Exclusive: Inside London’s new queer dancehall night
“Dancehall is a pretty heteronormative genre of music,” club night founder Akeil Onwukwe-Adamson told PinkNews.
He’s set up London’s inclusive new club night, Queer Bruk, to join the likes of Bootylicious and Club Caribana in “opening up dancehall for everybody.”
Queer Bruk brings together afrobeats, soca and bashment music in celebration that merges Carnival with Pride.
“A lot of the lyrics can be quite homophobic and sexist but at the same there are a lot of dancehall artists who aren’t that way, and who are supporters of feminism and of people who are in the LGBTQ community,” Akeil explained.
“I want queer men of colour to have a sense of home, and for people to feel like they can move how they want to and not be looked at like they’re doing something wrong.
“This is a space for safety, for fun, just to let go and be free.
“I’ve been going to Carnival for years, and I’ve been going to Pride for years – it just feels like a natural transition to try and merge them together.”
Inside London’s VFD, a drag queen is whining to dancehall, people of colour are running the decks, and the crowd are after round two.
Two friends added: “I say queer bashment is free – it has no limitation, it’s just for you to come and fun whether you’re straight, lesbian or gay…whatever.”
Queer Bruk follows a long history in London of club nights queering dancehall.
Bootylicious is a club night that has been running in the capital for several years, playing “delicious tunes until the sun is up.”
Promoter Thomas told PinkNews: “Bootylicious is accepting of all kinds of people, almost family like.”
Bootylicious opened after a huge demand for a bigger venue for a LGBT dancehall night.
He explained: “It was set up when Kim from Candy bar finally convinced the owner of what was then Crash – now Union – that it was a good idea to put a dancehall and hip-hop and soul night into one of the bigger venues in London.
“It finally got too big for Crash and we hit numbers of up to 2000 at Area and then Colosseum.
“We’ve always played dancehall, or Ragga as it was then known.
“It’s part of the culture regardless of the fact that some of it’s stars were outspoken homophobes – if you don’t engage with the culture you will never change it.
“We now also give prime time exposure to Afrobeat, which is equally important for young Londoners.”
When Bootylicious began, it instantly became an important space for the community.
Thomas added: “Most people would probably tell you that they love the music and how the event is part of their own scene history.
“People found their first contact with the community and for many it was the first place they felt comfortable to let their hair down.
“We have people come from all over the world, there are always new people, and people who haven’t been in ages and who come back delighted to see we are still there.
“The first of these nights we can trace back was at the Vox in Brixton in 1991 and many many more since then.”
At Queer Bruk, dancehall fan Lee said that, for him, the space was freeing: “It’s what I grew up with, it’s how my family express themselves.
“Growing up I never got the opportunity to dance how I wanted to or react to the music.
“So it’s natural to me to want to come to a party where I can express myself too.”