Black Britain and Tradition

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In a post performance conversation last night, it became clear to me that the culture of Black Britain is coming of age at last.

The performance that stimulated the sharing of ideas was based on some sad events in the life of David Oluwale – a man who arrived in England from Nigeria in the same era as the Windrush migrants. Oluwale had rough experiences with law enforcement agencies and the health service, leading to his untimely demise in Leeds in 1969. His memory is kept alive by community leaders and activists in Leeds and other parts of the country.

One of the contributors to the post performance discussion mentioned a Ghanaian musician who knew Oluwale – it turned out to be someone I knew personally – our paths crossed many times when I was a young musician starting out in the arts. He was well known and loved by many of us on the London African Music scene of the late 20th Century.

There was something eerie for me in the moment I realised that I am carrying on in the tradition of artists like him. Our tradition isn’t formally recognised for what it is – the unique cultural expression of British citizens of African descent.

The Ghanaian musician (now of blessed memory) was named as a person who had stories to tell us about a part of our history which is often not remembered. Will there be a time when younger artists will remember the contributions of my generation of practitioners? Do we need validation from Black Americans or even Black Africans to have a Black British culture? Only time will tell