Don Letts is a true legend of UK punk. A filmmaker, musician and DJ, the London-born icon has stood at the helm of the country’s most vital scene for over four decades, as both a documentarian and participant.
Known for bringing dub and reggae sounds into the punk sphere during his peerless DJ sets at The Roxy and forming the post-punk outfit Big Audio Dynamite with The Clash’s Mick Jones, Letts’ influence cannot be understated.
As a child of the Windrush generation, whose father came to the UK from Jamaica after the Second World War, Letts has been acquainted with the social, political and cultural significance and joyous power of Notting Hill Carnival his whole life. With that keen understanding, as well as an encyclopedic knowledge of the annual event’s musical trajectory from the Trinidadian and Tobagonian calypso sound to Jamaican sound system culture and beyond, we asked the luminary to pick ten tracks that, for him, define Carnival.
You can listen to Don Letts’ and Turtle Bay’s most recent Reggae 45 podcast here.
Sister Nancy ‘Bam Bam’
“An old school reggae classic that reminds me of the time sound systems ruled Carnival in the mid seventies - back then there were hundreds.”
Half Pint ‘Greetings’
“A rally cry with a wicked bass line that’s an invite to all tribes to come and partake in the festivities”
Cronixx ‘Alpha & Omega’
“One of my current Jamaican favourites with the riddim twins, Sly and Robbie, in full effect - a modern take on the roots vibes that first drew me to Carnival in my early teens”
Chaka Demus & Pliers ‘Tease Me’
“This one’s for the ladies ‘cause once they’re movin’ and groovin’ everything else will take care of itself”
Congo Natty ‘UK Allstars’
“A great tune that perfectly captures the heyday of jungle when it crashed Carnival in the early ‘90s by paying respect to the pioneers of the form"
Bunji Carlin, Kubiyashi & Walsh Fire ‘Chicken and Dumpling’
“....and if you can resist all the culinary delights on offer across the two days of Carnival you're a slimmer being than me!"
Gardna ft. Tiffani Juno ‘See The Vibe’
“Straight outta Bristol one of the hottest UK M.C’s around with a tune that’s guaranteed to nice up any dance”
Protoje ‘Answer To You Name’
“Another of my current favourite Jamaican artists with a tune that’s a nod to a Prince Buster classic”
DJ Vadim & Blackstone ‘ No No No’
“A reworking of one of my all time favourite reggae tunes by a master of the remix Russia’s DJ Vadim”
Major Lazer ‘Blaze Up the Fire feat. Chronixx’
“Carnival’s come along way since the days of calypso and reggae - in the 21st century all genres are represented and It remains the perfect place to hear the evolution of urban music in the UK”