The history of UK dancehall is a subject I've foolishly never delved into over the last 10 years, a fact made all the more poignant given the influence it has had on the fortunes of garage and grime, both of which I've spent much of my life listening to.
Although I'd regularly come into contact with emcees like Skibadee on radio sets and tape pack recordings, their presence on sets was something I took for granted. More recently, the same can be said for the likes of Serocee, who I've seen numerous times supporting one of my favourite deejays in Toddla T, and Lady Chann; each time I failed to look beyond the particular performance. Thankfully, my eyes have been opened by Rollo Jackson's incredible piece of film.
Presented by lynchpins of the current scene 'The Heatwave', Showtime is a feature length piece charting the history of UK dancehall on stage. Although perhaps best known for pioneering their 'Hot Wuk' club nights all over the UK, 'Showtime' highlights their intimate knowledge of music's inner-workings, and a shared appreciation of Jamaican culture and influence. The Heatwave's sound extends far further than just dancehall however - as it says on their website, "The Heatwave sound ties together Jamaica and the UK. Their powerful compilations and mixes show how dancehall is the root of jungle, garage, grime, dubstep and funky." It is perhaps this that proved decisive in the success of 'Showtime' itself, the night that provides the back drop for the DVD.
Filmed live amongst a bustling, fully-enthused audience equipped with horns and whistles (a stable of Hot Wuk nights), Showtime is every ounce a celebration of a key (but often forgotten) element of the UK's musical heritage. Incredible live performances from General Levy, Asher Senator and Glamma Kid in particular convey an unprecedented level of energy and excitement in an extraordinary show of unity - as The Heatwave's Benjamin D points out, "It's a culture that's not restricted to ethnicity, it's not restricted to class, it's not restricted to anything really. It's about loving music and it's about going out raving." This all-inclusive ethos is furthered by the performances of iconic grime emcees Wiley and Riko Dan, both of whom acknowledge the importance of dancehall in the evolution of their own sound - as Riko says, "Grime's what I evolved to do. I was born to do dancehall." The enthusiasm in which Wiley takes to the stage and spits over 'Ice Rink' alongside Riko is also particularly inspiring and gives credence to Wiley's decision to re-establish the legendary 'Eskimo Dance', an event that shares a number of similarities with Showtime.
Also notable is a poignant tribute to the iconic Smiley Culture, and the sense of prevailing unity that seems to reverberate around the venue after Serocee demands the audience show their appreciation by making as much noise as possible. Although each 'scene' has its merits, it is perhaps this unity that makes dancehall quite unique.
Female artist Stush comments on the remarkable relationship between artist and bashment crowd too, something The Heatwave's Rubi Dan places special emphasis on: "You give them what they want. You talk to them. You don't want it to seem like you're above them, we're all on a level and we're just here to party." Such a refreshing, positive attitude only adds to the long list of superlatives you can level at The Heatwave after watching Showtime.
Such is the magnitude of the live footage, combined with a series of in-depth interviews that run alongside, it is near-on impossible to convey the enormity of Showtime's achievements. As a DVD, it is a great watch and should be essential viewing for anybody with an interest in the history of UK music and moreover, the evolution of the UK emcee. As a spectacle, Showtime is the clearest indication yet of what can be achieved when music comes first. Brilliant and inspiring in equal measure.
You can purchase 'Showtime' from The Heatwave's online store at Kudos Records here: http://theheatwave.kudosrecords.co.uk/release/HWDVD001/Various_Artists_The_Heatwave_Presents_SHOWTIME__The_History_Of_UK_Dancehall_Live_On_Stage.html