NUBI’s been building up to Red Bull Culture Clash Manchester. For those of you who might not know, Culture Clash is what is known as a ‘Soundclash’: this is where groups of DJs, musicians, MCs and dancers (known collectively as sound-systems) come together in reggae and dancehall tradition to battle to see who has the biggest sound. This form of competition evolved from Jamaican dancehall parties to the block parties of New York that pioneered hip-hop, and, as of last night, a truly epic clash in Manchester.
This form of competition evolved from Jamaican dancehall parties to the block parties of New York that pioneered hip-hop, and, as of last night, a truly epic clash in Manchester.
This was my first time at a Culture Clash event, and after only becoming aware of the event with its 2014 finals with a line up involving Boy Better Know, ASAP Mob and the victors Rebel Sound, I was really interested to see what this event would offer. Having checked out the 4 competing systems a little (Levelz, Made In Manchester, Basstronic and Dub Smugglers), I was really excited to see just how much of a sound I was going to catch a vibe off.
All four systems had a unique sound to bring to the clash: M.I.M were a raw heavy jungle crew, Levelz seemed to be a bit more rooted in an old skool garage vibe, Basstronic were straight traditional – a great reminder of the foundation behind this whole soundclash idea – and Dub Smugglers were really rooted into traditional dubplate styles too. The rules for the clash were as follows:
- 4 rounds, each system gets one set each of 5-15 minutes
- No repeats; no sound system can play the same track as any of the competition unless it’s a remix, cover or otherwise altered
- Most important of all…the audience are the judge; the more noise, the higher the system scores
Made in Manchester
If I tell you these guys had enough bass to punch a hole in your chest and somehow still hold your remains together, I’d probably still be selling them short. They packed out their stage with a veritable army and they truly set the pace. Yet where one sets the pace, another has to pick it up and run with it, and Levelz were not ramping with this…
They threw light-hearted jabs at the competition, telling them they were about to learn the levels needed to handle a soundclash like this. The crowd got madder, the sound got bigger and the energy was palpable. Then the night was well and truly shifted to something incredibly different…
…now these guys know their roots. They started off by calling out to both previous competitors for their lack of “sound quality”, saying (and I will paraphrase and translate because this guy was straight patois when he spoke): “I hear plenty of bass but no tune, I don’t understand a single word you’re saying”.
They then launched into a straight traditional set which I personally enjoyed but there in might have lay the problem for both them and Dub Smugglers.
This wasn’t a crowd full of people well-versed in old time reggae or yard music, so while I was completely overcome with appreciation for seeing this well-rooted aspect of a soundclashing, most of the audience didn’t quite seem to catch on which was unfortunate. So this basically became a clash of titans between the two more contemporary systems, Made In Manchester and Levelz.
In the end, Levelz came out on top of a well fought clash, but there were some truly legendary appearances from people like Top Cat and General Levy from the other competitors. When it comes down to it though, for this only being Red Bull’s third Culture Clash they really hit the ball out the park. It seems they really have a knack for finding niche sub-cultures and investing in them in just the right way. They’ve done it with snowboarding, BMX-ing, B-boying, air racing and now soundclashing.
Personally I can’t wait to what happens in London for the finals in June. If you haven’t reached a Culture Clash yet you have no idea what you’re missing. This is quite possibly one of the best parties I’ve ever been to and that’s exactly what it is: a party; no-one was still, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people bussing the “butterfly”, “bogle” and “spiderman” at the same time. There was not a bad vibe in the place. It was truly a beautiful atmosphere and I recommend it to anyone and everyone – definitely not an event to be missed.
I just want to take a brief moment to address LVLz great humility in their victory also, acknowledging their hometown friends Made In Manchester for coming so correct and also giving the trophy to Dub Smugglers in honour of the belief that they’d been kind of underrated throughout the whole clash.
I would like to give a massive hand to Gemma, my partner in crime and photo-ninja for the night. More of her awesome camera-wielding skills for the night can be marvelled at on NUBI’s Flickr.
Thanks once again to The Rest Is Noise and Red Bull for bringing us out, it was an incredible event.
Feature image credit: Gemma Robinson, NUBI