Mon, Jan 02, 2006 - Page 13 News List

It's getting grimy in London's East End

By Natalie Hanman  /  THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

It was the year of live music in the UK -- 2005 saw gig-going, guitars and live recordings firmly back in fashion. But the most exciting genre of music's youthful rebellion, grime, ain't getting a look in. And many suspect it is because the bands are black.

An offshoot of garage, hip-hop and electronica, grime burst out of London's East End in 2002. With the success of its most charming star, Dizzee Rascal, and the acclaimed Run the Road compilation, grime was poised to leap from pirate stations into the mainstream.

But last October a gig by Kano, the genre's rising star, was canceled after local council and police were said to have deemed it a safety risk. What was a burgeoning live grime scene has since skidded to a halt and sales of new releases have slowed.

From the UK rapper Sway being banned from the Jazz Cafe, in Camden, north London, after a fight which it is claimed had nothing to do with the artist, to the police advising promoters to remove "dangerous" acts from line-ups, it is not looking good for grime.

"There'll be a riot," the police told Vice magazine about a planned November gig that had three of grime's biggest names -- Kano, Lethal Bizzle and Roll Deep -- playing alongside famous white faces of indie rock. According to Vice's editor, Andy Capper, the police said, "That Lethal B has fights at his gigs and the police shut down Kano's Scala gig because of gang violence." It's odd, then, that those familiar with grime say there have been no such fights.

Some think the radical nature of the scene scares the uninitiated. Grime gigs attract crowds of black youngsters who come as part of a crew, or collective, and jump around with their hoods up, getting rowdy.

It's not the sort of thing you see at a U2 concert -- one promoter says it reminds him of footage he watched of the first punk gigs: raw energy being channelled in a creative environment.

As grime is a genre that works best live, canceling gigs means negative coverage and even less of the positive press that comes from live reviews. Preventing these artists from performing is a form of censorship.

But the bigger question surely is: why isn't grime more popular? If it were, there would surely be a riot at any attempt to stop kids getting their fix of live grime sounds.

Instead, the UK's music-buying public are put off by the unfamiliar fast and furious tone and aggressive-sounding lyrics rapped over a beat. Maybe grime is unpopular because people have a problem with working-class black kids organizing themselves to do something creative. Or is the music just not that good? Well, you won't know if you don't listen.

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