Jah Shaka and the ravers


Penny Reel aka Observer on the Chatty Mouth message board:

The big turnover was in the mid-1980s when Shaka was playing Ashwin Street in Dalston just over the road from Club Labyrinth (the old Four Aces). Some of the crusties from Labyrinth would arrive at Shaka when the other club closed its doors.

Labyrynth being of course one of the key nodes for ‘ardkore in London and the Four Aces being a key site for reggae. I’d never twigged that the one had turned into the other.

Seems like Mr Reel’s chronology might be a bit messed up though – according to here the Four Aces was going strong in 1985 and had Unity Hi-Fi as resident sound. (As we know, Unity fits in really well with this whole schtick as it was the first place for Peter Bouncer and the Ragga Twins to touch the mic – in fact Shut Up and Dance discovered many of their vocalists at Unity dances).

Ragga Twins and Navigator in Club 4 Aces Dalston 1988:

Side A: http://www.megaupload.com/?d=AELQ8B6G
Side B: http://www.megaupload.com/?d=TZNONUDM

Thanks to Luka for reposting this on the Dissensus thread about the twin’s recent set at Heatwave. It’s a cool tape – Trevor Sax from Saxon takes selection duties for a while, and there are some nice slices of early digital dancehall bizniss on there, which have aged a lot better than the aciiiiiiieeeed to my mind. (It gets unforgivably slack after 45:00 on side A tho).

Certainly the above flyer (courtesy of the excellent Derelict London site) would suggest Labrynth began later in the year when the two 8s clashed…

The image of George Harrison on the flyer was also used above the entrance to the building in tribute to the rumour that the man had once lived there.

So I suspect we are looking at acid house period onwards, with ravers finding Jah Shaka as a suitable post-club chill out. And in some ways perhaps influencing the move towards exclusively four to the floor steppers at events like the University of Dub…

I’ve previously written about the interplay between the two scenes in “London Acid City – when the two 8s clashed”, but this is quite an interesting example of geographical cross-pollination I think. On a similar note, Jungle was obviously the point when the ragga scene crossed into rave in a big way – but it’s also worth remembering that a lot of clapped out junglists have become full time reggae heads (me included, in some ways).

Some great b&w photos on flickr

Video footage aplenty from Labrynth here

The building survived a lot, including a firebomb attack by the National Front in 1982.

Difficult to say if the potent influence of the Four Aces / Labrynth at 12 Dalston Lane will continue. With their typical concern for local history in the face of capital, Hackney Council have now transformed vast tracts of Dalston Lane into this:

I noted here that the site was soon to be picturesque ruins, but in fact it’s nothing as romantic as that. Open Dalston have done a great job of monitoring the “development” of the area and have written this piece on New Labour’s plans. It’s doubtful that the sanitised “clubbing quarter” of Hoxton will produce anything quite so radical but we can hope.


  1. I went to the Four Aces a few times back in the day, can’t remember how many times. I recall dancing to the remix of Phil Collin’s “Something in the Air” in there one night! I never figured out if that one was the baleric tastemakers just seeing how far they could push it, or if people thought it was genuinely a good record….

  2. I was bored (hungover) at work today and for some reason started searching for Labyrinth pictures/photos. Absolutely brilliant these are. We used to drive up from Kent (1 hour) on Fridays, in 91/92. Definitely a top memory I will have forever. Rubarb and Custards!?!?!

    The ‘In The Air Tonight’ tune? any more details?? so I can get it/download it!

  3. I used to travel from croydon most saturday nights to rave it up at club labrynth.First experience was a dream fm allnighter at this maze up of a venue.As soon as i walked in i knew this club would be my raving home from home.Vibes in this club were electric,crowd in this club always up 4 it,security in this club safe as houses,music policy in this club junglistic breakbeat hardcore(tearin!!!) This club was probably the biggest influence on my musical state of mind!!MASSIVE BIG UP TO PROMOTERS,DJ’S,LIKEMINDED RAVERS,SECURITY AND ANYONE ELSE WHO CONTRIBUTED TO THE LABRYNTH LEGACY(that includes the toutin taxi drivers who used to charge me over a score to get back to croydon!!!) There will never be another club like it.

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