Bass in the Attic – A Reflection

In November 2017, the Bass Culture Research Project held ‘Bass in the Attic’ at the Ritzy, Brixton. This event was to highlight Black Music heritage and was part of the Being Human Festival. This interactive event invited participants (including me) and the local community to share their stories and memories of Black British music. Mykaell Riley recollected his time as an artist with Steel Pulse and the Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra. Dr. Joy White (Grime expert and Ethnomusicologist) shared her experiences of clubbing and brought in fliers that demonstrated how events were promoted during the rave and underground scenes. Established Lovers Rock artists Victor Romeo and Janet Kay shared their experiences in music, acting, fashion, the ‘Stickman’ walk and appearing on Top of the Pops. The audience also shared their musical experiences and vinyl collection. Overall it was a successful event because it enabled participants the opportunity to recollect and share their stories on Black British music. The idea of documenting stories and sharing memories of Black British music is significant because such (future) heritage needs to connect and bond with audiences, families, communities etc.—memories are indeed important and precious—as demonstrated at this event.

My Life story (sort of…)

My story reflected on musical memories in the 1990s. I’m from Harlow and I was not exposed to Black British music. The only connection I had was due to my (British) Guyanese father—who always played reggae and had parties at home. After he died, his friends were out of the family picture and I lost that cultural connection at such a young age. From what I have learned from his short life in Britain (and from what I could remember), he was an outsider in society but would heavily immerse with his mates and celebrate his Caribbean culture and roots. His best mates (my Godfathers) were from Barbados and Jamaica. When he could, he would actually hang out East and North London (mainly Walthamstow) to be with his fellow Caribbean mates.

I also felt an outsider due my race. Basically, I grew up in a working class white town. At school I was the only non-white child and was listening to what everyone else was listening to: chart pop, rock and dance. Also I was never popular, I only had a few selected close friends, I guess we were the ‘geeky’ group although I wasn’t really brainy at the time! There were some opportunities where I was exposed to Caribbean culture. My best mate’s dad was a bus driver and his route was the number N73 in London. Erika and I would hang out at the Tottenham Hale bus garage and listen to reggae in the canteen as well as talking to her dad’s colleagues who were Jamaican/British Jamaican. Back at high school, we discovered pirate radio by accident and picked up Jungle music. I started to gain a reconnection with my cultural roots but found it so hard to discover on the name of artists/producers mainly because the DJ would not mention them!

A few tunes that I grew up with in the 1990s…

Rebel MC – Black Meaning Good (Tribal Bass)

One tune that really resonated for me and took me ages to find out that it was Rebel MC AKA Congo Natty (I was a fan his music before in the late1980s)—but then of course it became a chart hit. Everyone was into this tune at high school, but I was the only one who bought the album. Not sure why though, maybe it had something to do with the album title, with me from a white town and that…

Shara Rambarran

Shara Rambarran Talking about Rebel MC ‘s Black Meaning Good  Image by Hillegonda Rietveld


After high school, I was the only one who went to study music at my local college. My college classmates were from other parts of Essex and they all had their own identities and tastes in music. I had the advantage of being more exposed to other musical genres such Britpop, alterative rock, techno etc. This encouraged me to seek more on Black British music especially as Jungle was getting popular. I religiously hanged out in my local record store and discovered the following timeless music:

Maxine & Dubwise

This jungle tune reminds me of Romford on a Saturday. Essex was totally aware of jungle, and in time, you could hear it everywhere: indoor/outdoor markets, out of Ford Escorts etc. This tune really caught on though, in particular the version with the horns section (as opposed to rock version). It’s very energetic and just shouts out ESSEX. I consider this to be my ‘townie’ memory (as well as shell suits)! It’s worth mentioning that Dubwise and the label Renk Records is owned by Junior Hart, whose son is Marlon Hart, otherwise known M-Beat.

Bomb The Bass featuring Spikey Tee

I have a lot of ? for Tim Simenon and Bomb the Bass. Tim Simenon experimented with hip hop, electronica, and more importantly reggae and dub on the album Clear. He collaborated with the likes of Bim Sherman, Justin Warfield, Will Self & Benjamin Zephaniah. This particular track however, Spikey Tee’s ‘Darkheart’ resonates with me the most. The dub version is dark but yet at the same time it’s uplifting to listen to as well—it just works. This album inspired me to make experimental music back in the day (and I blew my student loan on my first Akai sampler and various synthesisers).


You may be familiar with the saying ‘don’t judge its book by its cover’. If I’m honest with you, I did with this with particular CD single that I picked up at Trumps Records:

I was fascinated with the group’s name and had no idea on who they were. I was blown away with their music: a mixture of heavy guitar riffs, electronica, deep bass lines, mesmerizing beats, and reggae. To me the music sounded way ahead of its time—it was a mixture of live instruments and electronic sounds—and that to me was unusual. Audioweb were from Manchester with British Jamaican lead singer—Martin ‘Sugar’ Merchant—who used to be in the Sound System scenes including the Saxon Crew. I felt a connection with the music with the group because I was very drawn to the genre-blending and of course, reggae. To me, that idea of mixing rock, electronica, and reggae produced was a great sound.

Audioweb had one major hit, a cover version of The Clash’s ‘Bankrobber’. By this time, I was studying music at Sheffield University. I was so desperate to watch them live. I rang their label’s press office, Mother Records every week asking for updates! I finally got to see them in February at the University of Liverpool in 1997. There was a packed crowd and surprisingly everyone knew the words. I was even more surprised to see Audioweb’s biggest fan, Ian Brown dancing behind me. Everyone did go crazy when they played ‘Bankrobber’. It was such a buzzing and energetic show. It was so good that I managed to get hold of the set list with Martin Merchant’s footprint on it. My ex-best mate and I accidently met Sean McCann the bass player at the back of the venue and he got us into the after show party. I met the group, and they were all buzzing especially Martin and Maxi (the drummer)—they couldn’t believe that the crowd knew the words. I do have images of this event but I’ll save it for another time!

Roots and Routes…

These memories are important to me—not only they remind me of my youth but also my father and cultural roots. For me, it was more of an individual discovery rather then ‘growing’ up with it. I think if my dad was alive it would have have been a different story (he would have made me listen to a lot of reggae!). I am from a mixed cultural background and if I’m honest with you, I really don’t know much about my father’s family. Therefore, it is the music, the culture (and popular culture) and the Bass Culture Research Project that is repairing the lost connection with my father. To be continued…

© Shara Rambarran


Bass in the Attic – A Reflection

Bass in the Attic (Being Human Festival)-November 2017

Reggae Research Network (Winter & Spring, 2017)

We Are All Living In A Wallspace: James Mudriczki’s new project, Nihilists

The Oxford Handbook of Music & Virtuality (2016)

The Oxford Handbook of Music & Virtuality in PopMatters (Gorillaz)

Alexander Bard: The ‘King Midas’ of Scandipop?

The 20 Most Memorable Songs of 1991: The KLF & ‘3am Eternal’ (PopMatters)

The Record Producer And The Law (DJ Danger Mouse) Published in: Journal on the Art of Record Production

Bass in the Attic (Being Human Festival)-November 2017

On Sunday 19th November 2017, I will be participating in ‘Bass in the Attic’- a discussion panel on Black British Music Heritage. I am delighted to announce that Janet Kay (the Queen of Lover’s Rock), Mykaell Riley (record producer and PI of the Black Music Research Unit/Bass Culture Research Project), and Dr. Joy White (Grime expert and ethnomusicologist) are also part of the panel. This is an open event where the public can also bring and share their music heritage and memories. Details on Bass in the Attic and the Being Human Festival are below.

Event details:

Venue: Upstairs at the Ritzy, Ritzy Cinema, 469 Brixton Road, London, SW2 1JQ United Kingdom
Time: 12pm-2pm
Tickets (free):

Event is hosted by the Black Music Research Unit (University of Westminster) and is part of the  Being Human Festival.

Bass in the attic – The Details:

‘Join Janet Kay, vocalist on classic lover’s rock hit ‘Silly Games’, Mike Darby of Bristol Archive Records and Shara Rambarran, popular musicologist, and Dr. Joy White, leading expert in grime, for an afternoon of sharing and conversation around black British music heritage. Each will bring a piece of personal music history – perhaps an old photograph, flyer, piece of vinyl – and these will be the springboard for a conversation around heritage: What is it? Why is it important? What are the challenges for black British music heritage in particular? How can we all be part of tracing and preserving it?

This is a conversation for all ages and music tastes. Those old music magazines in your loft, cassettes in shoeboxes, that photo you and your friends at a gig? This is heritage in danger of being lost as generations pass. Let’s find it, value it and talk about it. If you’d like to contribute to the community archive come along early with images you’d like to share on your phone.’ (

About the Being Human Festival:

‘Led by the School of Advanced Study, University of London, in partnership with the Arts & Humanities Research Council and the British Academy, Being Human is a national forum for public engagement with humanities research. The festival highlights the ways in which the humanities can inspire and enrich our everyday lives, help us to understand ourselves, our relationships with others, and the challenges we face in a changing world.’

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:

Screen Shot 2017-05-21 at 19.30.15


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

The Oxford Handbook of Music & Virtuality (2016)

Book Cover 2

In 2016, my first co-edited book was published. As some of you may know, my co-editor, the late Professor Sheila Whiteley, never saw the finished product but what I can share with you is that we had so much fun working on this project.

We were lucky to be working with a great variety of contributors ranging from musicologists, producers, composers, journalists, musicians and performance artists. With this is mind, the Handbook delivers inter-and multi-disciplinary perspectives in which virtuality mediates the distribution, acquisition, performance, creation and remixing of music.

I have been fortunate to present some book talks and panels, please see below for images.

For more information on the book, please click on the book’s image. If you would like to discuss any of the book’s features, then please visit the website. Special gratitude goes to Dr. Paul Carr for his support in setting up and curating the discussion on the website. (

IASPM UK & Ireland Biennal Conference (University of Sussex/BIMM, Brighton)

Book Launch/Panel (part of the Sheila Whiteley Tribute):

Rambarran OUP MV Book Launch UK 2016


Rambarran OUP MV Book Launch Brighton 2016

Rambarran OUP MV Book Panel IASPM Brighton 2016

Contributors (Left to right):
Drs. Louise H. Jackson, Benjamin Halligan, Mike Dines, Christian Lloyd,
Paul Carr & Shara Rambarran

 The Art of Record Production Conference (Aalborg University, Denmark)

Book Talk and Panel


Benjamin OBrien                MV

  Dr. Benjamin O’Brien                                                                                                                                                 Dr. Ragnhild Brøvig-Hanssen (left)

Images by: Tom Attah, Louise Jackson & Zack Moir.

The 20 Most Memorable Songs of 1991: The KLF & ‘3am Eternal’ (PopMatters)

Click on the image or read below. Justified. 

Screen Shot 2017-06-29 at 14.34.56

The Kopyright Liberation Front, a controversial British group fronted by Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, were known for their DIY punk attitude and sampling music illegally. But unlike U.S. hip-hop artists (who had to clear samples with copyright holders as a result of the significant Grand Upright v. Warner Brothers lawsuit in 1991), they got away with it. Drummond and Cauty followed their own musical ritual based on their book, The Manual (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way), which resulted in “3 A.M. Eternal”. This now classic song is composed of unlimited hooks ranging from KLF chants to sampled bleeps to Maxine Harvey’s delectable “3 A.M.” vocals, which are saturated with simulations of live crowds. KLF’s postmodern music blended genres like hip hop, soul, rock, and dance in ways that appealed to people regardless of age and musical tastes. It provided insight into other musical genres, especially as the UK rave scene was dying. The song invited the audience to sing its most insinuating lines—“KLF’s gonna rock ya”—which is why this track feels eternal. Along with the song, we recall KLF’s obsession with sheep and an incident involving the burning of £1,000,000, though does anyone else remember Ricardo Da Force’s “brick” cell phone?  © Shara Rambarran (2011)

Alexander Bard: The ‘King Midas’ of Scandipop?


Bard Pic

A couple of years ago I wrote a piece on the Swedish pop music producer, Alexander Bard for PopMatters. Here are some teasers only (contact me if you want me to discuss the musicological and production side of Bard’s works):

‘… Alexander Bard who started his musical career in the 1980s, found success in the 1990s, and is currently much in demand in the industry and media, such as being a Pop Idol judge in Sweden. Bard also performs, and perhaps is best known for his 1990s pop-electronica act The Army of Lovers.

Bard’s early works have been musically shaped by his involvement in the Nordik Beat scene since the late 1980s (aka Scandinavian electro-pop scene). As part of his creations, Bard has collaborated with fellow Swedish producers such as Ola Håkansson, Anders Wollbeck, Anders Hansson and Henrik Wikström and has performed his songs with various groups.

Besides composing fashionable songs that contain memorable hooks and lyrics, Bard adds sparkle by crafting sugary and eccentric music that are twisted with Abba-esque anthems. Although some of these pop song ingredients may be perceived as typical, we are becoming more aware on the role of the producer, particularly in the current digital and celebrity cultures that we live in…’

Speaking of digital cultures…

Currently, I am researching on one of his projects, Gravitonas, but this time exploring the dark side of pop music and Bard’s advocacy for digital cultures (the abstract below was presented at a conference in 2015 and is currently a work in progress–contact me for more details):

‘The dark electro-pop sounds of Gravitonas are ornamented with genre-blending and the gothical vocals of Andreas Öhrn. The lyrical themes of lament and joy provoke catharsis and confinement to the listener. This concept will be demonstrated in the reading of their song ‘People are Lonely’ (2014). The vocality of Öhrn’s authoritarian words against Alexander Bard’s quivering and feminine tones, and how the music carries their incompatible duet will be explored. The freak show video displays the group’s obsession with technology—which suggests that in the digital world of social interaction, in reality, people ARE lonely.’

Dedicated to Stuart Meads ♥

I will never forget you Stu, my friend and S/A/W | DX7 expert, even if you did hated reggae…

© Shara Rambarran

The Record Producer And The Law (DJ Danger Mouse) Published in: Journal on the Art of Record Production

Click on the image and/or read below (if you would like to read more on this topic you can read my article on: Danger Mouse and The Grey Album). RECOGNISE. 

Screen Shot 2017-04-27 at 18.32.44

© Justin Hampton

Having been the subject of cyber activism himself, it is still a sore subject for Brian Burton, also known as DJ Danger Mouse—one of the successful producers of today. Three years ago, he was in the news for an artwork that was roundly condemned by a certain record company. Well, if you had the extraordinary idea to ‘mash-up’ Jay-Z’s Black Album and the Beatles self-titled album, you would expect a strong reaction, wouldn’t you? Originally titled The Black-White Album, it was instantly and infamously nicknamed the Grey Album by the media and supporters. This linguistic twist of the title highlighted his use of the Beatles’ music without permission and, as a consequence, legal trouble soon followed.

The problem for those, like myself, who admire his creativity is, how do you convince a corporate body retrospectively that this album is of immense value as a work of art and should be given copyright clearance in order for that value to be recognized and, perhaps, bring more capital to the industry as a result? Some people who heard it may have loathed it due to personal musical tastes—but, importantly, that is not the reason why the industry did not want to recognize the album’s creative significance and the imagination and skill that Burton put into it as a producer. Yet, this controversial album brought new musical experience and meanings out of the pre-existing work of Jay-Z and the Beatles. Therefore, I believe Burton should rightfully be considered the author of the album; it is, after all, his creation—his ‘Re-Mix’. If producers, musicians, academics, and others are going to be deprived of gaining inspiration by listening to such creations, then they will always be driven to find a way of hearing and supporting such works, even if it is illegal. This raises a fundamental question: can aesthetic arguments ever override legal judgments?  © Shara Rambarran (2007)

We Are All Living In A Wallspace: James Mudriczki’s new project, Nihilists

In late October 2016, ‘Walking Dead’ was trending on social media. Oblivious that Halloween was imminent and a television horror show was receiving global and virtual attention, I was instantly reminded of the 2002 song of the same title by the classic Mancunian band, Puressence. I did want not to indulge in finding out on why this certain television show was trending. Instead, I decided to revisit the music of Puressence—a neglected group renowned for their cityscape music that carried the melancholic sounds played by guitars, strings etc. and were emotionally led by distinctive electrifying-soulful vocals. Dwelling on the dark romanticized themes of loss and hope, Puressence were robbed from gaining a well-deserved recognition in British popular culture (and music industry). They persevered however and stayed true to their identities and roots. In return, Puressence earned a loyal fan base.


After the band split in 2013, the lead singer James Mudriczki teamed up with Steven Kelly (guitars/programming) and John Patterson (drummer/multi-instrumentalist) and formed Nihilists—a term meaning ‘unbeliever’, that suggests a philosophical edge in the band’s music. This brings a reminder of the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard and his thoughts on nihilism by suggesting that ‘there is no hope for meaning…this is a good thing: meaning is mortal’ (p. 164). This is a familiar story that only Mudriczki’s followers will understand as his new music still carry the themes of meaningless loss and hope—as demonstrated in the debut double A side single ‘Wallspace’ and ‘Over is so Over’:


Puressence fans may be partially surprised that when they hear this track, the music production carries the vocality of Mudriczki to another level. The track draws in Depeche Mode-esque sounds along with hints of Northern and Nordic experimental/electronic music. The mood, somehow reminds me of postindustrial cityscapes of Manchester and Berlin, capturing scenes of averted fear, loss, hope, and resistance in erasing the evocation of emotions. The gradual introduction begins with a piercing guitar feedback that is over layered with distant, distorted and guttural voices. These sounds are immediately joined with heavy beats and staggered entry synths that turn into assorted layers of hooks.

Not one but many voices of Mudriczki begin to emphasize the main hook in the verse: ‘I’m living in a wallspace’. Every vocal layer is technically manipulated that results in a distorted, and intimate experience for the listener. The different vocal identities of Mudriczki all carry a semi-monotone feel that displays unemotional darkness. The chorus allures a musical conversation with himself by allowing the hypnotic ‘I’ to respond with unified chants. The galore of synth hooks, embellished guitar melodies (played by The Verve’s Nick McCabe) and polyrhythmic beats enhances the musical disorientation that signifies Mudriczki’s entrapment in ‘Wallspace’.

Later in the song, the musical direction alters when the break drops to a slow speed. Here, the deep and anxious driven bass line supports Mudriczki’s meditative drowned out words of ‘wallspace…’. Followed by an energetic break, Mudriczki quickly teases the listener with his stylistic trademarks of tremolo and emotional vocals.  This short-lived liberation of his authentic voice suddenly evaporates when the chorus and his troubled vocal identities return.  ‘Wallspace’ offers a fresh and inviting take on experimental/electronic music that is supported with themes of darkness and entrapment.

Over is so Over

The second A side single welcomes the return of the traditional Mancunian-musical sounds of Mudriczki. The minimal entry of the chorus FX guitar, programmed (and later live) drums, synths and Mudriczki’s vocals are progressively supported with a lament string arrangement and are embellished with the sounds of symphonic guitars and a hypnotic descending bass groove. In a way, this track differentiates musically from ‘Wallspace’ but yet at the same time, the lyrical features remain. What you’ll hear now is the classic Mudriczki’s vocals, sharing his intimacy with the listener, especially when he despairingly surrenders on the line ‘give me a reason to lift my head again’—etching the endurance of trapped darkness and loss. This continuation of the dark romanticized themes are united with both traditional and fresh musical sounds of Manchester’s cityscape: the almost no frills production of the internal colloquial guitar arrangement that are gently blended with weeping strings, a dominating bass line and off beat drumming. The duration of the song is quite lengthy, with its strophic form droning for over seven minutes. This hints that Mudriczki’s introspective thoughts do not signify the feeling of giving up even though the title ‘over is so over’ may suggest otherwise. The matter is actually left unresolved, hinting that there’s more to come from Nihilists. Welcome back James Mudriczki.

The Double A Side Single was released on 4th November, 2016. You can order a copy from here:

For information on Nihilists:

Twitter: @nihilistsmusic

© Shara Rambarran