Zoë Baxter with Nzinga Soundz

Music that Drives Communities: Outstanding Women of Resonance FM

Resonance 104.4fm has had many brilliant women creatives producing and hosting shows over its fifteen years broadcasting. Two women DJs, members of the all-female DJ collective, Sisters of Reggae, Debbie Golt and Zoë Baxter, create complex, curious, accessible shows important in finding out who we are in the world and making a difference for the better.

Lucky Cat aka Zoë Baxter has an interesting musical policy on her show, being interested in East Asia and SE Asia music alongside reggae and 1950s music. In 2019 she’s continuing a personal project that I think is a work of genius. Sound System Stories. It’s Season 3 of her oral history  of UK Reggaie sound system culture and on 15 June she interviewed Nzinga Soundz. Her guests DJ Ade (Lynda Rosenior-Patten) and Junie Rankin (June Reid) chatted about their personal trajectory.

Established in the early 80s with DJ Ade and Junie Rankin, Nzinga Soundz became one of the UK’s longest running of the all-women sound systems. The show is full of tales of how their music came out of living in Brixton and the family social space. Neighbours and people from all walks of life came along to Lynda’s family house parties. Lynda became the family DJ and June used to go along and help her, holding the sleeves. Shop jobs, working at Top Shop and Debenhams helped them fund their interest.

June was the first black person to be employed at Virgin Records (what is now Primark) that wasn’t a cleaner or a security guard, the story goes. She begged for a job, having a degree in business studies they thought she wouldn’t stay. But she felt at a disadvantage in the world of marketing, not being slim and blonde, the stereotype of the marketing officer at the time. She was into a range of music and life events, dragging Lynda to see Rod Stewart. Best friend and colleague, soon Lynda came to join her in the shop.

Lynda created the African section alongside the 12″ section and soul system already existed, African labels like Gallow were supplying the London record scene. Delivery vans, representatives from companies came with their latest stock and she had to pull out the records and decide which she was going to take. The buyer, the curator of the section she made.

From there Tower Records and other records began to have African sections so her influence was phenomenal. The whole world of WOMAD that we know now has its roots in what they did back in the 80s.

Lynda and June do not get recognised enough in the dominant narratives for what they achieved in the 1980s and early 1990s a time when there was no social media and people didn’t document things in the same way. The ability to track your own progress didn’t exist until recently. So we need to now learn the hidden history of how Lynda was a key figure introducing African music to the UK.

I love the phrases that Lynda and June employ. ‘Rinse that song out’ – hilarious and so true. The terminology of the dance hall. Lynda and June tell each other’s stories, bring each other up. They are always aware of the wider struggle of black artists and people and bring that into all their tales. Zoë is facilitating their stories in her show, with the time slot, with her conversation style, relaxed and supportive, bringing out important points. Lynda and June are particularly good converstionalists and storytellers so little intervention was needed on that particular show from Zoë but that’s part of the skill of the host, to know when to lay back as well as when to step in.

The friendship between Lynda and June was key to their whole lives. They DJed together in their early lives in Brixton. They went to university together. They were significant buyers and curators at Virgin Records together. They worked together all their lives to curate and disseminate reggae and other black music and music that they are really enthusiastic about. Recently they’ve been going to conferences together and starting to think about producing research particularly into females who have sound systems who are currently still invisible. June is recently at Goldsmiths starting her MA into Women and Sound Systems. Sisters of the Systems. If they don’t take control of it, they say, people will write the narrative and write it incorrectly.

It is through Zoë’s show that I have encountered Nzinga Soundz. Another show, Debbie Golt’s The Outerglobe has introduced me to other brilliant African and Caribbean artists or helped me get deeper into their output. Such as the carnival activist Pax Nindi who makes what has become an annual visit to Resonance FM to talk to Debbie about whatever his up to.

Debbie Golt, DJ with Sisters of Reggae, at Ziggy’s Rooftop,

Debbie’s show is a community noticeboard for local events. We lost amazing singer, percussionist, artist, teacher, inspirational leader Adesose Wallace known for his work with the  band Ibile. It’s Debbie’s show that not only pays tribute but tells you about the event, where it’s happening. The Outerglobe brings artists and appreciators together in our inclusive community driven by music. Debbie’s history is steeped in local and international issues. She has strong experience in managing music, in being a Local Authority Arts Officer. Debbie’s husband was Nsimba Foggis Bitendi from Soukous band Taxi Pata Pata, beloved of influential BBC DJs Charlie Gillett and Andy Kershaw.

Pax Nindi tells us on The Outerglobe about Ata Kak, talking about the Ghanaian dance enigma and cult favourite. Pax is touring as part of Ata’s band. An eccentric gem hunted down by a record collector, Yaw Atta-Owusu is performing internationally bringing his popular, novelty vintage African early digital music live to audiences. I’m fascinated by this new discovery, the lively sounds and cheerful novelty sound. Good feeling music.

Debbie’s show also takes a deep interest in social issues. The Grenfell Tower disaster and the anniverary marches are a repeat focus of discussions. From West London, Debbie is herself immersed in the community affected by the fire. Debbie’s show keeps a focus on this significant community event, never letting us forget, but keeping a positive focus on the collective spirit at ground roots level. A recent guest was Catherine Plant, aka DJ Africathy, organiser of Mozima, a cultural event to raise funds responding to the aftermath of cyclones in Southern Africa. Cathy talked how the fabric of society gets destroyed by these disasters. Additional risks grow for the vulnerable, for women and children, there are more opportunity for predators, for rape and sexual abuse in when social structure breaks down. Activist DJs like Cathy and Debbie keep the focus between music and community, between song and integration, between listening and open-mindedness alive. Debbie and Zoë are doing just this with our fellow hosts, week in and week out on Resonance FM. As well as playing brilliant music.

Jude Cowan Montague is an artist and broadcaster. She produces 'The News Agents' for Resonance FM, a weekly show experimenting with international story and the arts. She worked at Reuters Television News for many years as an archivist and this has informed her poetry and some of her art. She's an award winning printmaker and a composer. Her graphic memoir 'Love on the Isle of Dogs' is available from Central Books.

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