I used to do some support work for a music festival. In those days, I would turn up to music venues to function as the eyes and ears of the festival’s organiser. It gave me an opportunity to keep tabs on the African music scene, as I would see and hear concerts, take photos and give reports to base about the way things were developing. I would also catch up with old associates from my days as a young musician. Since there was no longer a centralised performing space for the scene, it felt like a good thing to do.
More recently I have been otherwise occupied, so I only come across many of my colleagues from the era when “World Music” was a buzzing genre, if they live in my part of London, or at rites of passage events. I am less aware of the zeitgeist than I used to be.
Perhaps it is a good thing from my point of view that I am less connected to the scene, as it has given me the space I require to focus on my own creative energy and ideas. Not feeling the need to conform to conventional ideas about what the audiences respond well to, has enabled me to harness my personal expression in ways that I find to be fulfilling.
The camaraderie we used to have in days gone by was heart warming, but in some ways limiting with regard to out of the box thinking. If we don’t feel empowered enough to express our ideas independently and freely as artists, what is the point of following such a calling as a way of life?
Somehow, I don’t believe the scene of musicians of African descent in London has lived up to its true potential. There are some acts that are doing well on the international circuit, but I am thinking of the creative energy that could be used to express fresh and novel perspectives. Maybe the current state of affairs might lead to new discoveries that could help to put our scene on the global map as a generator of something different, for a change.