It’s time for the finest weekend of the year – yes, the mighty Notting Hill Carnival is almost upon us. Praise be. This Sunday and bank holiday Monday (August 27-28), West London will be transformed into party central, with a host of amazing reggae, garage, grime, soca, dancehall, bashment and dub offered up via the historic sound systems which line the streets of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
Whether you’re a seasoned regular, already knocking back the Wray and Nephew Overproof Rum in giddy anticipation, or an excitable first timer, you’ll need to do some carnival prep and work out just where you and your mates are going to head. If you’re a carnival control freak and floating around and sticking with the first sound system you find isn’t your thing, then you’ll need our guide to the very best bashes on offer. There’s 37 official sound systems though so there’s always something different around the corner – ah, the beauty of carnival, the biggest street party in the world outside of Rio.
But first, here’s the only playlist you’ll need in the run up to the weekend. Dancehall titans The Heatwave’s annual carnival themed mix dropped yesterday and it’s hotter than ever.
NME’s Sound System Selection
Back after a mini break – we missed you guys – Rampage is one of the rowdiest sound systems at carnival. Playing hip-hop and jungle, this is the one if you wanna dance and dance hard.
Gaz’s Rockin Blues
If you can stand all the west London posh girls, then Gaz’s is always worth a visit, not least because ringleader Gaz Mayall always brings in an epic stage set. Blues, old school reggae and rockabilly run the game at this eclectic soundsystem.
Slow things down at the always mega-chilled Aba Shanti. Ruled by all things dubby and rootsy, it’s here you’ll hear bass-tastic Studio One reggae sounds. Ideal if you want something a little more relaxed.
SSP Sound System
Toddla T’s always vibey affair will see a guest DJ spot from Annie Mac, who’ll be playing garage and house for all of the party people.
One of the biggest reggae Sound Systems, Channel One celebrate 35 years of carnival appearances this weekend. Wanna know what they’re all about? They say: “strictly positive vibes, skanking, exclusive dubplates, roots reggae, vinyl record only selection, guest appearances on the mic, full crew, party vibes.” Ideal.
With its roots in Trinidad, Mangrove is one of the original Notting Hill sound systems – the legendary Mangrove steel band will also be playing over the weekend – seek them out.
Get soulful with your sisters at one of the few female run sound systems on the party route. Ladies first, please.
Red Bull Music Academy
The Red Bull folks know how to host a good party – they return after a two year break will an all-star cast, including Brit MC Stefflon Don. Usually a guestlist only event, this year it’s open to all for the first time – get there early to avoid disappointment/massive queues to get anywhere near it.
On Monday, some serious guests will be heading over to Shy FX’s sound stage – with Craig David, Manny Norte, Oneman, Mark Ronson, Seb Chew, Lily Allen, Rude Kid, Breakage B2B Randall, Redlight and loads more.
Download the Notting Hill Carnival app to help find your way around.