The List charts the rise of Soul II Soul.

All that jazz

Soul II Soul are cultivators ofthe potential of club culture; a sound system, a shop, a band. Avril Mair and Colin Steven took a trip with DJ Jazzy Q from the collective, on the eve of his debut appearance in Scotland.

‘My name‘s DJ Jazzy Q from the Sound of Soul II Soul Sound System down in London, and we‘re a collective ofabout five guys, which is the main bulk of the Soul II Soul sound system, and it‘s just like, spreading our knowledge and our experiences in way of like, opening record shops, clothes shops, and record companies. Things like that.‘

From local groove merchants to international movement, the rise ofSoul II Soul is one ofthe most remarkable phenomena of the 803.

A group who are more than a group, they have

been labelled the most important development in

British Black music in the decade; an amorphous creative body with a musical and multi-racial mantra for the new age: ‘A happy face, a thumping bass, for a loving race.‘

Described alternately as children ofcapitalism. symbols ofa new identity for Black Britain. and cultivators of the potential ofclub culture, their abilities are truly multi-faceted. Soul II Soul balance business acumen and an understanding ofthe times with altruism, combining strong humanitarian policies with a talent for self-presentation.

This rationale governs their every move the Soul II Soul empire now numbers club. sound system, band, shop and record label, yet it still embodies the original manifesto and is seen as merely an extension of the collective.

Soul II Soul began as part of the ‘85 Warehouse party boom, DJs with a reggae—influenced sound system and a distinctive economical style. As the media muscled in on the scene, commercial instinct coupled with critical timing moved the Funki Dreds to a residency at London‘s Africa Centre, the ‘Centre ofthe World‘ immortalised in ‘Jazzie‘s Groove‘. After that. the logical step was to go overground, to a legal venue The Fridge. in Brixton where they still spin a glorious soul sound today.

The Soul II Soul posse Jazzie B (figurehcad, songwriter), Nellee (producer), Aitch (shop manager), Daddae (backing vocals) and Q (soundsystem DJ) gathered round this club nucleus, but soon diversified into other related

commercial ventures. They took aspects ofan underground lifestyle and made them consumer products music, clothes and attitude by implication.

The music ofSoul II Soul, though, is undoubtedly what has turned the enclave into stars. Possessors ofa home-grown, naturalistic black image, their dependence on drum and bass to produce a soul and reggae-influenced silky downbeat funk has resulted in the band being hailed as the second coming of British dance music, prototype rave artists.

But this came about purely by chance. Given a few free hours in a studio, Nellee and Jazzie B produced ‘Fairplay‘; a record deal with Virgin‘s dance label 10 followed. This single reached Number 63 in the chart in 1988, but its follow-up, ‘Feel Free‘, only managed Number 71. Then along came the anthemic groove of ‘Keep On Moving‘, and the rest is common knowledge.

‘Club Classics Vol 1‘, the band‘s first album, firmly established Soul II Soul as dancefloor visionaries and proved to be Virgin‘s fastest selling LP of all-time; a rhythmic maelstrom of aspirational exhortations: ‘Achieve what‘s in your mind‘s eye‘. The second album, ‘Vol 2 - 1990 A New Decade‘, recently released to great critical acclaim. looks set to continue chart domination.

But the dancefloor influence is still vital to Soul II Soul; their roots remain with the kids in the

clubs, and they are first and foremost DJs. The music industry trade paper, ‘Jocks‘, called their


sound system ‘the most famous mobile disco in the world‘. and despite their enormous success they continue to travel around the country to perform their art. Fame. however. as Q explained recently. has made this easier.

‘We used to have to move all the gear ourselves. Some other systems used to to have a bunch of boiler-suited boys to carry the speakers. followed by this slick DJ with a couple of birds on his arm. Not us.‘

From humble origins, Q has developed into one ofBritain‘s foremost DJs. attracting an audience in excess of a thousand to The Fridge each Friday to hear Soul II Soul discs. among others.

‘I like the records and I play them in their entirety,‘ he elucidates. ‘People come to hear those tunes, even though they‘ve been out for so long.‘

What the crowd also unknowingly hear from the sound system is test acetate pressings of new Soul II Soul tracks— ‘to get a reaction. to see if people think they're shit or not‘. But not only do they hear the latest offerings. they actively influence them as well. For Soul ll Soul, club culture is everything.

Jazzy from the Soul II .S'oulsouml system, will be DJ-ing at Insomnia, Wilkie ltoas‘e, lz'tliiiliurg/i on Thurs 14June, I [pm—5am. Also appearing will be another unconfirmed member oft/1e Soul II Soul collective, live rappers and a Kiss I’M 1)]. Tickets £6from A valaltt‘he and Fopp, or on the doon


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