Black History Month: Top British Musicians You Need To Hear – Part One
The UK music industry is home to a huge number of incredible Black artists who are making history before our eyes. During Black History Month, we wanted to appreciate some of our favourite UK musicians, ranging from Glastonbury headliners to promising up-and-coming acts.
English singer Celeste started publishing her music on SoundCloud back in 2014, which got her onto the radar of the BBC Radio team. In that year she also collaborated with British dance producer Tieks’ debut single “Sing That Song” before featuring on Avicii’s track “Touch Me” in 2015. Following these early works, Celeste released her debut EP The Milk & The Honey in 2017.
After being noticed by Michael Kiwanuka (our next featured artist) she was quickly signed to Polydor Records and released her second EP Lately in 2019 following several successful single releases in the previous year.
Celeste has continued to take the world by storm in recent years, signing to Warner Chappel Music publishing, and performing across the radio and television worlds. Celeste won the Rising Star Award at the 2020 Brit Awards, the BBC’s music poll Sound of 2020, as well as being named as a breakthrough act for 2020 by Vogue, The Guardian, NME, GQ, The Independent and Ticketmaster UK. With such an engaging and hypnotic vocal tone, we know Celeste is undoubtedly on her ascent, and can’t wait for the release of her album, which is planned for early 2021.
Celeste Social Media Links
Michael Kiwanuka is a British singer-songwriter and record producer based in London, who is signed with Polydor Records. His first album Home Again was released in 2012, and his second album Love & Hate followed in 2016.
Both were received with critical acclaim, however it was the third album, Kiwanuka, released in 2019 that has made waves most recently – in case you didn’t catch him in September, this fantastic record won the 2020 Mercury Prize.
Beautifully combining a classic, timeless feel with a modern indie rock edge, the award-winning album covers themes of self-doubt and current racial politics.
Michael Kiwanuka Social Media Links
Stormzy is a London-based British rapper, singer and songwriter who rose up through the underground music scene through his Wicked Skengman series of freestyles over classic grime beats. He won Best Grime Act at the 2014 and 2015 MOBO Awards as well as making the list of artists to look out for in the BBC’s Sound of 2015.
Stormzy’s 2017 debut album Gang Signs & Prayer was the first grime album to reach number one on the UK Album Chart and won British Album of the Year at the 2018 Brit Awards. His first UK number one single came in 2019 with the track Vossi Bop. The second album, Heavy Is The Head, was released in December 2019.
Stormzy hasn’t been averse to making political statements and using his platform to speak about issues; he openly endorsed Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in 2016, and freestyled about Prime Minister Theresa May’s inaction following the Grenfell Tower fire in his Brit Awards performance in 2018.
Stormzy’s now legendary Glastonbury performance in 2019 also included a jarring statement against the rise in knife crime in London, during which he wore a Union Jack stab vest designed by the artist Banksy.
In addition to his significant impact on the music scene, Stormzy has made the news during the Coronavirus pandemic for his continued philanthropic efforts – the artist has committed to donating £10m to black British causes over the next 10 years that will fight racial inequality, and has also donated £500,000 to fund educational scholarships for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Stormzy Social Media Links
Nova Twins are an English urban punk duo formed in London in 2014, consisting of vocalist/guitarist Amy Love and bassist Georgia South. They have toured extensively across Europe and America, supporting Wolf Alice, Little Simz, Dream Wife, Black Honey and Skunk Anansie. Their sound has been described by PRS for Music as “a genre bending amalgamation of raw punk energy, illegal rave electronics and unapologetic grimey attitude.”
Their debut album Who Are The Girls? was released in February 2020, and covers a range of larger themes. Speaking to NME about the album launch, Amy explained:
“Being black women doing punk music is political. ‘Devil’s Face’ touches on Brexit, ‘Bullet’ speaks about sexism, but ‘Athena’ is completely fictional and mythological. We called it ‘Who Are The Girls?’ because we didn’t always feel heard or accepted making the type of music we do, looking the way that we do. It’s definitely challenging and there is a stigma attached to it.”
Nova Twins Social Media Links
Up-and-coming singer-songwriter Cat Burns incorporates raw, honest songwriting with beautifully understated production to powerful effect. The 19 year old from South London is already making waves on the scene – at just 16 she was chosen as BBC Radio 1XTRA’s Track Of The Week and has been described by Jamz Supernova as an “exciting new artist delivering ‘Meaningful Pop, with a urban folk/singer-songwriter twist.”
Having caught the attention of tastemakers Earmilk, Spindle and Hunger Magazine with the release of her single ‘Sober’ in 2018, Cat was awarded MSG London’s “up and coming artist of the month”, and has performed for BBC Introducing Live at Tobacco Docks event.
In 2019 Cat Burns released her second EP Naive continuing live performances at intimate shows for Sofar Sounds, CLASH Magazine, Gold Dust and Secret Sessions. Her festival appearances include Latitude Festival, Hear Her Festival and Noon Til Moon. She’s definitely one to watch!
Cat Burns Social Media Links