White Violence Vs Hip-hop

Media Diversified

Nathan Holder discusses how hip-hop is excluded from music education

One of the main reasons cited for hip-hop not being taught in schools is because of the glamourised violence contained in lyrics and videos. A whole genre of music and its creators remain censored in schools but thrive as soon as children leave school gates. Nielsen reported ‘a 72% increase in on-demand audio streaming in hip-hop but it continues to be ignored and demonised by many music educators in the UK. Does the need to censor a genre because of violence represent a double standard in education? It is undeniable that there is violence in some hip-hop, but should a few cases marginalise an entire genre?

Jack the Ripper

The argument against hip-hop on the basis of violence is one to my mind which has no grounding in logic. The visual depiction of violence in the form of guns, knives or physical assault…

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‘African’ drumming, the homogenisation of a continent

Media Diversified

Nathan Holder argues that its time to challenge the lazy ways in which UK music education treats musical styles from Africa

European string music has been in existence in Europe for thousands of years. Instruments such as violins, violas, guitars and lutes have provided the soundtrack for coronations, films and permeated into contemporary pop culture through the use of samples or harmonic structures. Children worldwide start their musical journeys by playing European string instruments with some progressing to play famous works by Vivaldi, Paganini and Telemann, as well as playing in European string ensembles in schools.

Ever heard the term ‘European string ensemble’, though? Probably not – because it doesn’t really mean much. Are we talking about a group of violins? Guitars? Contrabasses? A mixture of these and more?

This brings me to my question – why are we still talking about ‘African drumming ensembles’?

Consider the many different cultures…

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It’s the NFC Championship game on the 22nd Jan 2017 between the Atlanta Falcons and the Green Bay Packers. As traditional before a sporting event in the US, the national anthem was performed. This was a special one with saxophonist Mike Phillips stealing the show before the opening kickoff. 0
Hear how he uses the blues scale at 0:44 add a different ‘flavour’ to the anthem. He doesn’t play the anthem in strict time but instead emphasises different parts of the melody (0:37 for example) by adding extra notes and using particular saxophone techniques. He builds the anthem at 1:06 and uses a technique called circular breathing to extended the note on the word ‘free’. One of the reasons Mike Phillips’ version is so special is because you can hear that this is his clear interpretation of it. He isn’t trying to copy anyone else. He’s played with the late great Prince,  Stevie Wonder and countless other superstars but always retains his unique sound and energy.
National anthems, hymns or other songs with deep meaning do not have to be played in a solemn or sombre way. By watching this video and others like it, children can begin to understand that any song can be interpreted by a performer in any way, and like Mike Phillips demonstrated, if you can do this well, people will remember it forever.

Go Falcons!!

Reblogged from www.nateholdermusic.com


Toussaint L’Ouverture


Toussaint L’Ouverture (20 May 1743 – 7 April 1803)

The Atlantic Slave Trade lasted from around the 16th century through to the 19th century. Although much emphasis is placed on the efforts people like Rosa Parks, Olaudah Equiano and Marcus Garvey who helped to end not only slavery, but bring equality, there were people and events which preceded some of the most courageous people celebrated in Black History.
There were the Maroons in Jamaica, led by Nanny, who was born of the Ashanti tribe in Ghana, who helped to free slaves and took control over much of the hilly inlands of Jamaica. Marcos Xiorro was an African slave who led a revolution in 1821 in Puerto Rico. There were also a few different slave revolutions in Mâle, Brazil in 1835. Arguably the most successful slave rebellion in the Americas was led by a man named Toussaint L’Ouverture.

L’Ouverture was born in the country then called Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) and was freed from slavery at the age of 33 in 1776. He continued to work but was able to acquire property and some wealth, due to his increased responsibilities as a driver and work force organiser. When the revolution began in 1791, he was placed in charge of a small band of rebels and negotiated with the French Governor to stop the use of whips, and an extra non working day amongst other things. These demands were not met, and the rebels started to increase their alliance with the Spanish. After many years of fighting and treaties with Britain and the US in 1798, L’Ouverture was captured, sent to France and died in 1803, a year before Haiti declared independence and abolished slavery.

These achievements are not to be taken lightly. Haiti was the wealthiest of all the Caribbean colonies in 1789, producing 60% of the world’s coffee and 40% of the worlds sugar. Haiti gained its independence almost 160 years before other Caribbean islands like Guyana and Barbados. In other words, this was not a colony which had no significance. How then has Haiti, along with other Caribbean islands with vast resources, become so poor in the 200 years since independence? It seems as though the UK, France and Spain continue to benefit, almost as though independence and the abolition of slavery signalled a change of oppression rather than an end to it. Has slavery ever really ended?

The tale of The Barber and the ummm…. Penis

Its Friday, Friday
Gotta get down on Friday
Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend

I have to be somewhere in a couple of hours so do I go to my regular guy and risk being late, or go somewhere a bit closer and definitely be on time? Many of you may think this is a no brainer but it’s not. You see I’ve been going to Andy my Nigerian barber for about 7 years now. We have a relationship. I have his phone number and he knows all the lumps in my head. How to shape my hairline so I don’t look like Lebron James.


I decide to go to the guy who’s closer. Things can’t be that bad can they?

I arrive and to my surprise, the shop is empty. Excellent. But why is no-one there? Does everyone know something I don’t? At least I don’t have to thumb through year old copies of Now! and OK! magazine.
When the barber comes back from getting a drink from the shop round the corner (I’m sure this only happens in black owned hairdressers and barbers…) I tell him what I want and he starts to work. The usual small talk starts and I relax, trying to feel confident that my head is in good hands.

Halfway through he leans over and things get uncomfortable. I’m already annoyed that clearly he doesn’t realise that his trimmers are a bit too sharp but now I can feel his penis on my leg. The small talk stops.
Now I swear there must be a better way to cut my hair, but maybe the absence of anyone else confirms that others have suffered at the hands.. sorry, the penis of this barber. I move my leg, but he uses this as an invitation to more closer. It seems as though there is no escaping this penis. I just want this ordeal to be over now. I use every opportunity to rub my leg on the area of violation every time he walks around to the other side. My efforts to wipe off the disgust are futile. There will be no more small talk for the rest of my time here.
I wonder if he realises whats going on. I’m sure he does. How can you not? Is he so engrossed in his work that he doesn’t realise? Is he doing this on purpose? Is he enjoying this? *shudder*… I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one this has happened to though….

After the application of much-needed alcohol, I say thank you, check my hair and get my things. I’m grateful to leave, plus I’ll be on time for my appointment. The haircut itself was ok but not great. Plus the whole penis thing didn’t help.
Plus the music playing was terrible.
Plus he charges £2 more than my barber for a shape up.

Note to self: leave the house earlier next time.

Not infront of me please

So the lesson is over, and I’m getting my stuff to go home after one of my weekly teaching appointments. The lesson could have gone better but hey, progress is being made even if it is sometimes painfully slow. Because it’s now evening, both parents are home and the dad takes this opportunity to ask how his son is doing. Gheeze what do I say?

“Really well!” I reply. “He really is doing well although if he just put a little more time into it, things would be even better” I say, smiling a tight-lipped-this-is-kinda-long-smile.
“Well the lazy part he gets from his mother.” replies the Dad. Cringe number 1. I force a laugh and glance at my bag hoping that he sees my intent to leave as soon as possible.
“Remember what I told you today Richard?” I ask, deflecting my attention to my begrudging student. “Practise with a metronome from now on. Can he use the internet or a phone when he practises until you get a metronome?” I ask his Dad.
“I can use your phone can’t I Mum?” Richard calls out to his Mum.
“Sure honey,” She replies.
“Tell me how to do it; she’s rubbish with technology,” the Dad says under his breath. Cringe number 2. I reply that there are many free metronomes online or available from the App Store or Google Play, hoping that someone in the house knows what I’m talking about. I’m going to miss the start of Eastenders. I don’t even watch Eastenders but right now the prospect of it is more exciting than this.
“Ok, so next week, same time?” I say.
“Yes,” calls the Mum from the kitchen, “I have a meeting I have to be at but Brian will be here.”
“You didn’t tell me that,” replies Brian, “I don’t know if i’ll be in the country next week.”
“Why didn’t you tell me that? When were you going to tell me?” asks the Mum. Cringe number 3. I want to go home. Now.
“You can call me when you know, the plan for next week” I say sheepishly. Did I just say that out loud? I hope so. Brian lets out a disgruntled sigh and seemingly braces himself for the inevitable verbal onslaught.
“You always do this,” the Mum scowls. “Why can’t you just tell me your plans? You can’t just make plans whenever you want to. We have children and responsibilities…”. Cringe number 4. She continues talking but I manage to block out her rant. Richard has left the ‘conversation’ and is now watching cartoons on TV. Why are they doing this in front of me? What did I do to deserve this? Are Ricky and Bianca still together?
“I’m sorry,” apologises Brian. “Give us a sec.” Cringe number 5.
“No it’s fine,” I reply “take your time.” Why did I say that? It’s not fine but what can I say? I’m still waiting to get paid too.
Brian retreats into the kitchen and shuts the door. I can hear raised voices but am not interested in whats being said. Should I just leave? Sit and watch cartoons? Call someone and ask whats happening in Eastenders?

Is it too much to ask not to argue in front of me? True I’m not a guest; I’m effectively hired help but it doesn’t mean I need to witness arguments like this. Maybe some of you out there have experienced being caught in the middle of a domestic before and I often wonder how other people deal with it. Sadly I’m getting used to it now, sometimes even feeling tension as soon as I step foot in the door. I guess part of teaching means that you do get more and more involved in the family life but at what point do those lines become blurred? When you become more of a family friend rather than a teacher, things that wouldn’t be acceptable for you to see and hear suddenly become routine. I’m sure there is a way to keep things separate but clearly I haven’t mastered that technique yet.

Finally after what seems to be an eternity consisting of me staring at the pictures in the hall, the Mum emerges, seemingly victorious and tells me that the same time next week will be fine, pays me and apologises for the delay.
“No It’s fine,” I reply, “see you next week”.
I exhale as I close the door behind me and walk to my bus stop. What have I learnt today?
1. I need to reconnect with my inner child and watch cartoons.
2. Mums always win

Congratulations to Jermain Jackman


Last night Jermain Jackman beat Christina Marie and Sally Barker to the title of The Voice winner 2014. I’ve never been a big fan of shows like the Voice or X-factor so I didn’t even realise the final was last night until the channel was abruptly changed by a family member. I caught the announcement and left the house being told to take inspiration from the fact that there is nothing you can’t achieve if you work hard for it. Take inspiration from the Voice? A programme which seems to lack objective vocal advice and direction, promotes the all too British feeling of ‘you are great’ and ‘everyone is a winner’, and leaves the singers’ fate in the hands of the British public rather than musical professionals, who are not concerned about someone on their team winning?? Fat chance.

Jermain Jackman is 19 years old and is from Hackney in East London. There are many young black boys with aspirations of winning such shows and enjoying a lifelong career in music, but having the ambition to become Prime Minister is a different thing altogether. It was Will.I.Ams message to Jermain ‘you wanna be the first black Prime Minister – means a lot of people will giggle and dismiss you as being cute, but you can prove them wrong’ was multi-leveled and somewhat ominous statement. If Jermain is to become Prime Minister one day, he has a very long way to go. Unlike America, Britain does not have a track record of entertainers or sportsmen getting into mainstream politics. Ronald Reagan and Arnie have shown that you can make that transition (effectiveness is another story) and Presidents have indulged in the arts and media; Bill Clintons saxophone playing the saxophone on the Arsenio Hall show and George W Bush throwing the first baseball pitch after 9/11 at Yankee stadium. President Obama has sung, danced and acted during his tenure in the White House. But Obamas interview with Zach Galifianakis is the equivalent of David Cameron singing and politicizing ‘£1 Fish’ on the Graham Norton show. It’s just not going to happen.

Not only does Jermain have to become a successful artist, but he will have to bridge that political/media gap that only Boris Johnson can boast to having achieved (if indeed his activities are something to be boasted about). After all, what Black british male singer has had a fairly long, successful solo singing career? Seal is the notable standout. Craig David is still chugging away and Lemar has faded into obscurity. Labrinth?? (Forgive me if I’ve missed someone) Maybe Jermain has a chance to not only surpass their musical achievements, but take it a step further and in the hopes of becoming Britains first Black Prime Minister.

‘…Obamas interview with Zach Galifianakis is the equivalent of David Cameron singing and politicizing ‘£1 Fish’ on the Graham Norton show’

The fact that he has these ambitions and has made them public is another thing completely. He now has support all over the country from people who would vote for him regardless of his political views and from one of the most successful entrepreneurs around, Will.I.Am. That’s the important thing to remember. We rarely achieve our dreams by sheer hard work and determination. The most successful people in the world will tell you about random acts of strangers, family support, a partner, friend or simply the area they lived in which shaped their lives more than their achievements or failures at GCSE, A-Level, Bachelors degrees and/or higher levels of education. As trivial as it may sound, the Stephan Williams tailored £795 Donegal jacket he wore for the final, is a sign of the support he has, and ensures that if he does ever enter into a political career, he will probably if anything be the best dressed British Prime Minister ever seen.

So no, if you work hard at something I don’t think it means you will achieve that thing. Being chosen by Will.I.Am rather than any other judge and receiving Cheryl Coles 11th hour endorsement are examples that show that you need the right help and support at the right time in order to achieve something. Additionally, not only does he have the emotional support from an internationally respected Black musician, but from friends and family who as seen last night were so incredibly proud of him. There will be many people who will write and talk about how he can’t achieve his dreams, but I believe that if he works hard he will definitely achieve something. It might not be Prime Minister (although I do wish him all the best), and he may not release top albums for years to come, but it will be something. Like Will.I.Am said ‘This victory is more than just winning a competition. This will change your life.’ I think as Jermain woke up this morning, he realised that it already had.


The cast of the Lion King Australia singing on a plane

The cast of the Lion King burst into song on a flight from Brisbane to Sydney. It’s great to see professionals having fun and sharing their talents with everyone they meet! Maybe this will start a ‘Musical Flashmob’ craze around the world.. At any rate, watching this video will hopefully brighten up your day!



A Lesson in Reparations

Matt Kenyon for Seumas Milne on world war one

Learning history in school was pretty boring. I remember being in Year 6 and having to learn all of the Kings and Queens of England, from William the Conqueror all the way up to Queen Lizzie verbatim. We constructed model Tudor houses and begrudingly wrote our own Magna Cartas (burnt paper edges and tea stains for those who remember). In secondary school we learnt about World War I, World War II, the Holocaust, the Civil Rights movement and the abolition of Slavery amongst other things. To be honest, most of the information wasn‘t so interesting and even up until GCSEs, didn‘t make me really think about how history had an impact on my own life. Maybe I was just too much into football and girls to think really clearly about the subject, and so for a long time, history was ‘history’ and wasn‘t going to let it affect my life.

One day, our teacher wheeled in the cumbersome Sony TV and VCR player (remember that feeling when you walked into class and saw that?!) and announced that we were going to watch a movie called Schindlers List. We started watching it and quickly grew bored. Maybe because it was in black and white or maybe because some friends and I were sitting at the back, but at any rate, we were talking and laughing about goodness knows what. At the end of class something happened that forever changed how I saw history. One of the Jewish guys in the class was crying and even though I didn‘t ask why, somehow I understood why. That movie had a special significance for him because maybe some of his ancestors were amongst those who weren‘t so lucky to survive The Final Solution. He had a personal connection to what some of us had just watched. That’s when history became real to me. All prior experiences in history involved the class turning to look at me when our teacher asked us a question about the Civil Rights Movement or the Atlantic Slave Trade, and me cringing when I didn‘t know the answer.


Fast forward to 2014 and I read that Caricom are now seeking reparations from England, France, the Netherlands and other countries. At first I was confused. Why after all this time? Wouldn‘t the best time to have asked been soon after many countries won Independence in the 60’s? There must be a reason why this is happening now as opposed to 10, 25 or 40 years ago. But it is happening. There will be a formal complaint by the end of April, with plans to take the cases to the International Court of Justice if rejected.  Whether or not reparations are granted, I think that this is a great oppurtunity to change the way we learn and teach world history.

I would guess that my year group was made up of about 45% from Asia (Subcontinent and East) 40% White (including Jews) and 5% Black. Roughly. This was my school on the outskirts of East London 10 years ago, but all over London, schools are fast becoming more and more mixed and maybe what is taught in history lessons should reflect this change.
First of all, there was no real sense of shame or embarrassment about what the British Empire actually represente when we were taught. The Empire raped, pillaged and destroyed its way through every continent on earth (save Antarctica) and left not only death and poverty in its wake, but religious ideologies, and divide and conquer techniques which leave us today debating good vs bad hair and people all around the world wanting to become lighter to fit in with a European aesthetic of beauty. Currently the way children are learning directly and indirectly about the Empire in schools, implicitly teaches students merely to accept it for what it was, and not bring into question what the legacy of the Empire still is.
Secondly, the history which we learnt was not mine or many of the other kids in my class. It was almost as though there was no modern day Bangladesh, Jamaica or Togo before the British invaded. We didn’t learn that calculus from the Kerala School of Mathematics in India predates European calculus by over a century. The city of IIe-Ife in Nigeria was paved with decorations that originated in America in 1000 AD (and they say Colombus discovered America?!). Mali was one of the most advanced and thriving cities in the world, with a population 5 times the size of London by the 14 century. Toilet paper was invented in China in the 1300‘s. All of the history of pre-colonial earth seems as though it was and still is reserved for those who choose to go and read history at university or educate themselves outside of formal education. That means that unlike my Jewish friends, in school (thankfully many of us were taught these things outside of school), we were never connected to our history; to learn that whether we were from St Lucia, Pakistan or Ghana, we come from rich cultures and wonderful histories which were either destroyed or simply archived until we decided to search for ourselves. We grew up knowing certain things but viewing our history as inferior and not important to be discussed in class, let alone write an exam on.

‘…accept it for what it was, and not bring into question what the legacy of the Empire still is.’

By Caricom asking for reparations, maybe we can all use this stand as catalyst for us not to simply accept the cards that were dealt us, but to ask to see what the dealer is holding behind his/her back. To demand that children are taught the whole grizzly truth about the Empire and teach them just how ignorant and unacceptable it is for people to demand for immigrants to go back to where they came from. After all, these attitudes start with what is taught in schools and is perpetuated through silence – by not showing dark side of the Empire and the civilisations it destroyed. Maybe if children are taught a wider range of facts, groups like the EDL and NF will slowly die out as children learn that Englands wealth and status was built on the back of slaves and should be held accountable by displaying its history for all to see. Winston Churchill once said that ‘History is written by the victors’. Perhaps it is time for the losers to start blogging, facebooking, tweeting and teaching theirs in mainstream society and not rely on the odd BBC documentary to provide us with knowledge.

I hope Caricom is successful but even if they are not, we shouldn‘t wait 10, 25 or 40 years before we demand that our Middle Eastern, Eastern European, African and Asian histories are taught, and the Empire finally held accountable.

Step up Mr.Gove.

Peace and Blessings

Why Lupita Nyong‘o doesn‘t matter as much as you think.

This post is a response to a blog I read:


Lupita Nyong’o doesn‘t matter as much as you think. This is not to take away from any of her accomplishments, the stunning dresses and witty way she shared with the world on Twitter how to pronounce her name. There is no denying her beauty and her being one of a few darker skinned leading women in Hollywood, but what does that all matter? There is no doubt that her presence in todays media is a ray of hope for all those women out there who feel inferior because of the colour of their skin (or even those who don‘t). but what is really happening here? Is the colour of her skin really the issue?

When Gabourey Sidibe was nomiated for an Oscar in 2009 for her role in the film Precious, there was not a big fuss made about the fact that she was dark skinned. She was not heralded as an icon for black women to look up to, or a sign that Hollywood was finally opening its doors to embrace more melanin. Instead, she was the object of ridicule over her weight, and the subject of a front cover lightening scandal in the 25th anniversary edition of Elle magazine. Whoopi Goldberg became the second black female Academy Award winner in 1990, and although there wasn‘t a large media frenzy and presence as there is today and back in 2006, she didn‘t and still doesn‘t come into the conversation as a successful dark skinned woman.

So maybe what we are looking at is a question of beauty. As soon as the media portrays a dark skinned woman as beautiful, everyone wants to be a part of it, jump on the bandwagon and hold Lupita up as the what women should be aspiring to, to love their own skin and for the black community to embrace whatever skin tone they have. Love the skin you are in, but don‘t wait for the media hype. Lupita Nyong‘o and Hattie McDaniel belong in the same conversation.

Aside from her skin, Lupita is (by media standards) aesthetically beautiful. Small dress size, full lips, enticing eyes and a winning smile. She wouldn’t look out of place endorsing the latest dress by Prabal Gurung or a de la Renta, lipstick by Revlon or jewelry by Avianne. Lupita is now a brand, and someone who will be exoticised simply because being different sells more, all at the same time as fitting into the Hollywood perception of beauty. Gabourey or Whoopi never achieved that.

Lupita is what Hollywood has been searching for. An good actress who is cultrally diverse, articulate, humble and dark skinned. The Gabrielle Unions, Taarji P Hensons and Kerry Washingtons of the world, all fall short in one or more of these catergories, but most notably by how dark/light they are. Therefore, the exotisicm which faces Lupita is to be expected. If you are in the minority, you will always be spoken about as the minority. Everything that sets you apart will be talked about and amplified. If you are in the majority, everything else is looked at as strange and fascinating. For all of the articles, round table discussions and documentaries about good hair and dark vs light skin etc, I fail to see the reverse; a plethora of white celebrities and personalities discussing the tanning culture or the recent white girl squatting epidemic.

When the media lauds over a newcomer, like in the case of Lupita, we all hope that she becomes a pioneer; that her presence in Hollywood will usher in a new age of darker skinned men and women in leading roles, and throw sand on the fire that is colourism. The same with Obama. Everyone hoped that it would be the dawning of a new age, that now colour lines have been shattered because a black man is the most powerful man on earth. George Zimmerman and the state of Florida proved us wrong. We hoped that now we would see more and more young black men in office, less stigma about Africa (alas not about specific countries) and its apparant inability to produce leaders of good repute, save Madiba. It is a possiblity that when it is all said and done, Lupita will be a token as opposed to a pioneer; someone who is allowed in merely to prove society wrong. Hollywood doesn’t favour non dark skinned women because we have just had a dark skinned female Oscar winner. I can’t be rascist because I have a black friend.

There have been beautiful dark skinned actresses, musicians, athletes and entrepeneurs before Lupita. Debates will be had and bleaching cream will be bought long after Lupitas looks start to fade. It must also be said that for all the comments about her skin, it seems as though we have forgotten that she does wear make up, she does have stylists and Photoshop CS6 is available to download as a torrent. Complete with crack.

That being said, being in the throws of globalisation, interracial marriages (if there is such a thing as race), skin lightening and excessive tanning, we will soon all be beige anyway (Parker & Stone, SouthPark: Season 8 Episode 7).