Bass line: Notting Hill Carnival is the cultural jewel of festival season

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This weekend sees the Notting Hill Carnival take over west London. A good excuse to party, dance and generally have a good time? Undoubtedly.

Notting Hill Carnival is a 'unique phenomenon' in British cultural life

But in an age of seemingly non-stop summer music festivals Carnival plays a crucial role in British life, according to researchers from Goldsmiths, University of London.

Professor Julian Henriques from Goldsmiths’ Department of Media and Communications says that Carnival has a place as a “unique phenomenon, contribution and expression of British cultural life and the country’s musical landscape".

He adds: "Notting Hill Carnival brings together Caribbean culture and music like no other. The Trinidad-inspired floats, costume bands and soca music circulate around Notting Hill in the parade, while the British Jamaican reggae sound systems occupy the streets in the centre.

“Carnival is the two days in the year where the streets are owned by the people walking and partying on them.

“Carnival is where the Caribbean in Britain welcomes the rest of the world with music, dance, food and fun.”

Professor Henriques has been undertaking research into reggae sound systems in Jamaica and the UK for a number of years. His work investigates immersive experience of sound, in shared social settings, where the sonic becomes visceral and corporeal.

Thanks to this research he is due to be made a Listed Londoner on BBC Radio London on Monday 29 August. Professor Henriques will appear on the Dotun Adebayo show on the Bank Holiday - in between attending Carnival on Sunday and Monday - to talk about sound system culture. 

Over the last year Professor Henriques has helped Goldsmiths host two Sound System Outernational symposiums. This summer’s ended with a Sound System Session at the Amersham Arms in New Cross, with Young Warrior, Roots Injection Sound System and Selector Don Letts playing.


Professor Julian Henriques tells why it's important to study sound systems.