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South London Black Music Archive - by Richard Starbuck

  • Now to be honest I wasn’t too sure what to expect when I was asked to review The South London Black Music Archive by Barby Asante as I knew there would be no paintings or sculptures to sink my teeth into. 


    The show consisted of old t-shirts, magazines, ticket stubs and record sleeves. It felt like I was in some sort of museum/charity shop at first but as the kind lady from the gallery started to explain the history and the idea of archiving South London Black Music, I was aware that I was standing in a collection of personal memorabilia that had been donated by local people who have memoires they want to share with the rest of the community. All these items were probably tucked away somewhere in the owner’s bedroom or in a desk drawer, not looked upon in many years, only to be looked at by chance in a cleaning frenzy, but now they sit proudly in an art gallery for all to admire.



    What caught my eye first was a fascinating map on the wall, a monochrome modern map not unlike the London Tube Map in style. It shows a map of South London with an empty and barren North London. As a South Londoner I couldn’t help but smile at it, I instantly recognised where I grew up and all the surrounding South London areas. My eyes gravitated towards Croydon (where I'm from) but instead of seeing the word Croydon I was meet with the word Dubstep. This map wasn’t just a map of South London it was a map depicting music venues and memories across the area. A sense of pride washed over me like a Dubstep bass wobble.


    The show evokes a strong nostalgic message. As I was looking at the record sleeves, a middle aged black woman came in and excitedly skipped towards the old tape machine that belonged to the artists father. She pressed play on the machine and out came this old swing blues song, she started to sway to the tune, she spoke out with joy and said that her father used to have on of these. She was amazed it still worked. I could tell that this simple old battered tape player had made her day, sometimes simple things like a torn ticket stub or a dusty old tape player can mean so many different things to so many different people.


    The archive has a plan to keep on going after the show is finished with hopefully a tour round britain. The artist Barby Asante is quoted as saying:


    “The influence of black music on the development on popular music is often overlooked. Black music has also played a significant role in the development of British culture from the 1950's and this is a great opportunity to provide a platform for people to consider the significance of this cultural activity on their lives.”


    The show is on till the 24th of March, I strongly recommend it, the sight of old record sleeves are worth the visit in itself.


    Review by Richard Starbuck, up and coming artist -


    The South London Black Music Archive by Barby Asante runs until 24 March 2012 at Peckham Space, Camberwell College of Art, 89 Peckham High Street, London SE15 5RS