Spotify showcases sound systems and DJs, as Carnival moves online

As Notting Hill Carnival moves entirely online for the first time in its 54 year history, official partner Spotify has announced the full line-up for its dedicated Carnival microsite.

The streaming giant will showcase over 40 Notting Hill Carnival sound systems, hold playlist takeovers from big names; feature on the road DJs, from Dub, Reggae, and Soca to Soulful House; host an exclusive portrait and film gallery from renowned photographer Ekua King, and offer podcasts covering Carnival life.

“Carnival is loved by so many young people, and that love will be even greater when they understand its legacy and cultural significance,” says Matthew Phillip, the festival’s executive director.

To underpin the celebration of black talent in the UK, Spotify has brought on an all-black creative team with design and production led by culture curators Portia Clarke and Elliott Jack, as well as creatives from the Black-owned design house Paq Works, and interviewer and assistant to Ekua King, Kwesi Dean.

The company has also enlisted the support of some of the UK’s leading Black creators from the fields of music, film and entertainment to guide fans through some of its most popular playlists which will be dedicated to Notting Hill Carnival.

Lockdown success story No Signal (creators of the popular NS10v10 format) take on Who We Be, the UK’s biggest Hip Hop, Afrobeat, Dancehall and R&B playlist; the legendary Marleys will help fans jam along to One Love; Little Mix’s Leigh-Anne Pinnock is compiling tunes for Throwback Thursday; Koffee will help fans discover new reggae from legends to the new school on Irie, and Jamaican dancehall artist and star of Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta, Spice takes over Dancehall Queen.

“My favourite place in the world is Jamaica and I love Carnival because for two days out of the year you arrive in Notting Hill and your soul feels like it could be at home,” says Little Mix’s Leigh-Anne Pinnock. “For me, it’s important because it’s one of the biggest celebrations for Caribbean heritage and Black culture in the UK.” 

In addition to the playlist takeovers, Spotify will give fans the chance to explore over 40 of the official Notting Hill Carnival sound systems and on the road DJs. Check in with King Tubby’s, Carnival’s oldest sound; Rampage Sound, one of Carnival’s most coveted spots, the prince of UK soca Martin Jay, and even Carnival’s only all-female sound system, Seduction City Sound.

“Notting Hill Carnival is special because, personally for me, I get to hear the sound go wider: they come and they feel the vibe and wha gwan,” says King Tubby. “Notting Hill Carnival, King Tubby’s every time, people all over Europe and all over the world. I think we’re the oldest sound out there still.”

Lady Banton, Seduction City Sound, comments: “Last year I celebrated 25 years of being the only female sound system in Carnival. J’ouvert is very much built on the symbolism of slavery, so it was very poignant this year because there are always challenges for us. The struggles we’ve had for hundreds of years, we still have those challenges today. I’m a woman and a Black woman, and I’m proud to be a Black woman. I’m also a child of the Windrush generation so we never forget. I thought, what a relief I am here again.”

Ekua King, the renowned London-based photographer of Jamaican heritage who shoots for the likes of i-D, Paper and Vogue, has created an exclusive photo and film gallery which will feature on the site, with portraiture of the over 40 sound systems and on the road DJs bringing their stories to life through her shots. 

“Notting Hill Carnival is such an important celebration of Caribbean heritage for communities in London and beyond, enriched in tradition and activism and lived through music and dance. While it can’t take place in its usual way, it’s key that the celebration continues, in homes, living rooms and gardens, especially given the current climate,” says Sulinna Ong, Head of Music at Spotify UK.