Updated: Nov 5, 2020
‘You cannot enjoy the rhythm and ignore the blues’ - a beautiful quote from Amanda Seales, reiterated by radio presenter and DJ, Clara Amfo, on Radio 1, soon after the incident with George Floyd in Minneapolis. Profoundly emphasising the prejudice, inequality and discrimination still omnipresent within the music industry, despite the irony that black art and music derivative of marginalized cultures have contributed massively to the industry’s substantial profit, the quote sums up the issue the music industry is facing right now.
And even though discrimination has been continually omnipresent, it is only until now that ‘the show must be paused’ and immediate action must take place to support and empower those in underrepresented communities.
A Bright Tomorrow discusses with various musicians, artists, presenters and producers from the local scene about what they think can be done to perpetuate the constitutive anti-racism campaigns and how we can make ‘a brighter tomorrow’, especially within the arts. Touching on the challenges they have faced in their own journeys, these contributors reveal the experiences that have ultimately shaped them to be the creatives that they are known to be today.
Current presenter on Switch Radio, Priya Matharu highlights that working her way up in the radio industry has been as much of a challenge for her as anyone else trying to make it in the business. With her Great-Grandfather immigrating to the UK in 1951, a subsequent hybrid of British and South Asain culture has influenced her passion and exquisite taste in music, in which she is proud to share to the world on her radio show, Desi Beats.
Whilst admitting she has not always felt truly represented in the media industry, Priya has recently shown another way to express her culture: through TikTok, where she says a great sense of acceptance and recognition is felt on a much larger scale. Expanding her usual audience through the platform with her comedically relatable content, it would also be that her flair for DJing has seen to facilitate a place where music of different origins can co-exist innovatively, resulting in a positive movement to encourage the process of uniting them together.
‘I believe by expressing your own culture, you teach others about it too and this unites us together.’
Learning a craft that is focused within a very male-dominated industry, Priya drew upon DJing as her biggest achievement so far, particularly as a female, and one she perfected in lockdown. Honestly marking that this arises certain conflict within the traditions of her culture, Priya noted that staying out late clubbing would be frowned upon by some of the older generations, regardless of whether it was for work purposes or not. Acknowledging that this is a barrier yet to be overcome, Priya emphasised that the community is moving forward, where the younger generation in particular is more progressive and continue to challenge those stereotypical boundaries more than ever before.
Despite seeing increased representation, Priya elaborated on the non-negotiable aim for more work needing to be done within the media industry to increase equality, mentioning that she still gets excited when she sees a South Asain on TV and exclaiming that the usual phrases are ‘Look there’s a brown person on TV!’ or ‘There’s someone that looks like me’.
Understanding that individuals of different ethnicities are more than just their cultural heritage is a way for us to become more inclusive within the industry, Priya said. Don’t just stereotype and assume that because they are Asain they should be making Desi music, because that isn’t true - you can absolutely become a great R&B artist if that's who you want to be!
Referring to her own experience, she underlined that while the majority of shows she has presented focus on Desi music, including the ones she covered on BBC Radio 1 and BBC West Midlands, the first ever show she did was completely focused on English music, in which she loved. To shape an industry full of diversity and inclusivity, Priya foregrounded the next step as to allowing those part of an ethnic minority to be more than just the ‘BAME’ label:
‘We are just as British as the next person’
Head over to Priya's YouTube channel where you can watch back on some of her interviews - above, is her most recent interview on Switch Radio with Jay Sean and Rishi Rich. Follow her on Instagram too where you can rewatch her TikTok's as well as keep up to date with what she gets up to next!
Felix Shepherd, a BIMM Birmingham alumnus and 2018 X Factor Contestant, spoke with A Bright Tomorrow about how being exposed to a diverse and cultural range of music from a very young age has been fundamental to the construct of his musical identity. Introduced specifically to Jamacain culture by his Dad, Felix’s further expansion and exploration into the roots of blues, jazz and soul music is what he says has ignited his now more indie-pop, RnB sound.
Speaking up about the both direct and passive racism he has encountered, Felix revealed experiencing racism greatly in terms of profiling, where on more than one occasion he has been told by industry executives that he must work ‘twice as hard and be twice as careful’, as well as exceed musical expectations astronomically, if he ever wants to make it in the business.
When asked about what he thinks of the Birmingham music scene, Felix hyped the city as having a lot to offer and being full of so much music. However, he admitted that a ‘clique vibe’ does somewhat underline the musical landscape, particularly in and around certain genre pockets, which he said rightly, only prevents the opportunity for ‘some amazing collabs and working friendships to be born’. Felix dropped the names of Kanye West and Bon Iver as an example of a musical collaboration that was unexpected to generate such a musical masterpiece, in spite of their polarity.
Whilst facing unnecessary additional challenges through being openly transgender, it would be ridiculous to ever undermine Felix’s achievements and success as a musician. Through being an immensely inspiring character, which came across in his televised audition, Felix has seen to challenge those boundaries and fly-high as a result, gaining recognition at the 2018 Birmingham Music Awards as well as hear his music played numerous times on different radio stations, including BBC Introducing - not to mention the thousands of streams he has
gained on Spotify.
Illuminating the most important thing to perpetuate anti-racism movements as accountability, where voices are out-spoken and heard, Felix pointed out that it is this generation who can realign the standard and shift the mindset pattern of the generations that have gone before us.
Felix recently shared on his Instagram that new music is coming out this Friday so be sure to keep an eye out on Spotify for all future releases! You can also keep up to date by following his Facebook and Twitter, here.
Defined best as a multicultural pop-reggae band, KIOKO are the musical embodiment of diversity, with their band members from all different walks of life with varying different backgrounds and influences. All sharing a common passion for reggae and the relative offshoots such as Dub and Ska, their collective eclectic tastes only enhance the music that they produce - a pure, warm embrace of culture.
Whilst always being socially and politically conscious and aware, the recent events around the world-wide anti-racist movements have only seemed to heighten that even more for the band’s approach to songwriting. Sharing that they have all had their own experiences with racism, in and out of the industry, the band vouched the unanimous strive to change attitudes as refreshing, seeing more and more people commit ardently to the current crusades.
Expressed precisely in every lyric of their track ‘Deadly Roots’, in which they performed in Glastonbury back in 2016, the band have shown their ability to produce a track filled with purposeful permanence, longevity and power. And although this again proves a lack of progress within society in terms of racial equality, KIOKO has nevertheless taken on a huge responsibility with this track, which can only encourage the paving of a positive path to help the world move forward .
‘I’ve got these deadly roots, you don’t know where I’m from’
Touching on the underrepresentation of ethnic minorities in the mainstream, where certain artists are pigeon holed and pinned to one style of radio platform, the band highlighted the importance of social media and networking, where taking the time to share other creatives pages, links, music and videos is high-powered in exposing them to new fan bases. With artists doing more and more themselves and needing less assistance from record labels to progress, when asked by A Bright Tomorrow on how we can shape the future of a music industry which is filled with more cultural and ethnic diversity, the band inspiringly responded with simply, ‘supporting and championing each other and everybody’s work rather than just our own, as well as collaborating and working with other artists’.
‘If we pave the way ourselves, that’s how we can reshape the future’
Revealing that the most important thing to convey through their music is honesty and truth, where they speak entirely from the heart, the band undoubtedly use their freedom of expression to create projects that share those important social messages, all through writing about exactly what they are seeing and experiencing themselves.
KIOKO's performance in 2016 at Glastonbury of their track, 'Deadly Roots'
Uncovering to A Bright Tomorrow that the music they have written recently is even more heavily influenced by the social climate we are within, KIOKO affirmed that for as long as these issues and injustices go on, they will always ‘continue to be a feature of our material’.
Follow KIOKO on Instagram where you can see all future announcements for the band, who actually recently did a socially distanced gig at DeadWax in Digbeth, Birmingham! Keep a look out for more upcoming dates! For unlimited listening, check out their Spotify, here.
After losing his brother to gun crime, Birmingham based musician, Izzy Loc, made it his mission to become the ‘Positive Rap King’ that he calls himself today. Through his track ‘Street Knowledge’ and ‘Lyfe’, a K£LU track that Izzy features on, notions of gang and knife crime form a common thread. Admitting that using his creativity in this way has and will always be a method to distract from self-destruction, Izzy reminisces writing all of his tracks with the purpose of ‘making people aware of those who have lived that life’.
Actually inspired by his brother to start rapping, who he says he learnt a lot from too, Izzy describes his earlier music as being completely different to the music he releases now; after reevaluating the approach he was taking to his lyrical content, through recognising the position he held as a role model for his son, at the time.
‘From then, I watched what I was saying in my lyrics but at the same time keeping it true and cool’.
When asked about the recent anti-racist campaigns, Izzy recalled growing up in a family where seeing individuals of different races was normal and where culture was nothing but embraced, particularly as he watched his Dad’s engagement with music, who himself was well established within the industry and part of a band called ‘Reggae Revolution’ - inevitably influencing Izzy and his evolving musical style.
Touching on having to deal with racism during school, as well as within work and the industry, Izzy confirmed it was the way he was brought up as the default coping mechanism that has helped him to stand up to it, emphasising ‘I know who I am and I am proud of myself’.
Now with a big family of his own, Izzy has continued to project his optimism and willingness, inspiring others of his transformation through his music. His latest track, ‘Got Em’, featuring Lizzy Dee and Mayday, is a testimony to this and the strong message Izzy exudes, singing the lyrics ‘no time for haters, leave your troubles at the door’.
To find more about Birmingham's 'Positive Rap King', follow Izzy over on his Instagram, here.
Be sure to stream Izzy's music over on Spotify and check out his other amazing collaborations over on his YouTube channel - his interview with Tim Senna, along with Redlohiem, is a worthwhile watch too!
In a conversation with A Bright Tomorrow, multi-skilled musician, producer and songwriter, Lennis Dynamiks talked about his feelings regarding the current world-wide drive for racial equality. Going on to talk about and celebrate his Caribbean roots, which have influenced him to create the music he makes - calling it a necessity in inspiriting a life that is uplifting, meaningful and moving - Lennis emanated much deep adoration for his craft.
Proud of his African lineage, Lennis began on the initiation of his musical career and for him, where it all started. Growing up in the Church, where singing hymns made him feel soulful and full of life, he said it was this that absolutely influenced his approach to music. Ingrained co-existingly within him is an infectious carnival and party essence which has manifested as a result of his Montserrat heritage, and all in which we have seen provide those reggae and hip-hop flavours evident in his work.
'Art is precious’
Passionate about the recent anti-racism campaigns, Lennis articulated that perhaps, we as humans tend to focus on the wrong things. ‘It’s arbitrary’, he said, going on to talk more about racism: ‘We’re putting our energy into the wrong things and it is only dividing us even more.’ Whilst acknowledging systems of privilege, Lennis intensely focused on never letting anything deter him from achieving his dreams, despite it not being as easy as it could be. He said, ‘I create my own lane - I see your system, but I don’t have to be of your system’.
After mentioning completing a degree in music at the University of Birmingham, Lennis emphasised his priority in caring for the art of others, in which he has been able to execute as a producer and now co-owner of Paradise Studios - a new musical hub in the city where ‘artists can come and create their sounds and be their true selves’.
Paradise Studios pictured above.
Talking more about his experience in Birmingham, Lennis did not deny the considerable need for infrastructure to help move talent forward in the pipeline and create more business in music, on a local level, to further support emerging artists and creatives, particularly those of ethinc minorities. Reiterating the underrepresentation within the industry, Lennis concentrated on the need to recognise musical history, where we have seen modern music evolve entirely from the communities of ethnic minority:
‘We must give the credit where the credit is due’
Working with the likes of Indigo Marshall, Janel Antoneshia, Amalia Smart and Sheddy Maria, to name a few, Lennis remarked being able to ‘create songs that feel’, where they have met the level in which they are played on radio, as the biggest achievement in his music career so far. Below you can find Lennis' most recent project, where he worked with Sheddy Maria on her track, 'I'm Done'.
Janel Antoneshia's 'Planet Ivory' produced by Lennis and co-produced by Lowpass Luke, above.
Follow Lennis over on his Instagram page where he shares all of his incredible work.
And to find more about Paradise Studios and the amazing service they offer, head over to their Instagram page, here.