Music


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‘Our music charts are still kind of segregated’: critic Kelefa Sanneh on pop, fandom and race

The New Yorker writer’s book Major Labels examines why we tag music with a genre, be it for commerce or community. He explains why people still argue over great songs – and why they can thrive on cultural appropriationWhen Nik Cohn wrote Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock in 1969, he only had 15 years of the rock’n’roll era to process. Five decades later, telling the story so far is such a daunting prospect that, while writing Major Labels: A History of Popular Music in Seven Gen...
Tags: Books, Music, Race, Society, Rap, Culture, Pop and rock, Hip-hop, Punk, Nik Cohn, Kelefa Sanneh, Music books, Popular Music in Seven Genres New Yorker


‘This has brought me power to be myself’: Brazil’s Black jazz artists

Black musicians have often been sidelined in Brazil, but by diving deep into their complex heritage, the likes of Jonathan Ferr and Amaro Freitas are making themselves heardJonathan Ferr thinks back to his youth. “Jazz was giving me freedom, while rap was showing me my place as a Black man in a racist society,” remembers the pianist, part of Brazil’s vibrant contemporary jazz scene. “Those were two Black musics that have brought me power to be myself.”Like their US forebears, who used jazz to ad...
Tags: Europe, Music, Race, Americas, US, Culture, Brazil, Jazz, Salvador, Alf, Amaro Freitas, Jonathan Ferr, Dom Salvador Tania Maria, Johnny Alf Maria


63% of Black music makers have experienced racism in UK industry – study

Survey of 1,718 performers, creatives and staff reveals microgression, pay disparities and discrimination are rifeDespite increased representation within the British music industry, the UK sector remains hostile to Black creators and professionals, according to a report that highlights the effects of systemic racism on mental health and a racial pay gap that disproportionately affects Black women.The first Black Lives in Music study found that 63% of Black music creators had experienced direct o...
Tags: Health, Business, Music, UK, Money, Race, Society, UK News, World news, Music Industry, Work & careers, Mental Health, Culture, Pop and rock, Hip-hop, Discrimination at work


Shayne Oliver: ‘Being a Black weirdo is harder than being any other kind’

He’s DJ’d naked, put a great dane on the catwalk – and now with an album, Shayne Oliver is on a mission to bring New York’s queer underground to the world. Is the former Hood by Air designer the 21st century Andy Warhol?Interviewing Shayne Oliver is a conversational rollercoaster. We hurtle from cult 90s guitar bands to Arthur Jafa, from the problem with political correctness to the pressure on creatives, from Kanye West to Vin Diesel, with little warning of which thrill or spill is next. “I’m s...
Tags: Fashion, Gender, Music, New York, Race, Life and style, Kanye West, Culture, Air, Clubbing, Oliver, Vin Diesel, HBA, Shayne Oliver, Arthur Jafa, Andy Warhol?Interviewing Shayne Oliver


The return of Jimmy Cliff: ‘Rebel spirit is still in the Jamaican people’

As he releases new music at the age of 77, one of reggae’s foundational figures charts his astonishing life in music, via swinging London, Brazilian samba and the chaotic bravado of The Harder They ComeEven on his parents’ rural Jamaican farm, Jimmy Cliff dreamed big. “When I was a very small boy, my cousins and me would look after my family’s cows and goats, and I would talk about towns and countries I wanted to go to. Although they would laugh at me, I always had that kind of thinking.”Cliff’s...
Tags: Music, Race, World news, Culture, Pop and rock, Roy, Jamaica, Reggae, Kingston, Caribbean, Jimmy Cliff, SKA, Toots Hibbert


‘An American riddle’: the black music trailblazer who died a white man

A fascinating new podcast delves into the life of Harry Pace, forgotten founder of the first black-owned record label in the US – and unlocks a shocking and prescient story about raceThere are, according to the academic Emmett Price, “six degrees of Harry Pace”. He is referring to the man born in 1884 who founded America’s first black-owned major record label; desegregated part of Chicago; mentored the founder of Ebony and Jet magazines and spearheaded the career of blues singer Ethel Waters. Pa...
Tags: Music, Television, Podcasts, Race, US, America, Chicago, Culture, Digital Media, Television & radio, Podcasting, Blues, Jad Abumrad, Harry Pace, Emmett Price, Ethel Waters Pace


DJ-producer Sherelle: ‘I feed off people’s unexplained anger’

Black artists pioneered dance music, but the scene remains white-dominated. UK rising star Sherelle is dodging the trolls and trying to make change with her platform BeautifulWearing a fleece jacket covered in black and white acid smilies, Sherelle is a walking embodiment of dance music when I meet her. The 27-year-old north Londoner and self-professed “bocat” – a Jamaican slang term used in a derogatory manner to describe someone who enjoys giving cunnilingus, now proudly reappropriated by her ...
Tags: Music, UK, Race, Women, Culture, LGBT rights, Dance music, Electronic Music, Londoner, Drum'n'bass, Sherelle


Def Jam: how a new British imprint of the iconic rap label poached Stormzy

Only 6% of music industry execs are Black. That system fails artists, say the founders of 0207 Def Jam, whose uniquely diverse boardroom aims to change the culture – for goodRick Rubin’s initial ambitions for Def Jam were modest. In 1984, it was simply a means for him to release music by his punk rock band, Hose. Its first office was his New York University dorm room. “We never had any aspirations other than playing in small clubs,” he says. “That was the ceiling for the hardcore punk scene at t...
Tags: Business, Music, Rihanna, Jay Z, Race, Music Industry, Rap, Culture, Hip-hop, Justin Bieber, R&B, Snoop Dogg, Aerosmith, New York University, Def Jam, Rick Rubin


Mohamed Bourouissa on France’s identity crisis: ‘We’ve got catching up to do!’

The French Algerian artist uses photography, rap music and the frequencies of trees in his quest to shine a light on marginalised communities. Now he’s preparing for his first solo UK showIn early 2020, when Dave was making British history by triumphing at both the Brits and Mercury music prizes, the equivalent awards in France were making headlines for all the wrong reasons. That year’s Victoires de la Musique featured no headline prizes for a black or Arab rapper. “Domestic rap has become the ...
Tags: Art, Europe, Photography, Music, UK, France, Africa, Race, Society, World news, Dave, Culture, Middle East and North Africa, Art and design, Hip-hop, Installation


The Linda Lindas on their viral song Racist, Sexist Boy: ‘It’s good to let the anger out and scream’

The young band reflects on their newfound fame after a clip of their performance at the Los Angeles public library exploded onlineMila, 10, had barely heard of the coronavirus when a boy in her school said his father told him to stay away from Chinese people.“It was my first experience of racism, and I didn’t really know how to respond,” said the Los Angeles girl, recounting the conversation in fourth grade in March 2020, just before California shut down. She told him she was Chinese – and he ba...
Tags: Music, California, Race, Los Angeles, US news, Culture, Punk, Linda Lindas


The Linda Lindas on their viral song Racist, Sexist Boy: ‘It’s good to let the anger out’

The young band reflects on their newfound fame after a clip of their performance at the Los Angeles public library exploded onlineMila, 10, had barely heard of the coronavirus when a boy in her school said his father told him to stay away from Chinese people.“It was my first experience of racism, and I didn’t really know how to respond,” said the Los Angeles girl, recounting the conversation in fourth grade in March 2020, just before California shut down. She told him she was Chinese – and he ba...
Tags: Music, California, Race, Los Angeles, US news, Culture, Punk, Linda Lindas


What’s Going On at 50: Marvin Gaye’s masterpiece is still so true to life

The album’s unresolved, discordant elements make this album truly timeless – that, and the fact that too few of its concerns have been addressed since 1971Marvin Gaye’s classic 1971 record What’s Going On turns 50 this month, which means more people than ever will have occasion to note how timely it is. “He could have written What’s Going On yesterday,” poet Nikki Giovanni noted in an interview last autumn, explaining that the cover portrait of her 2020 collection, Make Me Rain, pays homage to G...
Tags: Music, Climate Change, Race, Society, US news, Soul, Culture, Nelson Mandela, Pop and rock, Vietnam, Motown records, Vietnam War, Social history, Detroit, Civil rights movement, Marvin Gaye


This man made opera history. Why did I not know him?

Peter Brathwaite knew Bobby (Don’t Worry Be Happy) McFerrin but not his father Robert, the first Black man to sing at the Met. He celebrates a trailblazer and an inspirationHere’s a little song I wroteYou might want to sing it note for note Don’t worry, be happy”Everyone knows Bobby McFerrin’s 1988 earwormy hit and its gloriously silly video. I remember dancing round the living room with my sisters singing along full pelt, each of us taking turns to try our hands at imitating the vocal percussio...
Tags: Music, New York, Race, America, US news, Culture, Classical Music, Opera, Robert, Bobby, Bobby McFerrin, Metropolitan Opera, McFerrin, Peter Brathwaite


Gray Areas

It was not just that Italians did not look white to certain social arbiters, but that they did not act white. In New Orleans Italian immigrants were stigmatized in the post-Civil War period because they accepted economic niches (farm labor and small tenancy, for instance) marked as "black" by local custom, and because they lived and worked comfortably among blacks. ... From being "like negroes" to being "as bad as negroes" was but a trifling step in dominant Southern thinking; and hence in state...
Tags: Race, West Virginia, New Orleans, Jazz, Louisiana Mississippi, Stefan Kac, Jacobson (matthew Frye, New Orleans Music And Musicians, Matthew Frye JacobsonWhiteness


Leigh-Anne Pinnock of Little Mix: ‘Being Black is my power. I want young Black girls to see that’

In her early days with the girl band, Pinnock felt invisible and couldn’t understand why. Then the role of race became clearLeigh-Anne Pinnock has been living the pop star dream ever since she was 19 and stepped on to a stage to audition for The X Factor, singing Rihanna’s Only Girl (In the World). She has now spent almost a decade in one of the UK’s biggest girl groups. But she had a difficult start with Little Mix, and not because she didn’t get on with her bandmates. She felt “invisible”, and...
Tags: Music, UK, Television, Celebrity, Rihanna, Race, Life and style, World news, Culture, Television & radio, Surrey, Black, Andre Gray, Little Mix, Leigh Anne Pinnock, Pinnock


‘A blur of legs, arms and adrenaline’: the astonishing history of two-tone

As a new exhibition documents the UK ska-pop sound, stars including the Specials, Elvis Costello and Pauline Black recall how it opened up music, fashion and racial understanding2 Tone Records began in a Coventry flat in 1979 and peaked two years later, when the Specials’ era-defining Ghost Town went to No 1 as riots blazed around a UK in recession. The label launched the Specials and the Selecter from the current City of Culture, plus Londoners Madness, Birmingham’s the Beat and others, all to ...
Tags: Music, UK, Race, Culture, Pop and rock, Birmingham, Reggae, Selecter, Pauline Black, Ghost Town, SKA, Herbert Art Gallery Museum in Coventry


‘If not hope, then what?’: the musicians finding optimism in dark times

Against a backdrop of Covid, a striking number of musicians, from hard rock to jazz, made music rich with positivity. In the first of a two-part series, they tell their storiesI had really given up on music after my mom passed away [in 2014], and then of course the record that I saw as my death rattle [2017’s Soft Sounds from Another Planet] got picked up in a big way. It was a very bittersweet moment where all these great things were happening in the wake of loss. I didn’t allow myself to feel ...
Tags: Music, Metal, Race, Mental Health, Culture, Pop and rock, Wildfires, Christianity, Indie, Dance music, Jazz, Peru, Folk Music, Americana, Bereavement, Coronavirus


‘There were pitched battles, fist fights’: how Britfunk overcame racism to reinvigorate UK pop

Blending jazz-funk, glam rock and punk energy in the late 1970s, Britfunk crash-landed into the charts and inspired club culture. The musicians relive one of the first homegrown Black music scenesLast year, a few weeks before lockdown began, Gilles Peterson was watching the Brit awards when the American musician Tyler, the Creator won the international male solo artist award. In his acceptance speech, he said something deeply unexpected: “Shoutout to all the British funk of the 80s that I’ve tri...
Tags: Music, UK, London, Race, World news, Culture, Pop and rock, Tyler The Creator, Peterson, Gilles Peterson, Britfunk


BTS condemn anti-Asian racism: 'We feel grief and anger'

Following the Atlanta shootings, the K-pop group shared their experiences of discrimination and called for respect and solidarityThe K-pop group BTS has condemned anti-Asian racism in the wake of growing incidents of violence and discrimination against Asian people.The vastly influential seven-piece paid tribute to the eight victims of the recent shootings at three Atlanta massage parlours, who included six Asian women. “We feel grief and anger,” they wrote in a statement published on social med...
Tags: South Korea, Music, Race, Atlanta, Culture, Asia Pacific, Pop and rock, Bts, K-pop


Karol G: 'Why should I limit how I express myself because I'm a woman?'

The vastly popular Colombian singer is challenging outdated views of women in Latin pop – but her naive racial politics have sparked controversyI catch Colombian singer Karol G in a rare moment of calm, while she is in a car on her way to a hotel. She has just landed in New York to film a music video, but home is Miami, she clarifies, the engine humming in the background. “I love it there because there are so many Latinos!”Born Carolina Giraldo Navarro in Medellín, Karol G, 30, is one of Latin A...
Tags: Music, New York, Race, Americas, World news, Colombia, Culture, Pop and rock, Miami, Latin America, Karol G, Carolina Giraldo Navarro


'I feel admonished for being myself': Yseult, the chanson singer riling the French establishment

The Parisian singer’s take on traditional variété française includes confrontations with mental health, body image and bondage – and her challenge has struck a nerveAccepting the award for the best newcomer at Victoires de la Musique (the French Grammys) on 12 February, Yseult said: “This is not just a victory for me, it’s a victory for my brothers and sisters. We have snatched this, our freedom, our independence, this space. We deserve it.”Raised in the Bercy neighbourhood of Paris by Camerooni...
Tags: Music, France, Race, Culture, Pop and rock, Paris, Bercy, Yseult, Victoires, Victoires de la Musique


New studies to examine racial inequality in UK art and music

Exclusive: pioneering surveys aim to use data to drive ‘positive and lasting change’ in arts sectorLeading equal rights organisations in the UK have announced a landmark research commission into racial inequality in the art sector, as a new organisation called Black Lives in Music also aims to tackle racial inequality in the music industry.The Runnymede Trust, a race equality thinktank, and Freelands Foundation have partnered to deliver the first major commission into how black, Asian and minori...
Tags: Art, Music, UK, Education, Race, UK News, World news, Culture, Art and design, Schools, BAME, Freelands Foundation, Black Lives in Music


From Soul Train to Beyoncé: the joy of black performance in America

In A Little Devil in America, Hanif Abdurraqib set out to celebrate black artists across music, dance, comedy and more, who succeeded even when their own country refused to honour themWhen I began A Little Devil in America, I was thinking about Josephine Baker. The title of the book comes from Baker, from her speech at the March on Washington in 1963. It is a speech that is often overlooked. The legacy of the march so often centres on its male speakers (Martin Luther King Jr, A Philip Randolph),...
Tags: Books, Music, Beyonce, Washington, France, Poetry, Race, US, America, US news, Soul, Culture, Essays, Baker, Josephine, Josephine Baker


Poly Styrene's inspiring sensitivity should be the true legacy of punk

Mixed race, with braces on her teeth, Poly broke the mould of UK punk. A new documentary explores her struggle to find meaning in the Day-Glo chaos of modern lifeThe moment I heard that Marianne Elliott-Said, AKA Poly Styrene, had died, I was at band practice. We put on X-Ray Spex and jumped around, screaming along to Identity, Oh Bondage Up Yours! and Germ Free Adolescents. On that day in 2011 we lost one of punk’s greatest heroes and one of the few who really looked and sounded like me. She br...
Tags: Music, UK, Television, Film, Race, Women, UK News, Culture, Punk, Music Documentary, Sky Arts, John Lydon, Poly Styrene, Ray Spex, Marianne Elliott Said


Archie Shepp on jazz, race and freedom: 'Institutions continue to abuse power'

At 83, the saxophonist has somewhat mellowed his funkily avant-garde music – but his anger at the racial injustice he has fought all his life remains undimmedOne night at Five Spot Cafe in the early 1960s, two gangsters were sitting at the bar when Cecil Taylor’s group started to play. Taylor, a pianist, poet and leading figure in the new vanguard of jazz musicians, was known for his intense sets that could – on the wrong night – clear bars completely. This particular evening on the Lower East S...
Tags: Music, Race, Culture, Jazz, Experimental music, Taylor, Civil rights movement, Black Lives Matter Movement, Lower East Side, Archie Shepp, Cecil Taylor, Five Spot Cafe, Shepp


'Lynching was treated as a celebratory event': Adrian Younge on the history of US racism

Already a law professor turned soul composer, Younge explains his latest project, encompassing an album, podcast and short film“I’m sacrificing myself to deliver a message,” says the composer, multi-instrumentalist and now podcast-maker Adrian Younge. “We aren’t aware enough of black history, nor of the integral role black people have played in building America. There is an educational sterilisation going on and it’s my duty to make people understand that history of racism – something America ha...
Tags: Music, Podcasts, La, Race, US, America, Rap, Culture, US politics, Digital Media, Hip-hop, Podcasting, Marvin Gaye, Adrian Younge, James Baldwin, Black Lives Matter Movement


Jackie Kay on Bessie Smith: 'My libidinous, raunchy, fearless blueswoman'

As a black girl growing up in 1970s Glasgow, poet Jackie Kay developed a passion for Bessie Smith. In this extract from her new book, she remembers the wild spirit who helped her find her true selfI was adopted in 1961 and brought up in a suburban house in a suburban street in the north of Glasgow. A small, semi-detached Wimpey house. Outside our house is a cherry-blossom tree that is as old as me. It doesn’t seem the most likely place to be introduced to the blues, but then blues travel to wher...
Tags: Books, Music, Race, Women, Life and style, Society, Culture, Vinyl, Blues, Glasgow, British identity and society, Jackie Kay, John Hammond, CBS Records, Wimpey, Bessie Smith


'I came up a black staircase': how Dapper Dan went from fashion industry pariah to Gucci god

In the 1980s, his Harlem store attracted famous athletes and musicians. Then the luxury brands got him shut down. Now, at 76, he’s more successful than ever – and still on his own termsIt was a mentor on the gambling circuit in Harlem, New York, who gave Daniel Day the moniker that would make him famous. Day was just 13, but had revealed himself to be not only a better craps player than his guide, who was the original Dapper Dan, but also a better dresser. So it came to be that Day was christene...
Tags: Fashion, Music, Race, Life and style, Society, UK News, Culture, Hip-hop, Day, Gucci, Harlem, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Harlem New York, Dapper Dan, Daniel Day


Jazz trumpeter Keyon Harrold claims woman assaulted his son after false theft accusation

New York attorney investigates incident in which black teenager was accused of trying to steal a white woman’s phone in a hotel lobbyA confrontation in which the jazz trumpeter Keyon Harrold said a woman tackled his 14-year-old son in a New York hotel lobby as she falsely accused the teen of stealing her phone is under investigation, prosecutors said.Harrold posted a widely viewed video of the confrontation that took place at the Arlo hotel on Saturday. He alleged the unidentified woman scratche...
Tags: Music, New York, Race, Manhattan, Keyon Harrold, Arlo, Harrold, Keyon Harrold Jr


Back to Black: how the music industry reckoned with race this year

Black Lives Matter sparked overdue changes – but if deeper prejudices go unaddressed, they could be all too fleeting“In the wake of George Floyd” is a sentence I have both read and written too many times this year. His brutal and racist killing forced an elevated conscience across every industry: suddenly, organisations cared about Black lives and everyone wanted to amplify Black voices.The global music industry acknowledged the tragic event in May particularly strongly because so many global su...
Tags: Music, Race, Music Industry, Rap, Culture, Pop and rock, Hip-hop, Sony, Warner Music, Black, Black Lives Matter Movement, Megan Thee Stallion, George Floyd, Black music Universal Music Group



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