Culted 101: Your sound system strat for Notting Hill Carnival

Culted 101: Your sound system strat for Notting Hill Carnival

by Ollie Cox
5 min

August bank holiday is here, which means it’s Carni time! Worthy of a place in everyone’s calendar, Notting Hill Carnival brings the party to West London, in the second largest street carnival in the world, second only to Rio. So it’s pretty big. 

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As well as the iconic parades that weave and wind through the streets of West London, several sound systems are dotted around, engulfing pockets of quaint Notting Hill streets. 

Sound systems have been integral to Carnival since 1973 when they were officially introduced as part of a demand for more Jamaican sounds to accompany the Tobago and Trindadian-rooted steel-pan set-ups. 

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The sound systems at this year’s event vary from recent additions to the roster to longstanding legends. Gaz’s Rockin Blues is tied with the legendary Globe nightclub in Notting Hill and plays strictly vinyl, reggae, ska, and old R&B, with a strong bass that reverberates through your organs. If you get a chance to listen to these guys, you won’t be leaving disappointed. Do your ears a favour and head to 103 Talbot Road, outside Globe. 

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King Tubby’s Sound System is named after the reggae legend and first arrived at Carnival in 1974. The first Carnival for these guys got off to a rough start when a commotion in the crowd led to the equipment getting damaged. Tubby was a sound engineer whose interest in electronics led him to study it at college before building his own sound systems, pioneering his own delay and reverb effects. After his tragic murder in 1989, this sound system celebrates his legacy. Find these guys on Clydesdale Road. 

Aba Shanti is a sound system operator and dub producer from the UK who has played across Europe for over 30 years and has been a permanent fixture at Carnival since 1993. started by dub legend Joseph Smith, who cut his teeth on Jah Tubby’s system in the 80s. When Smith adopted Rastafarianism as his faith, Aba Shanti was acquired. Head to Aba Shanti on the corner between Southern and Eastern Row for guaranteed good times. 

Channel One made their Carnival debut in 1983 and have played at every one since. This sound system was formed by brothers Mikey Dread and Jah T and pays homage to the legendary Channel One studio in Jamaica. Listen out for uplifting steppas played on a bass-heavy handbuilt system near Leamington Road Villas. 

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Gladdy Wax is a sound system veteran and pioneer of London’s reggae scene, with one of the strongest vinyl collections in his genre. These guys will be stationed on Portobello Road, so you shouldn’t have trouble finding them. 

Deviation, the London party people behind some of the wildest Carni afterparties from 2007 to today, is a relatively new addition to the sound-system set-up. 

Founded in 2007 by resident Benji B and host Judah Afriyie, these guys started out by throwing killer club nights on a Wednesday to attract real music heads and avoid the weekend crowd. 

In 2016, these guys moved from the club and into the street, partnering with KILLERWATT Sound System. Playing everything from house to Jungle and everything in between, good vibes are guaranteed at Deviation. 

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Carni is a long time on your feet, but don’t worry, the streets of West London are rammed with banging food stalls perfect for a mid-party pitstop. 

So with all this to look forward to, grab some tinnies, rally your mates and head to West London, but try to arrive together as phone signal is a rare commodity in a crowd this big. Our advice: Have a few pre-Carni cold ones together before you leave. That way you can stick together. 

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