London Neighbourhoods With Music In Their DNA

Harry Rosehill
By Harry Rosehill Last edited 61 months ago
London Neighbourhoods With Music In Their DNA

London is made up of many different neighbourhoods with their own unique and identifiable character. Sound is often central to this character. Different music genres have flourished across the capital, often finding their true home in one particular area. Take a look at the parts of London with music in their DNA.


Despite what you might believe walking Camden's streets today, punk was not born here. It's an import that arrived in a chaotic package in the form of The Ramones on 4 July 1976, at The Roundhouse. The next night, the band visited another Camden venue, Dingwalls. The spark was lit and has burned bright ever since.

Many key members of British punk were at those shows including The Clash, who shot the cover to their debut album on Camden's backstreets. Members of The Sex Pistols were also in tow for those Ramones shows, and the band would later grace the Dingwalls stage themselves.

Today you'll see many market stalls selling (fake) Sex Pistols merchandise, but it's worth noting that, like punk itself, the band was an import to Camden. The Sex Pistols' beginnings centred on edgy fashion boutiques on Chelsea's King's Road. Ask a Chelsea resident for their interpretation of 'God Save The Queen' and it'll quickly become clear why Camden is a better fit for the band today.


Photo: Reading Tom

Grime's made a real comeback in recent years across the whole country, so it's easy to forget the genre's humble beginnings. Ask every grime MC where it all started, and they'll all bring up one name. Wiley. The godfather of grime, as he's affectionately known, is from Bow. His contributions to the scene and the area led to him getting his own paving stone, which Wiley himself chose to have placed outside Bow School, which he attended.

Not only did grime begin in Bow but Wiley's famous protege Dizzee Rascal, who brought the genre into the mainstream, is also from here. Since then the music has sunk its claws into the entire city.


Plaque commemorating 2i's Coffee Bar in Soho. Photo: Russell Davies

Soho's been through many phases in its history. It was once the focal point of the nation's film industry. To many, it immediately conjures up associations of pornography and sex shops. At one time it was the fulcrum of rock'n'roll in London.

The 2i's Coffee Bar was Europe's first rock'n'roll venue, where acts such as Cliff Richard and Tommy Steele were discovered. From there things only got bigger and better with the opening of The Marquee Club. The likes of The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix and Fleetwood Mac played there, cementing the area as London's rock'n'roll district.

Elephant & Castle

Elephant & Castle Pub. Photo: Matt Brown

Sipping on a delightful pint inside the Elephant & Castle Pub, you might be unaware that you're in ground zero for UK Garage. In the nineties, the pub hosted a nightclub afterparty named Happy Days every Sunday from 10am-2pm. It attracted punters from nearby mega-club Ministry of Sound, who were still raring to go after that mecca shut at 9am.

The DJs were worried that after a night of hard partying the ravers' energy reserves would be running low. So to remedy tiredness, they sped up the records. Combine this with bass so loud that it "literally shook the windows".

There was a large outcry in 2015 when it emerged the pub was shutting down to be replaced by that bastion of gentrification, Foxtons estate agents. The plans don't seem to have gone anywhere and instead the Elephant & Castle Pub is still there.

Notting Hill

Photo: Max Gor

Head down to Notting Hill Carnival and you'll hear a swirling cavalcade of genres, but one distinctive sound dominates above all others. Booming out of soundsystems across the the distinctive part of west London are the sounds of reggae and dancehall.

The carnival is a celebration for Britain's Caribbean diaspora, so with it comes their music. Everyone is charmed by the fantastic music that Europe's largest street festival brings with it.


The Bussey Building. Photo: Kathi Huidobro

Everyone knows how "cool" and "trendy" Peckham is right now, but it wasn't always this way. How did it change from Del Boy's locale to that of Wavey Garms?

Soul music played a large part in attracting today's young people to ride the Overground down from Dalston. The South London Soul Train night — apparently the world's largest soul night, sprawling multiple floors — at the area's epicentre The Bussey Building, started this. Since then the music and clothing label Peckham Soul has launched, in an attempt to cement Peckham as London's soul town.

Think you know somewhere else where the streets have their own beat? Let us know down in the comments.

Last Updated 11 January 2019