"10 years ago, maybe not so much, but now you walk around and it's reggae party here, reggae party there. The kids like house, but most people listen to reggae." The owner of a sandwich shop on the Rue du Maréchal Joffre, Nantes. He's not wrong; flyers for reggae nights fill shops down the thin cobbled streets of the old city. Much of daily life here is soundtracked by the partytime.fr web radio station, broadcasting reggae and roots music out of Paris, and local reggae heroes Truth and Right.
One of the reasons behind the growth of reggae soundsystems in this city over the last decade is Ras Abubakar, who set up Zion Gate Music - a well regarded Nantes-based reggae label - in 1996. We caught up with him in Oneness Records, the record shop he runs on Rue du Maréchal Joffre. Here he explained that much of the reggae culture here comes from immigration from the West Indies, and his label, along with their house band, bring artists from around the world to record here. This meant that, alongside purchases of Beastie Boys' Check Your Head Curtis Mayfield's Superfly, I managed to pick up a Zion Gate record featuring a singer from Birmingham. 6 hours in Nantes and already I've got a little taste of home.