Several years ago a friend and I set up an agency for artists – a grassroots family with access to the established and international music and festival circuit. One of the main acts we looked after that summer was Congo Natty – a pioneer of the underground junglist movement that went on to shape the experience of generations, representing an authentic underground lifestyle born out of roots and sound-system culture. As I learned first-hand, there are many fascinating aspects to this incredibly talented and multifaceted man – Congo Natty aka Rebel MC.
Born Michael West in north London and growing up in Tottenham, the jungle originator now resides in the peaceful town of Ramsgate with his wife and children. His legendary status in its formative days contributed to the music that spawned drum & bass, dubstep and grime veering through rap, breakbeat and reggae. For many of the sub-genres that exist and we enjoy today, we have players like Congo Natty to be grateful for.
Catch him casting a fever over Moondance this Sunday – final tickets available here .
10 Facts You May Not Know About Congo Natty…
C – CLEANSING.
It’s been cited by Congo Natty that as a genre “jungle sets you free”. He’s compared the rave with a bath it can be such a cleansing, borderline religious experience.
O – OUTREACH.
Congo Natty works with young people to communicate a positive message to the children of the future. He is constantly communicating on his instagram (@congonattyrebel) and in publications the importance of positively supporting the youth of today. His own son Congo Dubz often appears & plays alongside him at gigs.
N – NAMES.
He’s been known as by many names including Lion of Judah, X Project, Ras Project, Blackstar and Conquering Lion, and legally known as Mikail Tafari.
G – GAME-CHANGING.
It’s iconic Jungle music that paved the way for breaks to evolve, for dubstep, grime, d&b to emerge in the late eighties and early nineties…it sits at the heart of sound-system and roots culture as it morphed into our society and shaped the view of generations to come.
O – ORIGINAL BADMAN.
N – NANCI & PHOEBE.
These 2 London vocalists have been working with Congo Natty for more than 7 years frequenting Brixton’s Jamm for events, studio time and touring internationally.
A – A WAY OF LIFE.
Rebel is aligned with Rastafarianism and converted officially in 1994. Congo Natty as a name is reference to those who live self-sustainably, growing their own food and living in accordance with the earth.
T – TENOR FLY.
AKA Jonathan Sutter, the late Tenor Fly MC worked with Congo Natty most prominently. He was an integral vocalist during the ragga movement of the early 90s and brought elements of dancehall, hip hop and reggae to the jungle sound. It was this movement of a conscious collective, of junglists, DJs, MCs and ravers, that encouraged an empowered social movement in the early 90s that saw the break of rave culture and reflected the people’s position amongst the political situation of that era. Cue the M25 rave days.
T – TECHNOLOGY vs. TIMELESS TRUTH.
“Jungle music was at the cutting edge of music technology….So technology for us as junglists is very important, but at the same time, it wasn’t the technology that made jungle, it was the spirit…So that level of innovation, there’s only so much you can do, because you are actually becoming who you are…That is what jungle is about – being timeless” – Congo Natty
Y – YOUTH.
Legend has it that Congo Natty played his first ever DJ set at 10 years old for £1. His authenticity and grass-roots approach is clear and tangible from the beginning right the way through to his legendary position as original junglist. Catch the fire this Sunday at Moondance Festival.