Grime, Hip Hop and the City

If American hip-hop – along with dancehall and garage music – are the parents, grime has since emerged from their shadow as the rebellious adolescent ready to forge its own path, becoming the voice of choice for British millenials tired of hearing tales of streetlife narrated from across the Atlantic.

It’s for this reason I’ve been eager for a while to get under the skin of Manchester’s grime scene and hear what artists have to say about the music and what it means to them.

And so below are a pair of interviews I conducted and filmed for The Nubian Times doing just that. Have a watch, some provocative insights on the scene’s evolution are shared by the artists in each.

 

There’s Nothing New About The News

Originally a rapper, and then a poet, for the last year Tom Bishop has been occupying that loose sliding space that lingers between the two, the stripped down art known as spoken word.

After connecting with him during one of his live performances last month at Sandbar’s grime and hip hop night, Mic Check, I had the pleasure of collaborating with him to film one of his pieces – ‘There’s Nothing New About The News’.

In simple terms: He provided the poetry and performance, I provided the videography. You can take a look at the results of our work below.

Thoughts and Images from the Manchester #BlackLivesMatter Rally

Photo - NahI think covering the Black Lives Matter rally in Manchester earlier this week for The Nubian Times is an experience I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

Seeing people of every colour and from a range of communities gathered under one cause was both sobering and inspiring, as was listening to a range of speakers including community leaders, activists and poets give voice to the sense of anger, sorrow and solidarity that had enveloped many who chose to gather beneath the steps of Moss Side’s Alexandra Park on Monday evening.

The rally, organised by a student union leader following the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille at the hands of police officers in the US last week, turned into a march that progressed from the inner-city South Manchester district of Hulme all the way to St Peter’s Square in the city centre, with those it passed often choosing to join the crowd of demonstrators as they went.

DSC_0307

The event was somehow sad and uplifting at the same time. As one marcher put it;-

It feels amazing to be here, and quite emotional too, to know so many people feel the same.

Below are some of the clips I filmed for The Nubian Times both before and during the rally. Take a look, and feel free to share your thoughts and feelings on both the march and the events that have led to it… oh, and be sure to check out the powerful spoken word poem (the last video) that was delivered during the demonstration too…

The young woman below had some sharp insights on some of the wider issues contributing to the racial disadvantages in America.

Sharing some important thoughts on the need for solidarity.

See below for Hafsah Aneela Bashir’s powerful spoken word poem.

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

How Will Brexit Affect You?

Well, as you might expect, Britain’s vote to leave the EU has been the topic dominating the news, as well as conversation in my office today.

I expect I’ll probably get around to sharing some thoughts on it in future but in the meantime I’m curious to hear initial reactions – whether knee jerk or considered. So have a watch of the brief video below and if you have a view on things please share it.

Comment below or, if you really wanna broadcast your view and start a conversation around all this, check out and respond to The Nubian Times (the newspaper I work for) via their Facebook page, or Twitter (@thenubiantimes).

‘For me it’s about showcasing quality African content’: An Interview With Debut Filmmaker, Kunmi Ogunsola

kunmi-online-450x300You’ll probably know by now that one of my favourite things is to talk with storytellers, and so I was pretty excited to have the opportunity to interview Manchester-based filmmaker, Kunmi Ogunsola, for The Nubian Times.

We discussed everything from creativity, to family, to diversity and media, as well as Kunmi’s own journey into filmmaking. It was a pretty fascinating conversation, if I do say so myself, so if you’d like to take a look you can do so by clicking right… here.

 

‘Hearing guys that sounded like me opened my eyes’: An Interview With ‘Mic Check’ Founder, Leigh O’Neill

I got the chance this week to interview Leigh O’Neill, the founder and organiser of Manchester’s latest grime and hip-hop night, Mic Check. Right now, grime is growing faster than any other genre in Britain, with some of its highest profile artists – like Skepta and Stormzy – competing with the likes of Drake and Beyoncé in the UK charts. All of which meant I was particularly excited to speak with a guy involved in seeking to foster locally what has been for the most part a grass-roots and underground sub-culture.

So, if you’d like to get caught up on Manchester’s growing grime scene and the conversation I shared with Leigh, you can do so by clicking right… here.

“Music is for people”: The Wisdom of Samm Henshaw

Micah Yongo Samm HenshawSo I had the recent pleasure of sitting down with upcoming UK soul artist Samm Henshaw to interview him for Manchester-based newspaper, The Nubian Times.

Samm, recently signed by Columbia Records, is a singer, songwriter, guitarist, keyboard player… basically he’s a ridiculously talented artist and, pleasantly, incredibly humble too. You can check out some of his music below.

The full recorded interview, along with a vlog of his live performance at one of Manchester’s most intimate venue’s, The Deaf Institute, will be uploaded on The Nubian Times YouTube channel and website in due time, along with my review, and I’ll be sure to share it here too when it is, but in the meantime I thought I’d give a little taster of the conversation via my favourite quote from the interview.

Music is for people

Short and sweet, I know. I won’t elaborate further right now but I thought what Henshaw had to say about the communal aspect of experiencing music was fascinating and insightful. And, also, was perfectly reflected in his live performance later that night.

More on that coming soon…

Save

Who Do You Think You Are?

I don’t own a television. The one I had broke four or five years ago and with technology being as it is (with smartphones and the internet and so on) I could never really figure a good enough reason to replace it. Which is likely the reason I only recently saw this commercial (see below) and so I’ll apologise if I’m a little late to the party. Take a look.

Watching it, I couldn’t help thinking how refreshing it was – revolutionary almost – to find an advertisement whose aim was to affirm the viewer, rather than persuade her of some existential lack that needed filling by whatever the product or fashion being shopped.

The promotional technique we’re most accustomed to is to be, quite subtly, told we don’t have enough this or that (possessions, property, experiences, position, money, smarts, beauty, whatever), and are somehow behind the times, lacking… stuff, and but here’s what to do to remedy your problem, for just 10.99 (fill in currency as appropriate).

Everything from the photoshopped celeb mag to those strangely arty but ultimately incomprehensible (and accidentally funny) aftershave ads (pouting dudes with tanned six-packed torsos staring meaningfully at the camera to their own breathy – and accented – voiceover) seem designed to deal in the currency of discontent, to emphasise what you’re not and ought to be and what to buy to make it so.

And don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely not anti-TV. I love TV. I even like some TV commercials. But the one above, well, I just really liked.

I guess the thing that interested me most was the great yawning disparity between how the people in it thought they looked and how they actually looked. Who they thought they were versus who they actually are. Which, if you think about it, is sort of fascinating.

It got me thinking. Where does our sense of self come from? What’s informed it? What shapes it? Experiences? People? Nature? Culture? TV commercials? All of the above? And if so, how valid can any of these things be if the idea they give us of who we are can be so fickle and so different from the reality?

Does the Media Still Exist?

I should apologize, I’ve been a tad quiet on here as late. Although in my defence part of my tardiness is down to a new job I started, one I’m quite enjoying, at The Nubian Times; a local Manchester based newspaper.

I’m now a staff writer/digital media editor there. That’s me below being all journalisty.

The cool thing about the role is I’m a media nut, fascinated by it in fact. And with, I think, good reason. The media is an industry whose content is proliferating at a rate of knots, and whose lines, it seems, are being blurred and redrawn on an almost hourly basis – I mean, think about it, what exactly is The Media these days?

We mostly keep up with goings on via Twitter or Facebook. It’s through them I’ve learned of the passing of four geniuses this year alone (and what’s with that anyway? David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Harper Lee, Prince; I mean give us a break already 2016).

Meanwhile the more familiar mainstream outlets are becoming no more than mop up crews for news that’s breaking on social media way before it can reach the lips of the smartly coiffed newsdesk anchor with his flawless dental care.

Which makes the media, today, a diffuse and nebulous beast, hard to define, treading a faultline of change we’re yet to fully understand.

And so for an industry the late great theorist, Stuart Hall, once referred to as being:

The way power is mediated in societies like ours

it’s truly a fascinating time; and one I look forward to observing from the inside. Wish me luck.

King Lear: A World Where Race Doesn’t Matter?

Thrilling, moving, visceral – at some point you run out of words to explain the feelings that run through you after watching Michael Buffong’s stunning adaptation of King Lear.

I went to the showing at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre last night and loved pretty much every minute of it. The dark, modern soundscape, the ridiculously good set design, the racially diverse cast, the incredible acting – all of it combined to make this famous tale of a mad father and his warring offspring one of the most immersive experiences I’ve had.

Afterwards we, the audience, were granted the chance to remain behind for a Q & A session with the director and cast – an unexpected treat, and one that sparked plenty of engaging conversation as we listened to the likes of Don Warrington (the lead) and Michael Buffong (director) share nuggets about the production’s journey from conception to reality.

One particularly interesting point that was raised during the discussion was on the issue of race.

Michael Buffong is black, as is half the cast he used for this adaptation, a choice that factored into his decision to stage the play in the traditional period of pre-Christian Britain, rather than following the recent trend of placing Shakespeare’s works in contemporary settings.

‘I wanted for it to be that this royal family, the king and his daughters, could be black without it feeling like a thing,’ Buffong said.

It was a goal the play, for me, more than achieved. The viewing experience felt so immediate and vivid that the race of the characters became, well, not invisible exactly, but something else – transfigured. Like the meaning of skin colour had been translated into another reality, a kind of folklorish apocryphal context between here and fantasy. It made the production, somehow, feel both old and modern at the same time.

It got me thinking about how race is used in other storytelling media – film, television, literature etc.

When should the race of the actor, and therefore the character, be considered important to an authentic telling of a story, and when shouldn’t it be?

For example: When I see Idris Elba play the norse god, Heimdall – a traditionally white character – in Marvel’s Thor movies, it feels utterly right. Yet when I consider whether he should be the next James Bond, a character who is from an aristocratic Scottish background, I’m conflicted.

My question is why?

When is race relevant to the drama, and when is it not? Always? Never? Somewhere in between?

And what exactly governs whether a story – on screen or in print – can be said to have been authentically told?

In other words, when it comes to film, theatre, TV, books or even comics – should a character’s race matter at all?