A celebration of Black British musical families

Barbican Music Library’s current exhibition, Black British Dynasties in Music: A Family
Affair, celebrates the enormous contribution made by Black British musical families to the
UK’s musical and cultural scene. It is curated by the Black Music Coalition which represents
Black music executives and professionals, and was established in 2020 to challenge and
raise awareness of racism affecting Black executives and professionals in the UK music

The exhibition showcases specially commissioned images taken by Nathaniel Bailey and
renowned photographer, Dennis Morris, best known for his images of Bob Marley and the
Sex Pistols; these are complemented by audio interviews with the subjects conducted by
Capital Xtra DJ, Robert Bruce.

The featured families are: Matty and Nicky Brown; TSB and Maestro The Baker; Haile and
Ras Kassa PRGRSHN Alexander; Tre and Lincoln Jean-Marie; Kwame and Namali Kwaten;
Jonathan Mensah (Jae5) and Kruddz & OGD (NSG); Michelle and Shaun Escoffery; Mo and
Harmony Samuels; and Alexandra Burke with her posthumous tribute to her mother, Melissa
Bell. Many of the families are known for their collaborations with artists including: Stormzy,
Emeli Sandé, Sugababes, Craig David, All Saints, Beverley Knight, and Alesha Dixon.

Additional images of the families are on display in the cabinets, along with biographical
details and copies of articles published in the media. One of the cabinets contains
information about the Black Music Coalition and includes two awards which were presented
to its members.

© Tanya Gordon

An exhibition launch event was held in the Music Library at which many of the featured artists were present. 

© Michael Southwell

Black Music Coalition executive committee member, Char Grant, said: “This is about joining the dots of legacy, which is something that has not been possible for a lot of people in the Black musical community and indeed, Black communities at large, for various reasons…They have been unable to tell a story of their experiences in a way that connects to a bigger picture which would show quite how seminal many of their contributions to music have been, so this exhibition is about being able to tell their stories which are all at once their family legacies and our shared legacies.”

Alexandra Burke at the launch event © Tanya Gordon

This free exhibition has received sponsorship support from Sony Music, Universal Music Group, and the Black Music Coalition’s creative partner, Studio BLUP. It runs until 25thJanuary, 2023.

Richard L. Jones
(Music Librarian, Barbican Music Library)