Moseley has a great reputation for housing a vast and eclectic selection of alternative music events, including its annual Mostly Jazz Festival (held in Moseley Park), Moseley Folk Festival and Sam Redmore’s electro swing night Freestyle run every Friday at the Bull’s Head. It is little wonder then that it is home to Birmingham’s longest standing reggae night, Jam Jah Mondays, which the Bull’ Head also hosts each week. This ought to be something of a pride and joy for the suburban pub, since Jam Jah’s collaboration of DJs, or ‘selectas’, are joined under the Record Company collective Friendly Fire Music (who boast widely popular artists such as Tippa Irie and Friendly Fire Band.) This much anticipated Monday night is in fact an opportune platform where Friendly Fire performers are able to showcase their music, as well as playing ‘strictly vinyl’ reggae, roots and dance hall classics for their eager audiences.
It turns out that the Jam Jah DJs, Robin Don, Bongo Damo and Lion Art, had quite a special show lined up for the 13th February; instead of the standard Valentine’s Day lovers’ meal in the centre of town, Jam Jah fans headed for the first floor of the Bull’s Head to be graced with their selectas’ ‘Pre My Valentine’ assortment of romantic reggae tunes. Considering Jam Jah’s reputation, it was a surprise to see the room so empty with only a few people dotted around the edges nursing their drinks. The music was fun, but there was no one there to enjoy it, and doubts were admittedly raised about the remainder of the evening. These reservations were however abated once Bongo Damo took to the decks. Accompanied by Lion Art, one of Friendly Fire Music’s longest affiliated artists, a crowd gathered on the dance floor; drinks were visibly abandoned around the room, whilst bags are coats were distributed on the floor at all sides so that their owners could be free to skank the proper way. Jam Jah Mondays certainly showed its true potential in the smiles on people’s faces, and in the heartfelt hugs that were exchanged by strangers.Of course the selectas could not be expected to keep to their sentimental theme all night (as they profess on their mixcloud website, ‘it’s difficult to keep the fire out of Jam Jah!’). It was towards the second half of the night when Buju Banton’s Love Sponge was interrupted by the iconic soaring tones that open Barrington Levy’s Under Mi Sensi (not exactly a typical Pre-Valentine’s Day song). This set the tone for the rest of the night; love themed lyrics were abandoned in favour of a more political agenda and songs such as Big Youth’s Soul Rebel and a live performance of New World Order by Lewe Irie. The night’s own MC Lion Art roused the crowd so much that midnight came around far too soon. Comfort had to be sought in the reassurance that reggae would be played into the early hours on another night, namely this Friday, 17th of February, at the Hare and Hounds in Kings Heath.
Readers considering sampling this event must not be perturbed by the Bull’s Head’s non-student friendly drinks prices; offers are bountiful until half ten, by which time the crowd is raring to dance. Reggae of course is not for everyone, but for those still unconvinced to venture to Moseley on a Monday night, Jam Jah does post the setlist’s recording for each week on their website and mixcloud. Anyone who is considering sampling this event, or simply did not make it for one week, will be able to get an idea of the Jam Jah experience here, as well as broaden their reggae musical horizons.
Words by Becca Inglis