Portia Clarke, part of the team behind Spotify’s virtual Notting Hill Carnival celebrations, has told Music Week that the event represents the pulse of UK music.
Spotify’s line-up includes music and content from Koffee, Little Mix’s Leigh-Anne Pinnock and more, and head of music Sulinna Ong has already celebrated giving users the chance to connect with the history of the event.
Now, Portia Clarke, a music marketing consultant who has worked with Red Bull, Sony Music and Atlantic and has steered previous carnival projects for Jamie xx, Kranium and more, has revealed how the team pulled the line-up together.
“I think Spotify understood that in order to make this happen, and happen authentically, everything from the outreach, to the design and photography had to come from a place of understanding of the culture,” Clarke told Music Week.
“With so many sound systems and DJs involved, it was a huge project that needed the right external support,” she added. “Bringing together a black creative team who are all carnival fans and are well-versed in the event made sense.”
Here, she reveals how the project came together and explains why Notting Hill Carnival is vital not only for the music industry, but UK culture as a whole.
Why is it important that the music industry celebrates Notting Hill Carnival this year?
“Notting Hill Carnival is the foundation of what music, fashion and food looks like in the UK, and London in particular. This is what I call culture. If you want to know what music or artist is really hot and relevant, Carnival is the place! Get a sound system or truck to play an artist’s song and just think, where else in the world are you going to see millions of people dancing, singing and reacting to music? Real, authentic reactions to music are priceless and something no marketing campaign can stage. Notting Hill Carnival is the pulse.”
What was it like working on the project and pulling everything together?
“The project was amazing. I was commissioned as a culture consultant for Spotify UK to deliver it with Elliott Jack and photographer Ekua King, I wish we could have filmed behind the scenes. This is one of the first times sound systems have been highlighted in such a way, and Spotify, being a DSP, delivered such a visual project with the micro site. I am sure many thought it was not possible to have artists such as Spice, Kranium, Koffee and Little Mix’s Leigh-Anne Pinnock all happy to be involved. The carnival sound systems celebrate Caribbean culture, which sometimes gets overlooked, but is such an important part of British history and music.”
This project shines a light on part of music history that represents expression, community and real passion
Can you sum up your aims going into this?
“The aim going into this project was to highlight and gather key elements of Notting Hill Carnival with artists, sound systems, podcasts, events and playlists in one hub through the Carnival Sounds Spotify microsite. I have built up a strong reputation with talent over the years, so making it happen was always possible, I had no doubt in my mind. Of course, with Covid-19 and people being in different parts of the UK, logistically it was intense but nothing good planning could not fix. When millions attend Carnival it’s not often they know who owns a sound system, what actually goes into it or which artist is behind which song, so the microsite tells this story.”
Finally, what are you most excited about ahead of the weekend?
“The artist takeovers have all been curated personally by the artist, which is amazing. You can actually see what your favourite artist or DJ would be listening to. This project really shines a light on part of the industry and of music history that represents expression, community and real passion –the sound systems.”
Portia Clarke is photographed outside People’s Sound Records on All Saints Road, West London.