Styles & Forms | UK Garage | Dance

The UK garage scene began in London in the 1990s when enterprising DJ’s such as Norris ‘Da Bass’ Windross and Karl ‘Tuff Enuff’ Brown set up after-hours parties in the capital’s pubs for clubbers reluctant to end the revelry after spending the evening at one of London’s new superclubs, such as The Ministry Of Sound.

‘We used to pitch it up a bit, give it a bit more energy cos people used to come from Ministry vibed up and we didn’t want to chill them out,’ remembers Matt ‘Jam’ Lamont, another of the London DJs. The records these DJs played were by Americans such as Todd Edwards, MK and Victor Simonelli. But London’s poly-cultural creative musical heritage would, inevitably, lead DJs and producers such as Grant Nelson and RIP to put their own twist on the sound.

It was another American, though, Armand Van Helden, who threw away the rule book, putting big basslines and junglist nuances into garage remixes of the Sneaker Pimps and Tori Amos, and thereby creating the space for disaffected drum’n’bass heads with drum programming experience, to enter the scene. Records such as ‘Closer Than Close’, by Rosie Gaines, Double 99’s ‘RIP Groove’ and ‘Gunman’, by 187 Lockdown, would break on illegal pirate radio stations before crossing over into the UK pop charts. The media dubbed the sound ‘speed garage’, but the bubble burst after the initial 1997 hype, as the scene to back up the hyperbole had not developed sufficiently.

So Solid Headline Snatchers

It was another American, Kelly G, with a remix of Tina Moore’s ‘Never Gonna Let You Go’, who blueprinted the non-4/4 off-beat two-step sound of UKG. In 1999, songs such as Shanks & Bigfoot’s ‘Sweet Like Chocolate’ and Craig David and Artful Dodger’s ‘Rewind’ zoomed to the top of the UK charts. The national UK radio station, Radio 1, soon had its own UK garage show, hosted by The Dreem Teem.

Although varying musical styles would develop – from MJ Cole’s smooth, soulful dubs to the breakbeat garage of Dee Kline or DJ Zinc, and from bassline-heavy bits by Wookie or DJ Narrows, to the gangsta-rap stylings of So Solid Crew – it was the latter that inevitably stole the headlines. UK garage raves became peppered with gun-toting idiots, but with DJs such as EZ re-introducing the 4/4 sound, and MCs such as the Mercury Prize-winning Ms. Dynamite speaking out against violence, the music looks set to prosper once more.

‘London is a multicultural city ... It’s like a melting pot of young people, and that’s reflected in the music of UK garage.’
MJ Cole, UK garage DJ/producer

Leading Exponents

MJ Cole
Roger Sanchez
David Morales
Armand Van Helden
Shanks & Bigfoot
Craig David
Artful Dodger
So Solid Crew
Ms. Dynamite

UK Garage Style

Similar to house, but a more mellow ‘poppy’ sound, often with predominant keyboard chords and vocal line.

Introduction | Dance
Styles & Forms | US Garage | Dance

Source: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music, general editor Paul Du Noyer


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