Creative Exile

Introducing the art of creative exile, as we look at Black music artists from overseas who have gained inspiration and influence on UK shores

Bob Marley live at the Keskidee Center in London. (1978) by Adrian BootBob Marley: Legend

Countless cultures have been introduced to the UK—intermingling with each other, taking on new sonic forms—with pioneers from Bob Marley to Jimi Hendrix to Burna Boy spending significant periods of their creative lives here, blending their own sounds and styles with ours.

Alan Moulder and Flood’s Battery Studios complex in North West London has been a vessel for these sort of exchanges across its multi-generational history, playing host to everyone from Led Zeppelin and Paul McCartney in its early years as Morgan Studios...

to alt-rock gems like Skunk Anansie's debut album, Paranoid and Sunburnt. In fact, that alt-rock history is quite literally built into Battery Studios by way of the mixing desk in Studio 2, which was shipped from a studio owned by the duo’s long-time collaborator, Trent Reznor.

Burna Boy Performs On Stage (2022) by Elliot HensfordTRENCH

More recently, Afrofusion alchemist Burna Boy came to London for university and even though he went back to Nigeria to start his music career, the UK left a big mark on him. 

Nigerian Artist Burna Boy Walks With His Team (2022) by Elliot HensfordTRENCH

Grime and UK rap were blossoming and, with them, their own unique dancehall and Caribbean-informed slang and style, all of which Burna eagerly soaked up when he lived in Romford and later Brixton, and proudly brought back to Lagos. 

Nigerian Artist Burna Boy Cools Down During An Energetic Performance (2022) by Elliot HensfordTRENCH

Its influences still echoes in his music today, ringing out in his swagger and style, but also in the effusive way he celebrates artists like J Hus as passionately as he does Ninjaman and Super Cat. 

The Jimi Hendrix Experience (circa. 1966 to 1970) by Warner/Reprise RecordsOriginal Source: Wikimedia Commons

Jimi Hendrix, meanwhile, with roots on both sides of the Canadian border, struggled to fit into American music scenes. Dismissed as "too white for Black radio" in America, according to his associate Tony Garland, over here he discovered white Brits were hungry for the blues.

Despite his rootless lifestyle, he took to the UK quickly, forming The Jimi Hendrix Experience with bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell and set about absorbing the psychedelic folk music he encountered with rugged blues guitars.

This formed the backbone of his three groundbreaking albums. England was also where Jimi Hendrix delivered one of the most iconic live performances at the Isle of Wight Festival, although it would sadly prove to be one of his last.

Record:In the Beginning (1972) by Shout Records, Inc.The Strong National Museum of Play

Jimi Hendrix sadly passed away just weeks later of an apparent drug overdose in a London Hotel.

Bob Marley portrait by Dennis Morris in London (1974) by Dennis MorrisBob Marley: Legend

Bob Marley's time in the UK was a little longer, thankfully, but still tinted with tragedy. The star and his band, The Wailers, spent a good chunk of their career travelling between London and Kingston.

Bob Marley exits a London Courthouse after being fined for possession of Ganja. (1977-04)Bob Marley: Legend

He worked with Island Records co-founder Chris Blackwell on albums like Catch A Fire, but he returned to live in London as a solo artist several years later after a failed assassination attempt. 

Bob Marley, Neville Garrick, Micheal Campbell and Tyrone Downie enter the back of Birmingham Odeon (1975-07-19) by Ian DicksonBob Marley: Legend

During his two-year stay—between footie matches at the local park—he recorded Exodus, a masterful, subtle yet powerful blend of reggae, soul and British rock.

Bob Marley with journalist in London after Court Hearing. (1977-04)Bob Marley: Legend

The pioneering artist also recorded Kaya during this time, and while it is a less politically-charged and not as favoured album, it was one that marked his return to Jamaica, forever changed by his time in England.

Credits: Story

Words by James Keith
Photography by Elliot Hensford, Carnegie Hall, Bob Marley: Legend, The Strong National Museum of Play

Videos by Weirdopedia and Skunk Anansie
Commissioned by TRENCH

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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