SOUTH LONDON SOUNDS: An introduction
From fiercely independent venues, innovative labels and genre breaking artists to big event spaces, world renowned musical education and global stars, the boroughs south of the river make a significant contribution to the musical culture of the capital, the UK and beyond.
The late, great, David Bowie is one its most famous sons, after all. A beautiful mural adorns a wall in Brixton, much loved by locals, and this connection would be adequate for most. But there are much wider and deeper musical traditions in this vibrant part of London.
The BRIT School of performing arts and technology has long been identifying and nurturing young musical talents, famously providing tutelage to the late Amy Winehouse and, more latterly, as if to prove this was no fluke, Adele. A tradition of nurturing the best talent continues at this one extraordinary Croydon school today, with King Krule, Loyle Carner, Kate Tempest, FKA Twigs, Rex Orange County and Black Midi just some of the recent attendees.
In the last few years, there has been nothing short of an incredible level of acclaim and success for artists connected to the south. In 2017 Sampha snapped up the Mercury Music Prize, in 2018 Stormzy got the 2018 Brit Award album gong and in 2019 Dave, not to be out done, collected both the Mercury Music Prize and the Brit album of the year. Quite some list for this part of London to be proud of.
The previous emergence of Grime, and this more recent revitalisation of UK music more widely, has been significant. UK rap has permeated across the globe and today its influence heard within all manner artists and genres, including the mainstream pop world. The aforementioned Stormzy is now undoubtedly a worldwide star following that Brit award, a UK number one with Vossi Bop, and a Glastonbury headline slot. He is also an increasingly influential social and political commentator - as personified by that Glastonbury performance in 2019, wearing a Banksy designed Union Jack stab vest.
Myriad small venues across the south are also proving to be key in providing opportunities for bands and other live-focused acts to cut their teeth. The Windmill Brixton, is notable amongst these, and in their own words 'book and cheerlead acts we like'. This crucial but all too rare focus on music quality over numbers, has created a unique atmosphere within the venue and amongst the acts. One such example is Fat White Family, who have gone on to establish themselves as one of the UK's most riotous and radical live acts. To go some way to demonstrate the Windmill's approach, in the same week there might be local emerging acts, weekend all day-er BBQ's or fundraisers and visits from the like of 6 Music, Steve Lamacq and Anna Calvi; all of which are equally welcomed and appreciated by the venue.
Another significant contributor to this current culture is the label Speedy Wunderground
who have emerged as one of the most prolific and increasingly influential in the UK, with all releases having been produced by part-owner Dan Carey in his south london studio. The label has now worked with Kate Tempest, Warmduscher, Squid and Black Midi, to name but a few.
This all merely scratches the surface of the music culture of South London, and this new series will explore everythinouth London in much more detail over the coming weeks.
Next up, we'll be sharing the thoughts of some of those involved with making it what it is.
In the meantime, you can check out all the artists mentioned here and many, many more on the HAPPY on the INSIDE : South London Sounds playlist.