Reggae Research Network (Winter & Spring, 2017)



‘The Reggae Research Network is an Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded project which is organising a series of events during 2017, bringing together work from projects in the AHRC’s Connected Communities programme and the Translating Cultures theme on musical transmission and translation, as well as research more widely around the subject of reggae.

Two symposia are taking place, at the University of East Anglia and the University of Liverpool, bringing together leading music scholars, musicians, journalists and producers in order to scope the field and share knowledge and experience around this important and neglected area of popular music. The ideas and exchanges from the symposia will then be built upon in a final two-day conference in London in the autumn of 2017.’ (Reggae Research Network)

I had the opportunity to present at the first symposium at the University of East Anglia (Theme: Scoping the Field). My talk was on based on Audioweb and Congo Natty:

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British popular music in the 1990s was thriving with genres such as electronica, pop and rock. While genre-blending in music was evident (jungle and drum ‘n’ bass for example), there was (and still is) an issue with Britain (the media for example) in accepting the identity of British Jamaican music. Britain has had the opportunity to experience multi-cultural groups such as the Equals (reggae/rock), Basement 5 (reggae/punk), The Specials (ska) etc. The longevity and dissemination of their music however lies within their fan base, as the musicians were not fully supported by the British media. This can relate to the history and ongoing struggle of British Jamaicans/Caribbeans and their (dis)placement in British society. This is particularly evident with the following British Jamaican musicians: former crew member of the Saxon Sound System, Martin ‘Sugar’ Merchant (dub-electronica-rock group, Audioweb), and Michael West (Rebel MC/Congo Natty).

This paper will offer an insight on the author’s interest in researching on British Jamaican (popular) music. She will discuss her research findings so far by referring to her works on Audioweb (‘‘You’ve got no time for me’: Sugar Merchant, British Caribbean musical identity and the media’) and Congo Natty (‘‘The Time Has Come, Exodus!’: The (R)evolution of Congo Natty’). The paper will highlight Audioweb’s and Congo Natty’s disillusion with the music industry, and their omission of their music in Britpop – a movement that was successful in reviving ‘British’ (or indeed ‘English’) identity in Britain. The paper will conclude by arguing on why the musical manifesto and roots of the artists in question are routed in their current revival and are now being heard.


I played the following tracks to highlight certain points in my research:

Also at the event, I had the opportunity to hear other reggae-based projects that are currently in progress in Britain and Europe, for example: Shawn Naphtali-Sobers’ AHRC research on Emperor Haile Selassie I (1940s) and the museum and archive at Fairfield House in Bath (UK); Mandeep Samra’s work on Huddersfield Sound System Culture (UK); Sébastien Carayol’s Jamaica Jamaica! Exhibition in Paris (France); and, music producer/academic/lecturer Mykaell Riley’s AHRC-funded Bass Culture Research Project (UK):

MR Bass CultureMykaell Riley – Principle Investigator of the Bass Culture Research Project

I was also very honoured to meet one of my favourite academics and thinkers, Professor Paul Gilroy—who actually chaired my paper (no pressure!). His wealth of knowledge, intelligence, and wisdom has inspired me to continue with my research.

shara and Prof Paul Gilroyshara rambarran With Professor Paul Gilroy

Reggae culture in Britain has always been engrained in communities. It plays a vital role in location, place, and space but nationally, it has not been widely exposed, educated, and celebrated enough—despite its history and long presence in Britain. With thanks to the projects above, and the works of academics, writers, experts, musicians and everyday people, we can learn to understand, appreciate, and educate others on how Reggae has influenced and contributed to British culture in the past, present, and in the future. Thank you to Professor Charles Forsdick, Professor Paul Gilroy and Professor George McKay for leading this significant project.

For more details please visit:

© Shara Rambarran