Brent Black Music History Photographic Exhibition

| 03 March 2008
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An eldery Black man wearing a baseball cap stands smiling outside a municipal building proudly holding a piece of paper. A young black man stands alongside him.

BBMHP leader, Kwaku, presenting certificate to music industry veteran Sonny Roberts (right). Credit - Patrick Friday. Copyright of BTWSC.

Ian Simon explores this thought-provoking pictorial history of British Black music in Brent from 1966 through to the present day.

This display celebrates the rich musical connections within London’s most culturally diverse borough, through photographs of some of the chief protagonists. One of the world’s largest Reggae record distributors, Jetstar, started here. Founded in 1967 by 3 brothers from a tiny office in Harlesden, they went on to build Britain’s most successful record distribution label throughout the world, producing artists such as Beenie man, Freddie McGregor and many more Reggae artists.

Head and shoulder shot of two Black women wearing white shirts against a white background smiling.

Famous singers, Janet Kay (right) and Carol Thompson. Janet Kay has been recorded in the Music Guinness Book of Records, as the first British Black Female to have a reggae song at the top of the British charts. She is also widely credited with the reggae boom in Japan.

Daddy Ernie was one of the first DJ’s to present a popular reggae radio programme outside of Jamaica 5 days a week on mainstream radio on ChoiceFM. In addition Robbo Ranx is now one of the UK’s most well-known radio presenters. The exhibition has come about as a result of the Brent Black Music History Project which was developed by the community project Beyond the Will Smith Challenge BTWSC and sponsored by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Exhibition curator Kwaku articulates the reason for the pictures. “The exhibition gives people a chance to come down and have a look at some of the key figures within the British reggae, and R&B scene over the last forty years. People need to know that the key figures within the industry started out from this area.”

Among the exhibition is a picture of Sonny Roberts, who set up the first black-owned recording studio and label Planetone, in 1962. Aswad the famous reggae band who were the only British reggae band to top the singles charts in 1988 also originate from the area as indeed a host of other artists and producers all offering a rich and vibrant musical historical narrative to the area.

A Black man and woman stand side by side in front of an exhibition panel.

Councillor Lincoln Beswick (right) At Brent Black Music History Photographic Exhibition Launch at the Community Gallery at Brent Museum. Image Credit/Copyright: Corinne Stevens.

Speaking at the launch Harlesden Councillor, Lincoln Beswick MBE said, “I am very proud of this, because this exhibition needs to be here. This is historic stuff. We had to fight to establish our music when we first came here. Harlesden has produced some of the best musicians from anywhere, locally, regionally and nationally.” This is a must visit for those wishing to initiate a deeper understanding of black musical roots in London.

A free DVD and booklet produced by the Brent Black Music History Project will be available. Special open days on March 27, June 26, Oct. 30 will feature: new photographs, local music history talks, networking, open mic, and performances by the likes of Noel McKoy, plus freestyle.

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