Notting Hill Carnival legends on their most-loved tracks

Photography by Seye Isikalu

Got a Carnival-shaped hole in your social calendar this bank holiday weekend? Fill it up with these banging tunes.

For the second year in a row, Notting Hill Carnival won’t be flooding the streets of West London over the bank holiday weekend. Thanks to the pandemic, Mas Bands, sound systems and the motive hungry revellers have been forced to find alternative ways to celebrate the much loved event, which is usually one of the largest street festivals in the world.

A step forward from 2020’s digital programme, festivities popped off at Opera Holland Park last weekend for Carnival Culture In The Park, where the sounds of calypso and steel pans filled the air. Missed the invite? There’s still time to get involved. This weekend, you can catch the annual National Panorama Steel Band competition at Emslie Horniman’s Pleasant Park on 28th August, as well as the Rampage Sound Carnival Weekend event at E1 Nightclub on 29th and 30th August.

To get you in the mood for a proper dutty wine, we caught up with three Notting Hill Carnival mainstays to find out which tracks will bring good vibes this weekend. Whether you’re heading down to a Carnival event or paying homage at home, this list of tracks should carry you through until we return to the streets (hopefully!) next year.


Ms. Dynamite and Sticky – Booo!

Ms. Dynamite is like family to us. Every year she comes and supports us. The first year she performed, Boo was such a massive track that when she came onto the stage, the audience was so excited and wanted to get so close to her they actually bent the metal pit barriers to a 90 degree angle.”

D Double E – Street Fighter Riddim

D Double E also regularly comes down and, when Street Fighter Riddim drops, the road literally shakes as everyone raps along.”

JW & Blaze – Palance

Palance is a soca classic and everybody knows the dance – it’s a simple left and right march. Watching the whole road get involved from up on the DJ tower is amazing. 15,0000 in one go moving from left to right. Incredible.”

Ding Dong – Ravers Gas

Ravers Gas is similar to Palance in that it’s a crowd participation record. It sticks out to us as it was the big song of 2019, the last year we were on the road. We often watch back the videos and hope we’ll be back next year.”

Bob Marley – Is This Love

By 7pm, when it’s time to go home you want to end on a high without getting people over excited, there’s nothing better than Is This Love for the whole crowd to sing along to. The vibes are incredible. You can feel the love and togetherness in the air. Powerful.”


Ella Andall – Oshun Karele

In 2015, Stephanie Kanhai became the first Moko Jumbie Queen of Carnival, performing to this as The Sweet Waters of Africa’, three minutes of transcending and emotional magic on the Savannah Stage. The audience stood and waved their handkerchiefs as she left. It was the first time a costume of mine won the Queen title. It still gives me goosebumps to hear Ella Andall’s mesmeric chant.”

Devon Mathews and Ella Andall – D’Journey (Make It)

In 2017, I remember walking along the Eastern Main Road from Tunapuna to Barataria, about four miles, and this song was playing through every open window and doorway. Ring d’ bell’ really heralded the uplifting spirit of Carnival, as it seemed to float in the air and wrap itself around the nation.”

3 Canal – Blue

For me, this always captures the excitement and unpredictable energy of J’ouvert, where mud and paint, devils and baby dolls, rum and beer and vibrations overtake the streets of Port of Spain in the early darkness of Carnival Monday Morning.”

Lord Nelson – Shango

The Calypsonian, the Yoruba chant and the driving beat praising the Orisha Shango – there is something elemental about this song. My abiding memory is of Tekel Sylvan on 7ft stilts as A Peacock Becomes the Windows of the Universe’, dancing over the top of a line of drummers on the wet Savannah Stage to place second in the King of Carnival Competition for my band Moko Somōkōw. A truly breathtaking combination.”

Freetown Collective – We Bad

This song captures the energy, the spirit and the forces of Carnival as they come together for those special days. The lyrics, we bad for the right thing’ and Ago Agolona’ (clear the way), you can feel them coming from the hills, from the valleys, from the former cane fields and arriving at our Mas Camp and Carnival home in Belmont. It’s the spirit of the original Freetown settlement of liberated slaves, where, for the Carnival season, everything is infused with magic.”


Lyrikal – Happy Place

This is Mangrove’s tune for the 2021 UK National Panorama Competition so it is, of course, my current No.1.”

Machel Montano – High Life

I think everyone can relate to the words in this song following the past year we’ve all had.”

Kes & Jimmy October – Magic

I just love the summertime vibe of this tune.”

Voice – Dancing Away

Invokes images of coming back from a beach while the sun is setting.”

Bunji Garlin – Heart of the People

I’m just a massive Bunji Garlin fan.”

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