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01 November 2023

Stormzy To Feature In ‘The Music Is Black: A British Story’ Exhibition

Stormzy Artists For Aid Benefit
Photo: JEP Live Music/Alamy Stock Photo
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Stormzy, Sade, Billy Ocean and Joan Armatrading are among the Black British music pioneers to be celebrated by a new exhibition that will open the V&A East museum in 2025.

The Music Is Black: A British Story will span from 1900 to the present day and look into how migration has influenced music, from the Caribbean sounds brought into the UK by the Windrush movement to the sound system culture which informed the British clubbing scene to the birth of grime music in east London. It will also look at how influences from Black communities in the global south are being heavily featured in today’s hits – such as west African highlife in pop songs, and drum patterns stemming from Caribbean reggae in dance music.

Drawing on BBC archives, photographs, artefacts, ornaments, paintings, prints, playbills, film and more, the curators promise “immersive AV and large-scale installations” where attenders can walk through different eras and experience multi-sensory modes of storytelling.

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V&A East is a new branch of the V&A made up of two venues: V&A East Museum, where this exhibition will be held, and the V&A East Storehouse a 10-minute walk away, which will house the V&A’s archive and exhibit highlights in its collection hall space.

Gus Casely-Hayford, director of V&A East, described The Music Is Black: A British Story as “a landmark show that will foreground multiple perspectives and tell a long-overdue story about the creation of our national sound and its impact on culture around the world.”

Curator Jacqueline Springer said: “Set against a backdrop of British colonialism and evolving social, political, and cultural landscapes, we will celebrate the richness and versatility of Black and Black British music as instruments of protest, affirmation and creation, and reveal the untold stories behind some of the world’s most popular msic of all time.”

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