Bukayo, Buckfast and Bhangra
An alternative “best of 2021” list
An alternative “best of 2021” list
As we come to the end of another truly bizarre year, one in which booster shots and petrol station queues became part of normal life, it’s time to reflect. Before every magazine drops their best albums and hottest new DJs, we humbly present a mixed bag of favourite moments. Naturally, most are somehow music related. Some, though, are just too good not to share.
- Starting with a moment of our own creation. At GALA this year, our stage managers in the Pleasure Dome on Friday pulled-off a medal worthy feat. When Cooly G turned up without her USB stick, they had 30 minutes to hotfoot it to Brixton to her gaff, grab the stick and make it back to the dome in time for the set. Cooly had to improvise for the first few tunes but our crew made it back and she played one of the highlight sets of the festival.
- Another effort worthy of props comes courtesy of Big Dada, the Ninja Tune sublabel running since 1997. This year it relaunched “as a label run by Black, POC & Minority Ethnic people for Black, POC & Minority Ethnic artists.” The editorial and educational resources they have been providing since are setting a gold standard.
- 2021 saw the end of a staple for many music lovers, Charlie Bones’ Do!! You!!! radio show on NTS. The final show was unexpected, emotional magic, with the chat room on fire and not a dry eye in the house. It threatened to leave a huge hole in the mornings, but thankfully we can now look forward to Charlie’s own station live five days a week.
- This year, in a historic vote, Germany declared clubs to be “cultural institutions,” better protecting them from gentrification and city development plans. France is now trying to do the same. Will we ever follow suit?
- Talking clubs, London’s premier clubbing institution, fabric, made waves this year by banning unofficial photos in the venue. They’re “aiming to create a feeling of self-expression on the dance floor,” welcoming punters to “stay in the moment and put away your phone, enjoy the night.”
- While we’re on the topic of photos: Sherelle sitting on a horse and Bukayo Saka on the inflatable unicorn are iconic images of 2021 that need to be remembered.
- The rise of Daytimers has brought another welcome shift in the dance music landscape. South Asian DJs and producers are finally getting their flowers for long-running contributions to UK nightlife, breathing new life into punjabi garage, bhangra edits and much more. Their first Dialled In event, held this year, was a joyous celebration of this culture.
- Another first time festival to make a huge splash was Body Movements. Over a day in October, East London was buzzing with the queer, racuous energy of party crews under the Body Movements umbrella. We caught a few of the parties and felt that pure, Pleasure Dome energy on maximum.
- Anu’s brilliant comics also deserve a mention, tackling both serious issues and complete nonsense with a great sense of humour.
- There was some excellent music commentary this year too: RA’s Who Is Toyin Agbetu? feature shone a light on a fascinating, unsung hero of London club music; the early UK Garage episode of Electronic Beats’ Blind Tests series was good viewing; and Elijah of Butterz spread some serious wisdom on his social media.
- There was also a day without any commentary at all. Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp going down at the same time was an eye-opening reminder of how dependent we can be on those platforms, inspiring some important conversation about how to break that mould.
- The continued rise of amapiano this year, and its interaction with UK music, has been a vital shake up for our house music scene. A bump of unmistakably South African flavour was the perfect soundtrack to many a summer party.
- The rise of foundation.fm has also been a joy to watch. The local crew are going from strength to strength, with rock solid programming, wide-ranging partnerships and, as of this year, a label.
- Another notable shift in the electronic music scene happened in Kiev, Ukraine. The city has been bubbling for years with clubs like Closer. But in 2021 Kiev stepped up its game and became a major destination for house and techno fans, with ICKPA Festival and ∄ club leading the way.
- It was great to see the legendary A Guy Called Gerald getting overdue validation for his work. He revealed earlier this year that he never made a penny from acid house’s greatest hit, “Voodoo Ray.” Gerald has raised over £20,000 and counting in a crowdfunder to fight back against Rham Records. Donate here and catch him playing on Thursday at GALA next year.
- It was also great to see someone bury a bottle of Buckfast on the ground of a festival in Scotland, so he could dig it up when the festival started. Don’t go getting any ideas!
- We weren’t going to put any straight up music recommendations in this alternative list, but allow us these few: Midland mixed the 400th and final episode of Honey Soundsystem’s podcast series, Kareem Ali did a Boiler Room like no other and Josey Rebelle gifted us this Trilogy Tapes mixtape. No further description needed here, just listen.
- We’ll leave you with some pure, good-times internet content, like this, this and this. Happy holidays!