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Bringing soca sounds to south London

THE REAL DEAL: The Flagz team have been around since 2007, bringing the Soca sound to south London; left, the guys at work

IF YOU WERE a fan of dancehall and soca and lived in the London area in the early part of the new millennium, Soca vs Bashment was one of the ‘go-to events in Palace Pavilion, east London.

Over a thousand Caribbean music lovers representing their islands. The battle ground was drawn – it was clearly Jamaica vs everyone else.

Trinis, Grenadians, Bajans, St Lucians and just about everyone else rallied troops for the energetic classic riddims from the likes of Rupee or Machel Montano & Alison Hinds. Dancehall DJs like Robbo Ranx, Victor V, Silver Star and yours truly would be armed with the most vicious Vybz Kartel, Capleton or Buju dancehall bullets!

The competition and hunger to be victorious was such that hearing a custom dubplate or two wasn’t out of the ordinary. It was real musical war in the best sense of the term.

Thinking back to it now brings a smile to my face, but like all good things it slowly came to an end. After many failed attempts by many different teams to revive this brand, it wasn’t until a few years ago I got a call to be a contender in one that I thought, “There may be hope.”

After a few due diligence checks, I realised this team Flagz actually had built a fanbase and were perfectly primed to relaunch such an event.

On the night itself I was seriously impressed by the production of the event and organisation of the team. Added to that is the fact that I had made a triumphant return with a win on the night!

Make no mistake, Flagz are the real deal. Jay from the crew gave me some background to the set up. “We started in 2007. We are a group of five who are still active today from south London,” he tells me.

“We saw a market in the area and did an event in 2007, because it seemed Soca fans from the south always had to go elsewhere to rave.

SMOOTH

“We did our event on the first Saturday of every month – no breaks – for seven years. From there we expanded and started a radio station, a sound system and a mas band at carnival and diversified into Europe and America, and that’s where we stand at the minute.” It all sounds like smooth sailing, but as he explained, that is far from the truth.

“The first hurdle we faced was that we were always told Soca in South London wouldn’t work”, he explains. “We were up against dancehall and Afrobeat and were always told we were inferior, but the proof is in the pudding. We got the same numbers as those genres and also built platforms for the youngers to be part of and be proud of.”

Jay and the team are a very forward-thinking, progressive bunch.
Their work outside of the UK proves that in abundance.

“We are part of many of the European carnivals – from Berlin to France to Rotterdam – and have also taken Soca to Portugal, Spain and we are about to go to Greece and Dubai, too.

“We have a big carnival community who love to travel and will join with a local community who want to work and get the real authentic sound, so we work with them to create that authentic sound and experience.”

Travelling is one thing, but being the top dogs in home base is hugely important for any sound man. With our very own Notting Hill Carnival less than a month away I wanted to know what their preparation was like.

“For us, Carnival is the date – everything we do over the year leads to this. We own Flagz Mas band and have won best band three times recently. Throughout the year we have an amazing team who ensure that we are ready and prepared to do the best to spread the word. It is an amazing vibe, with people smiling and ready to go down the road!”

In London a few years ago there were the likes of Coco- yea that ruled the roost. As well as regular parties, they also brought artists over to the UK and shouted out the wider Caribbean culture for those who weren’t entrenched in it. Seemingly those names had an impact on Flagz.

“Without those brands we wouldn’t be here, and we always rate those brands to the max. It was harder for them because they had to drag people out in a difficult time.

"For us we don’t feel we are the new anything – there is progression and evolution, and I feel we are not looking for accolades – we just want people to come out and have a great time with us and present what we do in the most professional way possible,” he says humbly.

I can attest to this professionalism, and the passion that they have to bring their culture to the widest possible market. Flagz are real flag-wavers for the music that they love, and once you witness their incredible experience, I’m sure you will agree that they are at the top of their game.

Catch Flagz linking up with BrukOut on Saturday, August 11 at Camden Assembly in Lon- don. Tickets are available from camdenassembly.com.

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