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The Delicate, Dirty and Diverse World of UK Garage

As artists like Mura Masa and PinkPantheress tap the genre, we’re taking a tour through its roots and resurgence

uk garage explainer
Matt Jam Lamont, PinkPantheress and AlunaGeorge, illustration by Steven Fiche
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    An upbeat two-step rhythm, a touch of R&B soul, and a groovy house vibe. That’s what it takes to conjure the sound of the people — or as those people call it, UK garage.

    You may know it from Daniel Bedingfield’s 2001 UK No. 1 “Gotta Get Thru This” or T2’s 2007 single “Heartbroken” with Jodie Aysha. Maybe you heard the recent streaming hit “Pain” by breakout star PinkPantheress, and wondered to yourself where you could find more.

    From the London streets in the mid ’90s to the modern stages of now, the upbeat rhythms and flirtatious vocals of UK garage is a sound that stays fresh after 30 years due mostly in part to its inherent diversity: diversity of sounds, of influencers, and of creators and fans alike.

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    While garage is a definitely UK kinda vibe, the genre has its roots in the United States. Even the name “garage” is derived from the famed Paradise Garage in NYC. It was a pivotal space where the beginnings of house music flourished, and a safe space for the city’s queer folk, people of color, and the famously fabulous. The iconic Larry Levan was the resident DJ, and the records he broke were soon known as “garage” hits.

    Those powerful and inspiring rhythms found kindred spirits across the pond, but especially so when American-born DJ and producer Todd Edwards started speeding up his records and chopping the soulful vocals into smart and catchy hooks. His single “Saved My Life” was a hit in Britain, and in its bouncing beat, cut-and-paste vocal samples and jazzy melodies, one can begin to hear the seed of the UKG we recognize, but it would take an infusion of diverse styles to bring the music we now know to life.

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