The Brent Black Music History Photographic Exhibition was recently launched at Brent Museum’s Community Gallery in Willesden Green Library Centre, north-west London by Harlesden Councillor Lincoln Beswick MBE, who’s been a Brent resident since 1962.
The photos are taken from pan-London voluntary organisation BTWSC’s Heritage Lottery Funded Brent Black Music History Project, which created a free DVD and booklet documenting buildings and people with a connection with black music spanning 1966 to 2006 in Britain’s most ethnically diverse borough.
The Project contributors include Sonny Roberts, who set up the first black-owned recording studio and label, Planetone, in 1962, and Carl Parlmer, who along with two brothers set up Pama in 1967, which is the forerunner of Jet Star, Britain’s biggest reggae-specialist distributor.
The contributors include Phil Fearon, former recording artist and owner of the Production House label, Daddy Ernie and Robbo Ranx, reggae presenters on Choice FM and BBC 1Xtra, respectively.
Brent’s unique black music history include the fact that Aswad are the only British reggae band to top the singles charts (with ‘Don’t Turn Around’); Janet Kay’s the only female British reggae singer to make the Top 2 (with ‘Silly Games’); the internationally successful African-fusion band Osibisa; Trojan, once the world’s biggest reggae label, and Island Records, were Brent-based. The latter label signed its biggest star, Bob Marley, who was then living in the borough.
The launch was dedicated to one of the Project contributors, Paulette Patterson, a former singer with ’70s reggae band Prediction and ’80s R&B/dance duo Dazzle, who sadly passed away in June, a few months after the completion of the Project. Cllr Beswick received a token on behalf of the family of his former constituent.
“I am very proud of this, because this exhibition needs to be here. This is historic stuff,” said Cllr Beswick in his presentation speech. “We had to fight to establish our music when we first came here. Harlesden has produced some of the best musicians from anywhere, locally, regionally and nationally.
“I am very proud of the work Paulette was doing. We are all not drug pushers and gun runners – we’re more than that, and this history shows that.”
“We’re grateful that Brent Museum has given us space for such a long time to display some of our photos. So no one who wants to see the exhibition can miss it. It will also allow us to facilitate events around the exhibition,” noted Project consultant Kwaku.
Added one of the Project contributors, Hugh Francis, former head of intellectual property and business affairs at Jet Star Records: “I am saying to the young people – pick up and instrument and learn a craft, and that way you can have longevity in the music business. Britain will benefit because it brings money into the community, and what’s good for British black music is ultimately good for Britain.”
Project contributors Root Jackson, head of Congo Music and co-founder of former Brent-based Black Music Association, and Paul Dawkins of Tradition, a ’70s reggae band started in Brent were among the audience. Singer-songwriter Noel McKoy provided live music singing and playing an acoustic guitar.
The exhibition, which is free and accessible from 11am to 9pm seven days a week will stay until mid-November 2008. The organisers, pan-London voluntary organisation BTWSC, plan to refresh the exhibition with new photos and mini events every four months.
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