Playlist: Black History Month 2020
October sees the welcome return of Black History Month and, in celebration, we’ve picked out some of the artists we’d like to make a noise about this month – and every month! Some may already be familiar to you, others may be not, but we hope you enjoy reading about them and listening to their music. If you missed it, please also check out Jamz Supernova’s blog on Black Lives Matter and listen to her specially-curated Selector Radio show made in response to the murder of George Floyd.
The idea of an anonymous act can be a bit divisive – is it a marketing gimmick (anyone remember Wu Lyf?) or is it a statement that allows the music to do the talking? Judging by the output so far from the anonymous British collective SAULT, it seems to be the latter. Clues around their identity include connections to Little Simz, Michael Kiwanuka and Leona Lewis’s aunt. Proceeds from their last album went to charity. Whoever they are, they’ve released four amazing albums in just over a year – the latest is Untitled (Rise).
– Katie Weatherall (Music Programme Manager)
Cooly G’s innovative sound keeps on growing and features complex rhythms, futuristic landscapes as well as her own voice which brings rich warmth to her music. Taking influence from R’n’B, techno, grime and acid house, her sound has found a natural home at Hyperdub, alongside her solid reputation as a DJ.
– Tom Sweet (Music Programme Manager)
Nwando Ebizie is a multidisciplinary artist whose work converges around performance art personas, experimental theatre, music and African diasporic ritualistic dance. Her extraordinary work has taken various forms and directions, but the piece that particularly captures my imagination is ‘Distorted Constellations’ – an immersive, sensory environment interpreting the little-understood neurological disorder Visual Snow – which uses sound, projection and holograms to creatively explore her own neuro-divergent experience.
– Leah Zakss (Music Programme Manager)
Nwando Ebizie, 'Distorted Constellations' @ Liberty Festival: In Conversation (Extract) from Forma on Vimeo.
I’ve been watching South African born cellist Abel Selaocoe for a while – fascinated by the breadth of music he performs as a classically trained musician. He studied at my old college, the Royal Northern College of Music, and now lives and works in the UK. He can be seen performing concerti with orchestras and solo classical recitals but he also improvises, sings and uses body percussion, and has a special interest in curating programmes that highlight the links between Western and non-Western musical traditions, with a view to helping classical music reach a more diverse audience. His recent socially-distanced concert at Kings Place sold out immediately much to my disappointment. Take a listen to this – remarkable.
– Cathy Graham (Director, Music)
It’s true: we’re spoilt for choice in the UK with exciting jazz musicians who have transcended musical borders to capture the imagination of listeners who wouldn’t ordinarily tune in for ‘jazz’ per se. But I want to single out Binker Golding as perhaps the most exciting of all and in possession of the technical skills and range to demand the rest of the world takes notice too. Together with Mercury Music Prize nominee Moses Boyd, he also helped create the seminal UK jazz album Dem Ones, with tracks like ‘Black Ave Maria’ pointing to a new vernacular with a respectful nod to jazz godfathers like John Coltrane.
– Stephen Bloomfield (Music Marketing Manager)
The first time I encountered Anaïs’ work was through her participation in our own Musicians in Residence programme with PRS Foundation. The London based singer-songwriter, whose family roots go back to Senegal, dedicated her song ‘Nina’ to the civil rights champion and music icon, Nina Simone. Freedom of expression is so fundamental to the art of so many generations – through music people have found the courage to express their fearlessness. Anaïs’ powerful song reminds us that we are at no point allowed to become silent: ‘Don’t blame me if I say / What you won’t / Cause I believe it / When Nina told me that, Nina told me that I'm free.’
– Anna Bliner (Music Programme Co-ordinator)
Rodney Smith / Roots Manuva
Rodney Smith – best known as Roots Manuva – is often cited as the godfather of UK hip-hop. Early on he worked with Blak Twang and T, then later as a vocalist and collaborator with artists including Leftfield, Fun Lovin’ Criminals, Gorillaz and Coldcut. He shaped and influenced British black music by creating a unique sound that drew on his south London roots and his Pentacostal upbringing. As a Red Bull feature put it: ‘Every emcee who's picked up a mic since Brand New Second Hand dropped in 1999 is in his considerable debt, whether they know it or not.’
– Joel Mills (Senior Music Programme Manager)
I first noticed rising Zambian-Irish rap and spoken-word artist Denise Chaila at this year's iconic performance at the National Gallery of Ireland for the Other Voice's Courage series. It's hard not to be captivated by the image of this performance. Check out her debut album 'Go Bravely' which is available to pre-order now.
– Grace Pitkin (Music Programme Coordinator)
More from the British Council during Black History Month
Discover our picks for some of the most exciting Black British artists and organisations working within the arts today as suggested by our Arts colleagues at the British Council. Head to our British Arts page to find out more.