Today the British Library and University of Westminster announce a new partnership to develop a landmark exhibition exploring the history of black British music.
The exhibition will open at the British Library in 2024, charting and reframing the evolution and influence of black British musical innovation, cultures and creativity on popular music. The British Library has already begun researching the Library’s rich collections alongside the University of Westminster’s Black Music Research Unit, to foreground and reposition six centuries of African musical contributions to the UK.
This major collaborative undertaking will soon move beyond the national collections to engage with the music industry and broader public in a national conversation on black British identity through the medium of music. Previously overlooked narratives will be collected to celebrate an inclusive culture and musical history.
Becoming Fowokan:The Life and Works of Fowokan George Kelly, available in January 2022, chronicles the life of one of Britain’s foremost Black sculptors Fowokan.
The book provides an insightful history of Jamaica in the 1940s and 50s and ‘Swinging’ London in the late 50s and 60s through the life of young George. It explores his journey from East Queen Street Baptist Elementary School in Downtown Kingston to Brixton, London; becoming a musician, touring the US with Cymande and Nigeria with Jimmy Cliff, teaching himself to sculpt, exhibiting nationally and internationally including with Ronald Moody in the 1980s and at the Royal Academy of Arts in the 00s. What would inspire George to become ‘Fowokan’, meaning in Yoruba, ‘one who works with his hands’, is visually captured in this lavishly illustrated book.
Check out this really interesting tribute to the legendary bass player Robbie Shakespeare.
This is the first of a two-part series by cultural historian and director of the Jamaica Music Museum, Herbie Miller on the life and work of master bass player Robert “Robbie” Shakespeare who died on December 8, 2021.
This tribute is particularly difficult to write because it quickly connects more than one emotion. So much of this has to do with my friend and bass player of choice, Robbie Shakespeare, an extraordinary bassist, remarkable producer, globally regarded, and a terrific musician. If the lights and details reflected his name alone in any musical credit or marquee notification, it would resonate for anyone with even a casual affinity for reggae music.
Listen back to the Drop Da Biscuit session with Sultan Ali as he reflects on the legacy and extraordinary career of his father, the great Prince Buster. Among other things, Sultan gives us the inside track on his dealings with Tom the Great Sebastian, Coxsone Dodd and Duke Reid, the Derrick Morgan clash tracks, how and why he pushed for the development of a unique Jamaican sound and linking with Count Ossie and the Nyabinghi drummers. Find out how the bravery, innovation and vision of the legendary Prince Buster revolutionised the Jamaican music industry.
Prince Buster – Danny, Dane and Lorraine
Prince Buster – They Got to Come
Prince Buster – Everybody Ska
Prince Buster – Shaking Up Orange Street
Sultan Ali – Beautiful Angel
Prince Buster – Wash Wash
Prince Buster – Al Capone
The Folks Brothers/Prince Buster – Oh Carolina
Black diasporic archival pages on Instagram serve as a virtual space for Black people to remember, honor, and share our pasts, particularly from points of view that are often overlooked.
A video of Curaçaoans dressed in vivd blue dancing to Tambú, a genre of music inspired by their African ancestors. Stills from a documentary featuring famed Malian photographer Seydou Keïta discussing “photography as a form of memory-making.” A photo of outstretched hands adorned with elaborate gold jewelry that enhances the subject’s long nails. These are some of the glimpses into Black life that you’ll see if you visit one of the cultural archives on Instagram dedicated to preserving the history and customs of people who inhabit the African diaspora.
Interesting piece by Houreidja Tall about Black Cultural Archives in Teen Vogue.
“Life is an experiment – The more you experiment – You make the world better – For each other.”
These words from Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, appear two minutes into Life is an Experiment, the opening song on the dub pioneer’s collaborative swansong, Lee “Scratch” Perry’s Guide To the Universe, released posthumously in early November.
The album, a collaboration with Canadian duo New Age Doom, draws on dub, noise, psychedelia, heavy metal and free jazz while Perry delivers words of wisdom.
When you consider that his spirit of experimentation resulted in many technical innovations that have influenced music over his six-decade career, “life is an experiment” feels like a fitting philosophy.
Perry left a rich legacy of production wizardry for future generations to expand on when he died in August at the age of 85.
Review of Scratch's final collaboration in The South African.
Happy New Year one and all. Last year Drop Da Biscuit hooked up with the great Mad Professor shortly after the legendary U-Roy had transitioned. Listen back as Prof reflects on what it was like to work with The Originator. Prof also recalls how he got started in music and muses about his many other collaborations, including with another recently departed legend, the mighty Lee “Scratch” Perry. Ariwa brings sweet lovers rock, roots and culture and some heavy Dub straight to your head.
Dubfonics/Amarra – When You Get Right Down to It
Sandra Cross/Wild Bunch – Country Living
Aisha – Creator
Intense – Mellow
Kofi – Didn’t I
Mad Professor – Covid Illusion
Seasons greetings to everyone. If you missed it first time around, listen back to my interview with legendary photographer Charlie Phillips, whose work provides a comprehensive photographic record of black British culture. Windrush chronicles, 1960s Notting Hill, Shebeens, festivals, Carnival, Caribbean funerals, etc. Charlie has seen and photographed it all. Respected by peers and neglected by the establishment in equal measure, catch up with Charlie in this edition of Drop Da Biscuit. Check out Charlie’s work at https://charliephillipsarchive.com
Paul Robeson – Go Down Moses
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Nabucco Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves
Fats Domino – Blueberry Hill
Laurel Aitken – Baba Kill Me Goat
Nina Simone – My Baby Just Cares for Me
Burning Spear – Cry Blood Africa
Carroll Thompson – I’m So Sorry
Music Week reports that the music industry conference and festival in Cannes has been officially axed after 55 years, according to RX France (formerly Reed MIDEM).
The event in the South of France was once a crucial fixture of the music industry calendar.
The Palais des Festivals et des Congrès drew big executives and artists, as deals were struck and industry trends discussed in front of large audiences.
But MIDEM has been impacted by Covid-19, which forced the organisers to stage events online in 2020 and 2021.
An in-person event was scheduled for June 2022 but has now been pulled.
Revisit my talk with the great Sylvia Tella. Sylvia, who had pop hits with Boney M, the Blow Monkeys and Pop Will Eat Itself, sung with her father on the university circuit, won a talent competition and was blacklisted following an altercation on Opportunity Knocks, has enjoyed a truly stellar career working with several reggae legends including Lloyd Charmers and Ernest Ranglin and has run her own record label for more than 40 years. Big up!
Sylvia Tella – Happy Home
Sylvia Tella – What’s Going On
Sylvia Tella – Tick Tock (reggae)
Sylvia Tella – One Step
Sylvia Tella – Wake Up (2002)
Sylvia Tella – Wake Up (Joe G Production, 2021)
Sylvia Tella – Spell
Interesting remembrance piece on the life of Robbie Shakespeare by David Katz published in the Guardian.
The death of the venerated Jamaican bassist Robbie Shakespeare at the age of 68 finally ends the incomparable partnership he forged with the drummer Sly Dunbar in the dingy nightclubs and hothouse recording studios of 1970s Kingston.
Having backed virtually every reggae star and collaborated with an array of international A-listers that includes Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Joan Armatrading and Sinead O’Connor, as well as co-producing the career-defining hits of Grace Jones, Shakespeare was the belligerent yang to Dunbar’s yin, a brawny, chain-smoking musician whose consistently meaty bass lines belied a mercurial temperament. With his style defined by a melodiousness that referenced a love of jazz, soul, and rock’n’roll, Shakespeare leaves a vast catalogue, peppered with stone-cold classics.
Kevin Brennan MP introduced his much-trailed Private Member’s Bill on proposed reforms to musicians’ remuneration in the House of Commons.
The second reading of Brennan’s music streaming Bill took place on Friday (December 3) with a debate among MPs. However, the Bill was not passed and is unlikely to make further progress.
UK label bodies AIM and the BPI warned against the proposals, that includes a move to the equitable remuneration model for artist royalties from streaming and the right for contracts to be revoked after 20 years.
Geoff Taylor, BPI and BRIT Awards CEO, said: “As many contributions to the debate in Parliament made clear, Mr Brennan’s Bill, though well-intentioned, is not the right way forward for British music. The UK’s record labels – including hundreds of independents around the country – are committed to supporting their artists’ creative vision and building their global audience, so that many more reap the benefits of streaming success. The Bill’s proposals would undermine the essential investment that labels provide, harming new talent and future artists and the long-term competitiveness of British music.