Just Enough Brown

She is, admittedly,
Beautiful.
Elegant and thin
A face which
Exudes humanity
And grace.
I imagine calm
Intelligence and modesty.

I notice also,
The tan.
Subtle and understated
A hint of mediterranean
Olive and
Just enough brown
To enhance.

Too much,
And one slips into
Darkness –
The funky fathoms
Of black.
Of late nights
and Jazz; dub-wise reggae
Hip-hop.
Poverty. Oppression, dance.
Athleticism.
Sweat.

It’s a little too
Much.
It floods the cortex
Of middle England
With sensions too great
To bear.

No, my beautiful
Sister. You’ll need to stay
Safe.

Just enough brown.

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We Give

We give
Merrily
Happily
Carelessly.
We give like the rose
Gives scent
And the tree gives shade
Freely
Unconsciously
Generously.

You take.
Take and regurgitate.
Take and claim
As your own.
Profit and analyse
Reduction
And materialise
And say it was yours
All along.

You create
Too.
But you also hoarde
Create barriers of exclusivity.
Accents, breeding, wealth.
Social structures and
Byzantine cultural norms
To prevent
The appropriation on which
You otherwise thrive.

You burn with rage
When you see us playing with
That which has fallen from your bough.

We gave: jazz, blues, soul, reggae, bossa nova, mambo
You created: opera, ballet, classical

Dark

We are the dark underbelly
The ying to your yang
Your unfathomable subconscious
Your point of origin

We are the beat that you dance to
The words that you speak
The moral imperative that you run from
The soul that you seek.

You love us, you hate us
Seek to make us gone
A suicide wish
We are your shadow
You die when we do.

So continue
Shoot, imprison, denigrate.

Self-mutilate.

The invisible string
That binds us mean that
When we climb you do too.
But when we
Fall…

(for #blacklivesmatter)

Pop Goes The Freedom

Hackney Social Club

Hackney Hipster Party (2007) – Photo by Montag

The creation event of twentieth century popular music – its big bang if you like – can, to my mind, be traced back to a singular event in January 1865. That moment could be characterised as a dark black explosion, the shock waves of which reverberated for the following one hundred and fifty years. Despite the myriad creative ways in which this basic story has been retold by the powerful and the political, it is, to me, a tale of slavery, of freedom and of novelty.

In this piece I’m going to ask you to suspend the accepted narratives and to think hard about the origins of what we now call pop music. Through this I hope to arrive at some conclusions about the trajectory of music – and society – in this the second decade of the twenty-first century.

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Memories of the Dark Black

treasure isleLook, there’s no feeling today like the dark black blues dances of the 1970s and 1980s.

I wish that knowledge of this scene was widespread as say punk, new romanticism, glam rock or even disco. However, my sympathies are with you if you had not previously encountered this particular urban phenomenon. I mean you might have done, inadvertently. Walking past an inner-city council flat or house late at night during the 1980s, you might have noticed deep powerful reggae bass lines and a scattering of black youth loitering outside. You may have simply dismissed it as just an Afro-Caribbean party.

And latterly, no matter how complete your immersion in descriptions of late-20th century youth-led cultural phenomena that the British media are fond of presenting, you would be forgiven for still being completely blind to this particular scene. The lack of media attention is frustrating, especially when I think that all of today’s social consumerism, try-too-hard night life and hipster posturing would give anything to create a sub-culture that even comes close to what I’m about to describe.

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