INDUSTRY FORCE: Valerie Robinson has been a staunch flag-waver for the UK sound system scene
IF YOU have ever listened to any of my radio shows on the BBC over the past 15 years (and there has been lots of them) you would know that sound system culture and soundclashes in particular is MY thing.
One of the dominant forces behind the movement is Lady V aka Valerie Robinson from V Rocket Sound.
The Nottingham based supremo began working in the music industry in the mid 70’s, and has been a staunch flag waver for the UK scene on a global level for a number of years.
Her passion, drive and commitment to ensuring that sound system culture is acknowledged, preserved and respected has always been admirable, but in the last few years it is evident that her work is bearing considerable fruit.
Her next big project is the UK Rumble on June 17 in Leicester – six sounds from across the country will line up with a chance to represent these shores in the World Clash later in the year.
So how did she select the participants for this? “What I did was look at who I felt the patrons would like to go and see represent the UK – I started from London to see which sound was most active and Platinum Cartel have definitely been putting in the work recently. We then looked at the Midlands and Telford’s Natural Affair have carried a crowd on the clash scene for a number of years and have done several clashes outside the UK.
“A lot of Birmingham clash fans have wanted to see X-TA-C 4x4 and Immortal Sound on the same stage clashing and it hasn’t happened before – so that in itself is going to raise a lot of interest.
In the north we have Little Sample and Manchester has Classique – they have been dodging each other for a long time – so this feels like it has genuine nationwide interest,” she says with an energy and pride that is hard to match and so good to hear.
The “Rumble” series sees six territories – The UK, Japan, America, Europe, Canada and the Caribbean – putting on clashes to find out who will be their national representatives for the World Clash.
With the global focus on clashes at all different levels, has the clash game become easier to produce?
“We have major venue issues across the UK but people are finding smaller venues to hold their events – the authentic clashes never left the grassroots, we just don’t have enough of them like in days gone by.
Promoters find it easier to book one main sound for a juggling dance with a few smaller sounds backing them up,” Valerie explains.
So what of the bigger multi national companies that have seemingly taken the clashing template and amplified it to a whole new level? Is there a feeling of animosity towards them?
“I don’t have a problem with what they are doing with the format of clashing. Companies like Red Bull are obviously looking at what grassroots are doing and adapting it for their audiences.
The age group they are catering for is 16-30, and what they realise is that young people are listening to lots of different genres. They put all of those genres and the different audiences together under one roof.
Culture clash doesn’t attract the authentic clash crowd, although I think some of them would enjoy it. I’ve been to it, and it is different to what we do but has an entertainment value.
“These new facilitators of clashes have to respect what has come before them and the history of clash culture. If it wasn’t for the originality of previous times they wouldn’t be able to do what they are doing today. I don’t feel we get enough publicity from the authenticity side but it is up to us as promoters to keep the next generation interested in what we are doing.”
She adds: “We have to keep the reggae flame alive and get young people interested in it like our parents did to us.”
Her work as a promoter sees her as a lead figure in Reggae Girls Promotions, working alongside two important figures in the reggae industry – Authentic Real Music (run by promoter, producer and all round top man Mikey Koos who has an impeccable musical CV) and Irish and Chin Promotions which is fronted by one of the most progressive thinking men in the industry, Chin, who we will be in conversation with in a few weeks’ time. Valerie explained how this collaboration began.
“Chin and I first started to work together in 2002 when I came up with the UK Cup Clash concept which took place in Nottingham – the relationship grew from there and the following year we moved the clash to London and he had his global platforms such as Death Before Dishonour and we would share ideas as we had similar visions, and have worked with him on areas such as his popular Soundchat radio show.”
Lady V has also been instrumental in the development of Jamaican sounds and selectors touring across Europe and developing the European sound system scene. It’s something that enthuses her.
“The fascinating thing about the European market is that they absolutely LOVE the music – when you look at the events they do the numbers that attend are phenomenal. The market over there is so busy – the amount of European Rumble contenders is huge. They are very busy and holding up their thing over there. You have to take your hat off to them.”
So says a woman who is undoubtedly a boss in a very male dominated arena, not that she feels this has ever brought any major issues.
“Overall I have had the upmost respect shown to me – you can’t please everyone but to my face it has all been good. If we weren’t doing this thing correctly I don’t think we would have got the attendances we have got, and that is the biggest compliment to what we are doing.”
I’ve worked with Valerie for a number of years and her enthusiasm, unwavering support for sound systems and pursuit of getting the respect the culture deserves, while always making the focus of attention about them and not her, deserves saluting. She is a genuine industry force.
Catch the UK RUMBLE – The Road To World Clash on June 17 at Streetlife, Leicester.
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