Sunday, February 06, 2011

The history of British underground music through cassettes of pirate stations

While pirate radio has existed in the US since the very invention of the medium, it’s had a far more significant impact in the UK. The movie Pirate Radio (the American name for 'The Ship That Rocked') dramatized how pirates forged cracks in the dam that the staid BBC built against R&B and rock n’ roll in the 60s. But British pirates retained cultural influence long after the Beeb embraced rock and commercial stations took to the dial.

In particular, pirate radio was the catalyst for British underground electronic dance music and hip-hop. Though less well known in the US, genres such as Jungle, Garage, Grime and drum ‘n’ bass were catalyzed and popularized by pirates, especially in London.

A new documentary by filmmaker Rollo Jackson tells the history of this music through the path of cassette tape recordings of prominent London pirates in his film Tape Crackers. The film just screened at the Institute for Contemporary Arts in London.

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