Sunday, October 25, 2020

How Black Radio Stations Revolutionised the UK’s Music Scene

Black Radio DJ's and Presenters are essential for the Black Community


The original Kiss FM team in 1987

Lets give a big hand to the pioneers that set the pace and those that are still dedicated to providing the community with a need that is still in great demand and has it place in being the premier platform of choice for business owners , promoters and consumers to get their message across to the masses.Media United are partnering with DJ’s and Presenters across the UK to provide MENTIONS for a tenner(£10.00) , adverts and sponsorship packages under the affordable advertising banner that is much needed. Supporting the voice of the community to bring back the old and re-establish musical genius.

During the 1980s pirate radio was the only means of hearing new and culturally diverse music. It was a period of creativity and technical innovation, one where black British musicians were carving out a space for themselves on the airwaves.

Wesker who helped legalise the station Kiss FM and became head of music recalls what it was like when he arrived on the scene: “The UK black music scene was absolutely buzzing,” he says, “there were tons of pirate radio stations, the clubs were full, the record shops were doing brisk business and the UK acts were really starting to make noise.”

Black communities who felt their musical tastes and interests weren’t catered for and commercial stations turned to pirate radio stations like Kiss , Lightning, RJR, SWR, Omega, Conscious, Radio Diamond, Unity, Legacy ( too many to name) to disseminate black news, culture and music.

Not only did stations give a platform to British black music makers, they acted as a means for the black community to know what is going on as mainstream news often ignored the plights of the black community, focussing on the negative and stereotyping black people. Black businesses and promoters have often needed to get the advertising ,promotion and marketing out there and whilst big agencies support the mainstream radio stations and DJ’s the innovators of community or pirate stations provided an alternative. Media United exists to support radio stations and DJ’s across the UK to access the millions of spending power of the black community and support the businesses and promoters who want affordable advertising.

Legalising pirate stations took a lot of work as racism was still rife in the industry:

“That involved much correspondence, documentary evidence, a press campaign and petitions, but we finally convinced that them a black music radio station could be successful. Even then the station had to come off air for a year before they could obtain their license.

Today’s music scene would sound drastically different without many acts that got air time in the 80s, “You can hear traces of sounds from Sade, Roachford, Aswad, Loose Ends, Soul II Soul and Massive Attack in so much of the 90s and 00s pop music that followed,” says Wesker,  “Nellee Hooper’s work on Soul II Soul and Massive Attack took British black music to new levels. Something like Unfinished Sympathy will be around forever.”

Dread Broadcasting Corporation (DBC) was Britain’s first black owned radio station which responded to the lack of diversity on the licensed stations with a mixture of reggae, soul, calypso, funk and hip-hip. Other stations that, according to Wesker, gave black acts vital exposure included Invicta, Solar, Horizon, JFM, LWR, Starpoint and Kiss.

Reggae stations in particular were hugely influential in supporting black musicians: Across the UK there were soul and reggae pirates stations. All of these stations played their part and many black acts got their first play on these stations.

By the end of the 1980s there were 600 pirate stations operating nationwide and 60 in London alone, but the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) who regularly raided stations, kept them on their toes. Pirate radio was in all four corners of London, in tower blocks, disused shops and in rooms in very innocent-looking terraced houses, but everyone had to keep moving to keep the DTI off their trail.”

With many of the venues no longer around to tell the story of the black music scene . Places  like Bali Hi, All Nations, Cobweb, Club Noreik at Seven Sisters, 104 Club with the sounds that carried the vibes like the mighty Jah Shaka sound system.

“Places like Phoebes, Four Aces and The Cue (Q) Club in Paddington were black-owned clubs, created for the black community, and gave people of colour somewhere to go when other doors were not open.

Coxsone International Sound System – Clement Dodd with the microphone

1 Comment

  • I remember being in my teens and my older brother and sisters in their early twenties would be getting dressed and ready to go to Club Noreik in Tottenham , Seven Sisters. The items were Gabicci, Croc and Lizard skin shoes, Sovereign and Belchers. The male youth had blakeys on their shoes and jeans with the seam sewn in. The females had pencil skirts and both had wet look.

    But with all of this said it was the music scene and network of DJ’s and Sound Systems that carried the talk. The voice of the black community was and still is in their hands but they just don’t know it or how to use it. I love the days when our unique mode of communication works faster than any form of modern technology as it is based on principles and concepts that we feel and is transmitted through honour and integrity.

    Who remembers and still relates to these days?

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