A new sound of the rising movement against racism rung out in Birmingham last Friday night. More than 300 people packed into The Crossing at Birmingham South and City College for a Love Music Hate Racism gig.
“From the four corners of Birmingham, we’re bringing the best of the best for an eclectic night,” rapper and organiser Kurly told Socialist Worker.
“We’ve got to make sure we haven’t got mud in our eye and clearly see who our oppressors are at the moment.
“This is one way I can help, because I am an artist, to do that, not this scapegoating nonsense that we’ve been hearing.”
The night kicked off with Amerah Saleh, a Muslim spoken-word artist, whose politically-charged poetry is influenced by her Yemeni roots. “America is holding onto my throat and I don’t want to swallow,” she began.
“I want to tell them no one owns the land … I want to tell them they’re replicating mistakes made before they were born.”
Amerah told Socialist Worker, “When I saw people performing, I never saw anyone who looked like me. I’m Muslim and I’m a woman of colour, I wear a headscarf—it’s visible and I never really saw that.
“For me the question was, if I didn’t have that role model how could I turn that on its head for future generations?
“I hope I can be an access point for other Muslim women to come into spoken word.”
By far one of the best act of the night was Elektric, whose soulful chords fused hip hop and indie music. Namiwa Jazz brought together hip hop and soul and rapper Justice Hotep delivered a powerful set.
The night’s headliners was the Gabbidon Band with Basic G, who was one the founders of Steel Pulse. The reggae outfit was one of the original bands that supported Rock Against Racism in the 1970s.
That sound—punk, reggae, soul—was born out of the struggle and the fusion gave birth to a whole new one, Two Tone.
Particularly in the light of Trump, there’s a sense a new sound is beginning to develop again. That’s truer in the US with the radical rap of Frank Ocean, Beyonce’s Lemonade or people grasping for older hip hop acts such as A Tribe Called Quest or De La Soul.
There is a whiff of change in Britain too. Kurly said, “Rap music is a global phenomenon, but it’s been appropriated by music companies that want to water down the message of politics.
“That’s what we saw in the early 1990s, with a different sort of message of materialism, but the early stuff was about talking truth to power.
“Mainstream music or fashion tends to want to water down those messages, but it always seems to rise despite the best efforts.”