Playlist: Black History Month

This month, in honour of Black History Monthour playlist celebrates the work of just some of the Black British musicians that the British Council’s Music team have been lucky enough to work with or showcase in recent years. Find out why we chose each track below. Enjoy!

Warning: some tracks contain explicit lyrics.


Bakar – Hell N Back

Warning: contains explicit lyrics.

This was a fitting opener to our relaunched Selector Radio show earlier this month with our new host Jamz Supernova. Rising London-based artist Bakar delivers a catchy, vintage feel-good track, with almost nonchalant vocals that gives things a contemporary twist.

– Katie Weatherall, Music Programme Manager (Selector Radio and Sub-Saharan Africa)

The Comet is Coming – Space Carnival

The Comet is Coming just have such great energy – a joy. Led by Shabaka Hutchings, a powerful force in so many ways whether as a collaborator or innovator in his own right. He’s worked and collaborated with an array of great musicians and recently performed for us, with The Comet is Coming, in Russia as part of the UK-Russia Year of Music.

– Joel Mills, Senior Music Programme Manager (East Asia)

Ray BLK – My Hood

Warning: contains explicit lyrics.

I’ve chose this track because it’s the first song I heard from Ray BLK and I loved it straight away. It manages to be poignant and honest without being clichéd. I think that Ray BLK deserves far more success than she has had so I want to help bring her to more people’s attention. The British Council in Ukraine and Selector Radio teamed up to host Ray BLK’s performance at SENTRUM in Kiev in March 2017 and later the same year it was Selector with the British Council in Spain that led to Ray BLK’s performance at WorldPride Madrid in 2017.

– Sarah Moir, Music Projects Co-ordinator

Love Ssega – Pray For Love

Reminiscent of the legendary Talking Heads, but Love Ssega’s energy and creativity is very much his own – one of the many reasons he was selected for our Musicians in Residence, China programme.

– Leah Zakss, Music Programme Manager (Middle East, North Africa, China)

KOKOROKO – Abusey Junction

KOKOROKO, a 7-piece afrobeat collective from London, travelled out to Colombia in 2018 and gave a brilliant performance as part of the British Council's 'Backstage to the Future - Caribbean' programme. This year we also supported their trip to Tunisia to play at Jazz á Carthage. I chose this track as it delivers a sense of both sadness and warmth, through the gentle instrumentation and underlying African rhythms.

– Katie MacDonald, Music Programme Co-ordinator

Ghetts – Black Rose ft. Kojey Radical

Warning: contains explicit lyrics.

Ghetts was the first artist we worked with in Kharkiv, Eastern Ukraine as part of our partnership with the Rap.UA Awards. He gave an absolutely storming performance and cemented a new partnership.

 – Tom Sweet, Music Programme Manager (Wider Europe, South Asia)

Kojey Radical and Mahalia – Water

Warning: contains explicit lyrics.

Kojey’s music represents what it means to live in a multicultural and accepting Britain. His music is inherently British grime/hip hop – “born in Bow, didn’t you know” – but he incorporates a lot of Afrocentric themes, presumably influenced by his Ghanian parents. His lyricism and structuring of songs is impeccable and Mahalia’s vocals on this track compliment it so well. A Selector favourite for many years, Kojey performed in Russia for Selector Live in 2017.

– Izzy Lee-Poulton, Music Programme Co-ordinator

Hejira – Joyful Mind

Powered by the fantastic vocals of Rahel Debebe-Dessalegne, Hejira’s sound draws on the band members’ different cultural backgrounds as much as their London home. When we supported their trip to Algeria two years back, it was a pleasure to talk to Rahel about those influences and her own Ethiopian roots. PS. she also popped up as lead vocalist for many tracks on Matthew Herbert’s The State Between Us album earlier this year, also supported by the British Council.

– Stephen Bloomfield, Music Marketing Manager

Cadell – Don’t Lack

Warning: contains explicit lyrics.

Here’s a stand-out track from the unique collaboration project ‘London to Addis’ which came through our Sub-Saharan Africa ‘new Arts new Audiences’ initiative. The resulting compilation saw UK grime artists working with Ethiopian traditional and contemporary artists, including Ethiopian Records who pioneered the genre Ethiopiyawi Electronic.

– Katie Weatherall, Music Programme Manager (Selector Radio and Sub-Saharan Africa)

Sheku Kanneh-Mason – Elégie (Rachmaninov)

Numerous stunning performances for royalty, a top 20 album and a wonderful Proms debut with Chineke! – the first majority BME (black and minority ethnic) orchestra in Europe – would all make for a breath-taking enough resumé, but the staggering thing is this all comes from a man just 20 years old. The former BBC Young Musician – the first black musician to win the award – would provide a fitting end to any musical playlist. In this selection he performs with his sister, Isata Kanneh-Mason.

– Cathy Graham, Director, Music