Banning Bashment music, is a ban on black music |Konbini

For Konbini

Bashment is the genre of music which, as Sonjah Stanely-Niaah noted "gave an ideological, spiritual and physical shelter for lower-class Jamaicans around the time of the country’s liberation in 1962". The genre has since quickly evolved to become the high rhythm cousin of reggae music.

Although it has dipped its toes into the music mainstream – who could forget the 90s staple "Mr Loverman" and the likes of Sean Paul and Beenie Man – it hasn't consistently been a fixture in the commercial market, which lends it an underground vibe. Yet, because of its ambiguity, does that mean bashment should be considered dangerous and threatening? Or is it just misunderstood by the white perspective of the police?

As reported in the Croydon Advertiser, the borough’s police force has been draconic in their approaches to bashment: telling clubs that it “would bring the wrong sort of people”; sending in undercover cops to check that DJ’s aren't playing this certain type of drum n bass; asking the owner of Dice Bar, Roy Seda, to remove the word 'bashment' off a flyer “because commercial music is considered safer”.

"The Met itself, despite the extensive coverage and undercover recordings are also vehemently denying their involvement as being “nothing to do with them”."

The police appear to be acting on their own agenda, with Croydon’s licensing authority saying it was “unaware of the police’s actions and said a ban could only be put into action with their permission”. The Met itself, despite the extensive coverage and undercover recordings are also vehemently denying their involvement as being “nothing to do with them”.

Yet, it appears to have everything to do with the police or at least individual police officers. A Deptford venue owner anonymously tells us (through fear of having their license revoked) that they had a similar experience by the police in not being allowed to play dancehall or bashment music.

"The police themselves even seem to be as equally puzzled as to what exactly basement music is, mistakenly referring to it as "bashman music"."

The club owner seemed pretty unsure as to why the police had enforced this new measure, and rather confused as to what exactly the police classed as bashment or dancehall music. The police themselves even seem to be as equally puzzled as to what exactly bashment music is, mistakenly referring to it as "bashman music". The same police who are going undercover in clubs to check their dogma is being followed can’t even correctly label what they are seeking to ban.

The inadequacy of the police’s approach would be laughable if it wasn’t for the fact that 17 years after The Macpherson report, they are still dragging behind them a lead ball of institutional racism. Through their stigmatising of music genres, the Met Police are dispersing the diverse symphony of London’s music scene. Speaking after the Croydon incident, Nero Ughwujabo, chief executive of Croydon BME Forum said: "Singling out Caribbean and specifically Jamaican music as being associated with crime and disorder is profiling, which is unacceptable.”

"Grime experienced the same dogged determination from the police who instantly associated the genre with violence and attempted to close down each and every grime event."

This isn’t the first time the Met have tried to racially profile ‘dangerous’ music genres. In its formative years, Grime experienced the same dogged determination from the police who instantly associated the genre with violence and attempted to close down each and every grime event. Yet, despite their claims the police have never published a report of figures to support their ideologies. Instead they have created a hoopla of administration for event organisers and DJs with the 696 form. In short, the notorious form requests that London venues and promoters describe the type of music that will be played at their events. Until 2008, the form had asked what the expected demographic of the event would attract: aka what race of people and how many would be expected to turn up.

"If the demographic of music genres is discussed (wrongly) in broad terms, then it could be assumed that all house music fans take ecstasy."

Although the question has now been removed, there is still an unsavoury undercurrent of racial targeting, tainting the vague intentions of the form, which criminalises those who don't fit into the police’s safe mould of music. If the issue is due to safety concerns, then why aren't other specific music genres being targeted in the same way? If the demographic of music genres is discussed (wrongly) in broad terms, then it could be assumed that all house music fans take ecstasy. 

Although the police did crack down on the illegal rave culture of the 90s, house DJs were by and large allowed to play their music, as long as it was in a licensed venue. Tougher licensing is now buckling many London nightspots, but the Met hasn’t enforced a blanket ban on all house music because of its association with dangerous class A drugs... With London clubs falling like dominoes due to stricter licensing regulations and commercial music classed as the safe option, anyone left of the centre-stream are being scapegoated by the police as dangerous or as the wrong type of people.

By lacquering a music genre which is so specifically intertwined with race as dangerous, the Met are erasing parts of a culture that go beyond their gaze of cultural otherness. Like Beenie Man said: "Freedom, for some I am bawling, Mi still under yuh Babylon system."

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