South London Music Celebrated In Book And Film

Kwes and book cover

London’s music tends to be celebrated city-wide rather than with a geographical bias. Think of The Clash, The Libertines, Sex Pistols or any of the other big names on the London music scene over the decades and they seem like everyone in the city can lay their own claim on them.

Nevertheless parts of the city have their own musical feel, and the music scene south of the river is currently being celebrated in two very different projects.

Firstly comes a documentary from Dazed & Confused taking an intelligent look at some of South London’s best contemporary artists. One of a series featuring cities around the globe, New Music Cities: South London has been produced in association with the AllSaints fashion brand and looks at how the music of the area takes influences from across the world.

At just six minutes long the documentary is an excellent entrance point to anyone unaware of the current south London scene, with a particularly scene-stealing turn from Lewisham-born artist and producer Kwes. You can see the full documentary below.

Roots Manuva describes south London music as “Irish on top of Nigerian on top of reggae on top of gospel”, which sounds to us like quite a night preceding quite some hangover. And to see such a mixture live you’ll probably be heading to the Brixton Academy, the subject of the second south London music project of the moment.

Simon Parkes bought the dilapidated venue for one pound back in 1982, aged just 23, and set about turning it into London’s premier music venues for gigs by the world’s biggest artists. He has now detailed his experiences as the owner of the Academy in a new book, co-authored by JS Rafaeli, entitled Live at the Brixton Academy.

And it’s a superb read for anyone with any interest in music in the capital over the last 30 years. Parkes’s tales of how he overcame Brixton’s image problems (not least because of the 1981 riots) to take on and overhaul the Hammersmith Odeon as the capital’s premier venue are bizarre and frequently hilarious. Choice line: “It turns out that five thousand juiced-up punks looking for a fight can actually be less viscerally irritating than one self-righteous local councillor with a bee in her bonnet.”

It’s also an interesting historical record of the changing face of London, with people of all races coming together in the shared cause of great music. The area duly benefited with shows from cutting-edge new acts and legends like Diana Ross, The Clash, David Bowie, The Stone Roses and the last ever gig by The Smiths.

You can buy the book online at Amazon or Waterstones, or offline from a good old independent book shop (mapped here), and we highly recommend you do.

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