Bloc Party's Kele Okereke Shares Essay On Black British Musical Identity

Bloc Party frontman Kele Okereke wrote a great article for Noisey looking at the lack of a Black British musical identity. “The question of a cohesive Black British musical identity is more than just a question of sales and demographics, it’s an institutional problem. The UK has an issue with racism that we are unwilling to address — it is reflected in negative attitudes towards Black British music, but also towards Black British culture in general,” Okereke writes.

Later, he calls out the appropriation of Black culture in pop music: “This is the narrative that accompanies every popular black art form; it is a cool little underground thing until some major corporation and/or a white audience buys into it. From Miley’s recent approbation of the Dirty South dance move twerking to Sam Smith’s note-for-note pastiche of Atlanta soul. What is the message here? That black culture can only be relevant when it is declawed and can appeal to the masses? I know its not fashionable to talk about black music in terms of race nowadays and there will be many people that think with our shared multi racial heritage that the idea of a separate Black British musical identity itself is an antiquated idea. But every time I turn on MTV every white pop star I see seems to be somehow indebted to black culture from Justin Bieber to Iggy Azalea, even Disclosure.” Read the full article here.

[Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty.]

Comments (5)
  1. Perhaps ironic that I wouldn’t consider Bloc Party anywhere near ‘black culture’. Not meaning contradictory or hypocritical, just ironic.

  2. Interesting article. Miley Cyrus and Iggy Azalea are so far off my radar. The people and institutions they work for sell a product I hope delivers for their fans. But Sam Smith’s emergence is offensive. That R&B has become a dead-end for black performers but acts like Smith are heralded as artistic revelations deserve some pushback. The argument isn’t that blacks have exclusive rights to certain genres. It’s that these genres have been powerful tools to communicate dynamic parts of black culture in the US and internationally. Now these genres are explored through very flat performers like Thicke and Smith. That is disgusting.

    • R&B has become a dead-end for black performers? since when?

      • Well, I think if you look at the sort of “traditional” R&B that Smith is emulating, there’s definitely not a lot of critical/cultural cachet there nowadays – most of that is going to hip-hop or to the artier variations that I’m glad we’ve stopped calling “PBR&B.” Which, honestly, from an artistic standpoint I think is a good thing, but that’s of course debatable. That’s why I think records like Saint Heron last year are so important – it’s like, no, it’s not just white people taking these influences in interesting directions. Still wouldn’t say it’s “disgusting” the way Smith et. al crib from the genre, though.

        wow, tl/dr

  3. Wasn’t he the one saying: “Stop being so American […] Why can’t you be more European” ?

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