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In the late 70s, soundsystems began blasting out dub in dancehalls around Moss Side, Old Trafford and Hulme, providing a cultural cornerstone for the city’s black community. Now a reggae scene which rivalled London’s is inspiring a new generation
In the late 1940s, the roots of reggae and dub arrived in Britain along with Jamaican immigrants, eventually turning the island into a lovers’ rock. As West Indian communities settled in Brixton, Notting Hill and Bristol’s St Pauls district, Manchester was more George Formby than Jah, but for those newcomers who did make Moss Side, Hulme and Old Trafford their home, the sound of their home island never changed. Jamaican culture came to the cobbles, and King Tubby bass lines would play in the front rooms of terraced houses.
“We had a strong musical culture that we carried with us from Jamaica,” says Kuntri Ranks, vocalist of Dub Smugglers and former member of veteran soundsystem Jah Guide. Ranks has been a voice of Manchester since the early 80s – a procession of people in cars stop to pay their respects to him in the street. “It’s in our blood, we grew up seeing our elders play music and we automatically tried to replicate that as youngsters,” he says as another driver waves through the windscreen, grey smoke billowing from the Heineken factory behind.