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City Views: A Personal Love Letter to Sheffield

24th July 1993, Music In The Sun – a multicultural weekend festival in Sheffield.


A rumble of intense bass and the clatter of multilayered drum patterns grabs my attention from a tent in the distance. I’m ten years old and though I’ve heard this sound before, I’ve never heard it this loud!

Alone as I wander into the tent, I’m met by a pulsating sea of colour, of moving limbs and of bodies much bigger than myself. Stack after stack of enormous speakers shake me to my core. The music resonates with my soul.

I’m getting jostled about as I push deeper into the crowd but a friendly face looks down on me and, shoving aside his flailing dreadlocks, he scoops me up and onto his shoulders. From my new vantage point I can take in the whole scene: whistles and horns blasting and the ravers all smiles and dancing. The DJ cues up slab after slab of scorching hot vinyl and acetate selections whilst an MC (General Levi) pelts the audience with rapid-fire lyrics. I’m totally swept away with the energy and the vibe.

From that moment on, jungle music was in my veins!

When I finally leave the festival field I’m clutching a CD, Jungle Hits Vol. 1, purchased directly from Jet Star, a UK-based reggae/CD was a huge commercial success as jungle music – a sound emerging from the hardcore break-beat era of the late 80s/early 90s, fuelled by Afro-Caribbean culture, samples and artists – takes hold of the UK underground music scene.

Artists including Macka B, Michael Prophet and Sweetie Irie also performed at Music in the Sun in ’93. These artists made a big impression on me too, especially Michael Prophet with his crying sing-jay style performing his ‘81 hit, ‘Gunman’. But the biggest credit goes to local jungle artists like Mongoose, Eazy D, Mental Power, MC Rush and DJ SS from Leicester over in the dance tent for forging my early obsession with jungle music.

Honourable mentions must also go to Sound System crews like Desert Storm, Saxon, Gladywax and DJs from Sheffield’s SCR pirate radio station. Watching these collectives at various Music in the Sun events opened my eyes to a type of performance I’d never witnessed before. I vividly remember being astonished and outraged when Trevor Sax on the mic for Saxon Sound marched over to the DJ and pulled back a tune. ‘MCs can’t do that!’ I thought. Now I understand that Trevor was the selector AND the MC and he could do whatever he wanted!

Alex Deadman- Musician

“I’m met by a pulsating sea of colour, of moving limbs and of bodies much bigger than myself.”

I must also big up Godson from UK Mama who passed me plenty of free dumplings and gave me my first taste of raw sugarcane, helping a young lad low on funds to stay nourished over the weekend. Music in the Sun took place at Don Valley Bowl, a large green space created alongside Don Valley Stadium in preparation for the World Student Games in 1991. I was taken to the festival by my Dad, Alan Deadman (aka Papa Al), who ran the JuJu Club tent over the weekend in ’93 and also went on to have a hand in several events and festivals taking place at this site. Dad had run the JuJu Club, a global live music event alongside my Mum (Ro) and initially some other families since the late 80s.

This early exposure to events like Music in the Sun was hugely influential on my own career. In the years that followed I helped to found The Junglist Alliance, a rag-tag crew of DJs, MCs, promoters, ravers, graffiti artists and party animals mostly comprised of youngsters who met at High Storrs school. The Junglist Alliance have been lucky enough to perform all over the UK and have appeared internationally including curating stages with audiences of over 5,000 at Rototom Reggae Sun-splash Festival in Spain and Italy and being the first ever international jungle ambassadors to perform in Albania. I’ve had a hand in Tramlines Festival since its inception in 2009 and have organised club nights, record labels and spent over 10 years working with Under the Stars, a disability arts charity running club nights and music sessions.

Although Music in the Sun did include indie tents and performers (a young Richard Hawley performed in ‘93 with The Longpigs just months after the band had formed), the festival was very much a product of a thriving Afro-Caribbean community based right here in Sheffield. This was not a niche event tucked away in a hidden corner of the city. It was a huge event attended by all walks of life with mainstream partners including Radio Sheffield and the Sheffield Telegraph.

I know that like many large-scale events, long term financial success did not materialise for this festival, but this does not diminish the influence. For me, the multiculturalism that led to Music in the Sun represents everything I love about the city. I’m aware that for various reasons, the Afro-Caribbean community is not as well represented as it used to be, but the flame is still very much alive with plenty of smaller festivals taking place each year and a steady stream of artists emerging in various musical genres.

I hope the cultural cohesion that led to Music in the Sun can be strengthened for the future – to inspire the youth and to continue Sheffield’s legacy as a cultural melting pot. I give thanks to my family, to Sheffield, to everyone who made the festival possible and to the vibrant Afro-Caribbean community for the inspiration, the music, the curry goat and the memories!

For me, the multiculturalism that led to Music in the Sun represents everything I love about the city. I’m aware that for various reasons, the Afro-Caribbean community is not as well represented as it used to be, but the flame is still very much alive with plenty of smaller festivals taking place each year and a steady stream of artists emerging in various musical genres.

@DeadmanJunglist




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