British Underground, an organization responsible bringing UK’s top talent to South by Southwest for the past 10 years, presents this year’s SXSW ‘Bass Culture’ panel and showcase, which explores the resurgence of reggae in the British music scene. Reggae’s journey has played a vital role in the development of jungle, drum & bass,
dub-step, grime, UK reggae and UK hip-hop, evolving into an all encompassing title known as Bass Culture. This diverse palette of sub-genres will be well represented by Bass Culture’s most prominent artists – including Gappy Ranks, Little Roy, Natty, Lady Leshurr, Rasites and Kenny Ken.

The SXSW showcase will feature live performances by the previously mentioned artists at The Driskill Hotel’s Victorian Room on Friday, March 16. On the following day (March 17) a panel of industry experts discuss their influential roles in Bass Culture. These key figures include producer/writer Mykaell Riley from the Grammy-winning group Steel Pulse, Channel One Sound System DJ Mikey Dread, BBC’s radio personality Robbo Ranx and recording artist Lady Leshurr.

An official website for the project will launch February 1 and unveils an archive of key tracks, podcasts, rare documentaries, editorial, directory and schedule of events. There will also be a one-off Bass Culture fanzine – edited by Paul Bradshaw and
designed by Swifty from respected underground British magazine ‘Straight No Chaser’ -that will be distributed exclusively at SXSW.

Scroll down for a brief synopsis of the artists.

Little Roy cut his first single at the legendary Studio One in 1965 and grew up in Kingston surrounded by many of Jamaican music’s biggest hitters – Prince Buster, Lee Perry, Bunny Wailer & Peter Tosh. Later a growing interest in the emerging rasta religion saw him release some early roots classics such as “Prophesy,” “Christopher Columbus,” and “Tribal War.” In September 2011, Little Roy released the album, Battle For Seattle, through Ark Recordings. The critically acclaimed album, which received 4 stars in Mojo, The Telegraph and The Times, is a collection of 10 songs recorded by Nirvana in a reggae style and is the brainchild of Prince Fatty aka Mike Pelanconi and the Mutant Hi-Fi aka Nick Coplowe.

Gappy Ranks was born and raised in Harlesden, North London by a Jamaican father and Dominican mother. He gained early support and recognition from local sound systems and pirate radio stations with his studio debut at aged 11. He went on to land a series of collaborations with the likes of Kray Twinz, Twista and MC Lethal B. Gappy released his eagerly awaited debut album Put The Stereo On in 2010 on UK reggae and dancehall label Greensleeves Records. Now with his second LP Thanks & Praise and an appearance on Later with Jools, Gappy is proving to be a popular live draw, headlining shows across Europe, Asia & USA.

Describing his music in a tongue-in-cheek manner as “Damian Marley meets Neil Young,” North Londoner Natty is no newcomer in the music world. Ditching the guitar he learned to play at 10, he spent his teenage years creating hip-hop beats for rapping mates. His bedroom mastery of music production landed him a job at premier recording studio Sphere in Battersea, London. Natty only picked up his guitar again as he turned 18, beginning to write songs during the studio’s downtime. After leaving Sphere, Natty started gigging around London attracting a buzz. Things quickly picked up for Natty with a recording contract with Atlantic Records, the release of “Man Like I,” his debut album and his first European tour including gigs with Baaba Maal, Lee Perry and Adele. After several years of touring, Natty took some time off to travel, explore new cultures and sounds, spending a lot of time in Africa, inspiring him to return with Change, his new EP, and he has secured his first U.S. tour supporting Ziggy Marley.

Melesha O’Garro began rapping and writing poetry at the age of six, finding inspiration in the power of reggae legend Sister Nancy and later in her brother’s U.S. rap collection. She would compulsively rhyme in her bedroom over his records – imitating, adapting and improvising on the MCs’ styles. By secondary school she was honing her skills at parties where she DJed and rapped over drum and bass, garage and grime. Her show-stopping take on Chris Brown and Busta Rhymes’s “Look at me Now” notched up over 80,000 views in one day on, and now has in excess of 500,000 YouTube views. Inspired by the likes of Tinie Tempah, Wretch32 and Tinchy Stryder, she has built a reputation as “The Best Spitter in the UK.” The industry buzz is building from the likes of Mike Skinner to Nicky Minaj, who herald her as the “next big thing.” Her debut album is due in Spring 2012 and she’s developing her own clothing and accessories line and record label.

Until the arrival of Rasites, the UK reggae scene hadn’t witnessed a young band devoted to writing and playing all their own material. The Jet Star recording artists lit up the roots market with their debut album Urban Regeneration.
Rasites joined the Grammy-winning reggae super group Black Uhuru on a 6-week European tour in 2007 and Jamaican vocal group, The Mighty Diamonds, on a 3-week UK tour in 2009. Then the Rasites teamed up with Andrew Tosh, son of Peter Tosh, and Mykal Rose on a 5 week European tour. In 2011, members of the group recorded and performed with many reggae greats, including Yellow Man, Marcia Griffiths, Natty, Gappy Ranks, Levi Roots and Little Roy. Rasites have recently set up their own production company, ITES UP LTD.

Kenny Ken is a household name in the world of jungle and drum and bass. He started DJing in 1989, winning the Jungle Soundclash in 1994. He’s played at all the big raves over the years and enjoys playing music to the masses. Kenny is still playing all over the world, spreading the jungle vibe. He’s also in the studio and runs two record labels – Mix and Blen recordings started in 1997 and Monitor Recordings which relaunched in 2008.

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