This post originally appeared on Noisey UK
At around 5.30am on Friday morning at Glastonbury's stone circle, someone found out Britain was leaving the EU. Then someone told someone, and someone told someone else, and within about ten minutes the whole field was peering through dilated pupils into their iPhones, muttering variations of “What the fuck” and “Shitting hell.” By the time most people awoke later in the morning – vaguely sober and nursing a bastard behind the eyes – David Cameron had resigned, stories were circulating about the Labour party considering a vote of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn, and the arse had fallen out of the pound. It’s funny how superficial somewhere as liberal and utopian as Glastonbury can feel when you know the reality outside is that your country is in political and social turmoil, especially when some dude walks past waving a “BORIS FOR PM” flag.
After hearing the words “immigration”, “refugees” and “borders” bounded around like weapons for nearly six months in the build up to the referendum result, it was strangely poignant that the very first act to open Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage just a few hours after we all discovered the result was an entire orchestra of Syrian musicians, accompanied by Damon Albarn. He was one of the only big acts to say much about the political events of the day, but while Damon’s impassioned speech about moving forward resonated, it was his mate Kano who would later give this Glastonbury crowd a way to vent their frustrations and blow the fuck off their comedown-induced lethargy.
The East London MC was scheduled the headliner at the Sonic Stage in the Silver Hayes area, which had been laid siege all day long by a crack team of UK rap and grime stars, injecting a much needed dose of youthfulness into a Friday line-up otherwise flagging from the likes of Editors, Jess Glynne, ZZ Top and Bastille. That urban British sound has been threatening to wash over this festival site for some time now, most notably when Skepta lit up the Wow stage last year, and over in the Silver Hayes area, the UK rap and grime invasion was reaching domination levels. Bugzy Malone, J Hus, Novelist, Lady Leshurr, Section Boyz and Stormzy all ripped the lid off the Sonic Stage throughout the day, sending waves of energy into a young and bouncing crowd.
Sound issues plagued some acts – Kurupt FM looked like they were probably delivering the performance of their life, but their mics were muddy, and for anyone more than 30 feet back it sounded like they were spitting into hollow baked bean cans – but it was fortunately fixed come headline time. Out marched Kano, zipped up waterproof, hood firmly over his head, striding onstage like Glastonbury was his living room.
When Made in the Manor dropped back in March, it didn’t seem to get quite the attention it deserved. Fans of the scene were of course on board, and it received generally favorable reviews and scored a commendable 8 in the album charts – but it didn’t quite cross over into the wider audience. It’s strange when you consider it’s a complex and introspective UK rap masterpiece that transcends its ‘grime’ tag, capitulates the pride and frustration of coming up in modern Britain, and features everyone from UK legends like Damon Albarn and Wiley, to shrewd producers like Rustie and Kwes, Grammy award winning songwriters like Fraser T Smith, and dons of the scene like JME and Giggs. In fact, you’d be hard pushed to find a better crafted album by a British MC, and when seen live, it’s an unstoppable beast.
Kano opened with the vicious riffs of “Hail”. If there was still any cobwebs of resentment about the way things had gone during the day, then he blew them off emphatically. “I was pissed off this morning,” he shouted three songs in, “but then I realized…” and consequently burst into a cathartic performance of “This Is England”. With lyrics that acknowledge all the shitty problems this country faces – yet remain shot through with an unwavering sense of British pride – it’s never sounded more apt. It’s a song that recognizes when things are bad, and demands change.
Kano’s never been one to mix his words, and the anger in his flow is infectious, with East London inflections mutating into Jamaican ragga when he gets his most irate. Guests started to arrive onstage, with D Double E striding out just so Kano could sing “Hold tight D Double E that’s a real OG” directly into his face, and Giggs sprinting out to everyone’s surprise to spit on “3 Wheel Ups”. The nostalgic summer tones of “T Shirt Weather” calmed things down and with that, Kano finished up on “Garage Skank” over the Zeph Ellis instrumental that has been burning down raves for years.
As the music stopped, you could hear the faint sound of someone playing Muse somewhere, but it was quickly drowned out by the boom and bleep of a DJ dropping Wiley’s “Morgue” on a stage nearby. Glastonbury’s urban ingratiation is complete.
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