Bristol’s Musical Heritage and How it Brings Us Together

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No-one who creates in this city creates alone…

Bristol changes music with almost every generational revolution. Either birthing or bending genres; more times than not it’s happening without warning. Whilst the industry is moving one way, Bristol isn’t moving, it’s terraforming, taking what exists and moulding it into a brand new world. Whether that leaves us with trip hop, dubstep or purple sound, music from the world over is revitalised here to give the UK a new sound and energy.

Each week my feature ‘Beats Breaks & Bass’ champions new electronic music from the West, sharing the stories and sounds of bass-led musicians of every shape and size on BBC Introducing. This leaves me on a mission to keep on top of what’s new, whilst forever tracing the patterns and synergies in music — for instance, how one relatively small location can continuously present people who have changed the face of music.

I chatted to DJ Krust recently at St Pauls Carnival. Straight away I suggested the idea that most of the acts on the Red Bull Sound System line up would not have been on the bill, let alone interested in music without his influence. He thanked me for the compliment and honourably wasted no time explaining that he wouldn’t either, if not for Massive Attack before him. If he never had the opportunity to stand in the front row of previous carnivals, absorbing the skill of his musical brothers as they indirectly tutored him in stage presence and crowd control. We chatted for another ten minutes, wrapped up the interview and strolled back to the stage.

I spoke to almost all of the acts on the lineup, including Got Some, Toddla T and Redlight, as well as Javon who, although not scheduled to play, is without doubt part of the Bristol musical family — so where else would he have been that day? All of these artists who had albums, singles and music videos to promote, yet only wanted to talk about carnival and what it meant to them. Alex and Adam of Got Some told how their families were with them and how they loved seeing the local schools’ colourful and proud in the precession. Toddla T spoke of how events like these are the unifying community fabric that allows us to all celebrate together, along with how excited he was to end the festival with a back to back set with one of the city’s most recent game changers, Redlight. However, it wasn’t until I got home and listened back to all of the audio that I start to really understand.

I am not from Bristol. I came here hoping to be adopted by the people with open arms, which indeed I was. I believe I was accepted not because I’m a genius or eye-pleasing (let’s not forget I do radio, not TV). It was because I wanted to share as well as learn. That’s what’s been happening in this town since before pop culture was popular. St Pauls Carnival has exceeded 50 years of tribute to the lives that Bristol is home to. This married with the many other festivals across the calendar weave a schedule of pride, authenticity and talent that we are all encouraged to partake in. The artists on that stage had not come to just play music, they were there to add to the history and knowledge of what the carnival stood for.

We are strange compared to other cities. Our most notorious graffiti artists won his way into our hearts and art galleries. We waterside down our busiest streets. We invented our own currency to better the trade of our businesses. Our community prioritises our ideas and passions to breed unity. Often I wonder, if the legendary Portishead or Massive Attack were to start now, would they still change the musical grid? I think yes, because no-one who creates in this city creates alone; we are immersed in culture, swimming in it. And whilst we fear new artists may struggle to battle against the waves of the music industry and the endless showers of the internet, they’re each secretly building their very own Atlantis — so don’t worry, your invitation is on its way.

Starting September, Thad and BB&B bring their thoughts to the BLM table each month right here at bristollivemagazine.com