. I had a ticket for The Fat Badger though, a pub off Portobello Road that Phil Asher and the Restless Soul crew were DJ’ing at and this was what I was looking forward to the most. After KCC finished, around 7, I headed towards the Fat Badger and got in fairly quickly (due to picking up my wristband earlier).

I headed upstairs to where Phil Asher was playing and we were in for a treat. If you’re familiar with any of Phil’s productions, you’ll know he uses a vocalist called Shea Soul on a lot of his tracks. Shea was here, and when Phil played a dub of one of their tracks, Shea provided the vocals live courtesy of a microphone. This had the absolutely rammed room jumping; I’m surprised we didn’t end up on the floor below! The night came and went and that was it, another Carnival over.

But next time, you need not just come and leave when the sound systems close down. You now know that there is a greater alternative to Notting Hill Carnival and, getting as much music in as your brain can process.

I love this area!

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