Rich history of Brent’s black music roots

Brent Black Music History Photographic Exhibition

The rich history of Brent’s black music roots is documented for the first time in photographs by Patrick Friday and Kwaku. Don’t miss this unique photographic exhibition open now.

London borough of Brent’s unique black music history is captured in a photographic exhibition open until Nov. 2008, and it’s dominated by Caribbean personalities. The photos come from the BTWSC Heritage Lottery Funded Brent Black Music History Project DVD and booklet, which features buildings, in addition to artists and industry players with Caribbean ancestry ranging from the foundation builders Sonny Roberts, Carl Palmer, Lee Gopthal and Chris Blackwell – who all came from Jamaica to help build theBritish black music industry in the 1960s with their respective companies, Planetone, Pama, and Island Records.

The Brent Black Music History Photographic Exhibition was recently launched at Brent Museum’s Community Gallery in Willesden Green Library Centre, north-west London by Harlesden Councillor Lincoln Beswick MBE, whos been a Brent resident since leaving Jamaica in 1962.

The photos are taken from pan-London voluntary organisation BTWSCs Heritage Lottery Funded Brent Black Music History Project, which created a free DVD and booklet documenting buildings and people with a connection with black music spanning 1966 to 2006 in Britains most ethnically diverse borough.

In addition to contributors such as Sonny Roberts, who set up the first black-owned recording studio and label, Planetone, in 1962, and Carl Parlmer, who along with two brothers set up Pama in 1967, which is the forerunner of Jet Star, Britains biggest reggae-specialist distributor, there are other Caribbean contributors such as Congo Music director and artist Root Jackson, record label owner and artist TC Cuttis, singer-songwriter and former Central Line leader Camille Hinds, dancehall DJ Gappy Ranks, Akubu singer/guitarist Valerie ‘Vibes’ Skeete, Phil Fearon, former recording artist and owner of the Production House label, Daddy Ernie and Robbo Ranx, reggae presenters on Choice FM and BBC 1Xtra, respectively.

Brents black music history include the fact that Aswad are the only British reggae band to top the singles charts (with Dont Turn Around); Janet Kays the only female British reggae singer to make the Top 2 (with Silly Games); Trojan, once the worlds biggest reggae label, and Island Records, were Brent-based. The latter label signed its biggest star, Bob Marley, who was then living in the borough.

The launch was dedicated to one of the Project contributors, Paulette Patterson, a former singer with 70s reggae band Prediction and 80’s R&B/dance duo Dazzle, who sadly passed away in June of last year, a few months after the completion of the Project. Cllr Beswick received a token on behalf of the family of his former constituent.

I am very proud of this, because this exhibition needs to be here. This is historic stuff, said Cllr Beswick in his presentation speech. We had to fight to establish our music when we first came here. Harlesden has produced some of the best musicians from anywhere, locally, regionally and nationally.

“I am very proud of the work Paulette was doing. We are all not drug pushers and gun runners – were more than that, and this history shows that.”

Were grateful that Brent Museum has given us space for such a long time to display some of our photos. So no one who wants to see the exhibition can miss it. It will also allow us to facilitate events around the exhibition, noted Project consultant Kwaku.

Added one of the Project contributors, Hugh Francis, former head of intellectual property and business affairs at Jet Star Records and former member of 70’s reggae-fusion band 90% Proof: I am saying to the young people – pick up and instrument and learn a craft, and that way you can have longevity in the music business. Britain will benefit because it brings money into the community, and whats good for British black music is ultimately good for Britain.

Project contributors Root Jackson, head of Congo Music and co-founder of former Brent-based Black Music Association, and Paul Dawkins of Tradition, a ’70s reggae band started in Brent were among the audience.