Hackney Downs reggae

(Original LP released by Santic in 1974)

“London was more forward as well because music that was recorded back home… some of them were reaching here long before they were released in Kingston. I put together the ‘Harder Shade Of Black’ album in London from the singles and put it out with Bert… I never knew I was going to release an album! The lady on the cover is my first wife. She’s the mother of three of my kids. I actually took the photograph myself. It’s Downs Park in East London…”

Leonard Chin – quote from the sleevenotes of the reissued version by Pressure Sounds.

“Hackney-ites – seckle! Stoke Newington – seckle, Tottenham posse – easy! Finsbury Park and Wood Green posse – easy!”

Hackney Downs was also the site of an open air soundsystem session in 1985 by Sirena Hi-Fi featuring guest appearances from Saxon MCs Tippa Irie, the late Miss Irie, Papa Levi and Daddy Colonel as well as Cinderella, Chargan and Banton Irie.

You should still be able to download the audio from this session at Who Cork The Dance. Someone else sent this to me a while back, but I’ve forgotten who it was – so apologies and thanks to them. Saxon do what they do best here – tuff lyrics over Studio One and other riddims – marred by the odd technical problem. You can hear Tippa’s take on the Heysel Stadium disaster (May 1985), so the dance must have been after that… (includes mild homophobia and general slackness)

It also looks like Saxon played Hackney Downs the year before in August 1984. There is video of this floating around but it’s a huge file so I dunno if my rubbish connection will cope. If a kind person could stick it on youtube or something that would be great.

It’s also likely that some of north east London’s reggae, jungle or hip hop stars were educated at Hackney Downs school…


  1. Do you know anything about Toyan’s North London connections? I’d be interested in finding out how he became a Spurs fan and toasted about the 82 FA Cup on the John McLean/Toyan ‘Starline’ 12″. Was McLean from London?

  2. Nice! I love right on the SE corner of the downs on Amhurst Rd, I’ve got a postcard from 1911 of it and it looks pretty much identical…

  3. Hi Oliver – yes it’s amazing how recognisable it is when you know… 🙂

    Martin – there’s not much about Toyan’s time in London online, so I’ll have a look at home. Seems like he was an associate of notorious badman Ranking Dread (who also spent some time in North London). Not sure if that has anything to do with his untimely demise or not: http://reggaelicious.pbworks.com/w/page/8800234/Toyan

  4. Darn…. donwload limit reached on that Hackney Downs recording…. did anyone manage to get a copy who could re-up it somewhere? Would be greatly appreciated….

  5. Martin – I’ve had a look at stuff here about Toyan and there’s nowt about his time in the UK at all… 🙁 Penny Reel would know I guess.

    Duck – part one is loading up now and slowing everything else down here…

  6. Ah OK, cheers. I don’t have that much info on the 12″ so not sure if it was pressed in UK or JA – could be he was just following the FA Cup from afar.

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