The Sonic Migration Of Black British Music

Explore the creation of genre-bending Black British music scenes, celebrating the uniqueness of UK garage, Trip Hop, Lovers Rock and Two-Tone

Sound SystemNotting Hill Carnival

Tracing back through the genealogy of Black British music, and the expansive range of sounds that emerge, has always been the key component of its DNA. 

Sound System (1981/1981) by BBCNotting Hill Carnival

The sonic migration that comes from the wider Black diaspora is one of the cultural exports brought into the UK as the result of various modes of migration. 

People Sound Record Shop (2021-04-26/2021-04-26) by Naomi FitzsimmonsNotting Hill Carnival

Across the spectrum of sounds that includes UK garage, jungle, reggae, dancehall, UK funky house, Lover's Rock and trip-hop, the impact has always been generational because, in every genre that's emerged in the past, there are often traces of what came before. 

Bashy on set at his "Black Boys" video shoot (2009) by Laura BrosnanTRENCH

As younger generations mature through life, they'll pick up on everything that’s heard in the home, on the radio and seen on TV, and through the never-ending ways of experiencing music, it'll often always come back to what you enjoyed growing up as a teenager. 

A Mixing Deck For A Home Studio by Stephen NiemeierTRENCH

Over the past few years, Black British music has evolved even more as people start immersing their own experiences into the art. Jungle, for example, has revitalised and popularised sounds that were often much older than they are.

Grime in 2011 at Just Jam, Alibi (London) by Laura BrosnanTRENCH

When garage, grime, dubstep and bassline/4x4 emerged, jungle still held the foundations. The jungle scene never left or disappeared—it just went underground. But as it's always been bubbling underneath the surface, its impact is still managing to spill over into the mainstream.

It all comes back to roots music brought over by the Windrush Generation and the ways in which it has spawned Black British derivations over the years, such as Two-Tone, ska, Northern soul, and Lover’s Rock. 

Bob Marley and Don Letts in London (1976-06)Bob Marley: Legend

Iconic labels like Trojan Records, Fashion Records, Tuff Gong and more created platforms for young artists such as Aswad, Dennis Bovell and Carroll Thompson to build the early foundations of the sprawling music in Black Britain. 

Notting Hill Carnival 1979, Sound System on Portobello Road under the Westway (1979/1979) by Adrian BootNotting Hill Carnival

In the way that soul and rock music make up the fabric of hip-hop in the U.S., the same can be said of reggae and how it can be found in contemporary sounds today.

Loski backstage preparing for his headline show by Laura BrosnanTRENCH

As new generations consume and experience music through different mediums, the internet especially has had the most profound effect due to the way music is ever increasingly accessible. 

Artist by Laura BrosnanTRENCH

The way people have conversations and share music has created new pathways into how it can impact what emerges from Black British music scenes. These sounds have always been here, but just not as it’s been over the last fifteen years.

Rapper Sneakbo in Brixton by Laura BrosnanTRENCH

The sonic migration of sounds from Africa, the Caribbean and South America over the past century can’t be separated from generations of people uprooting and settling in the UK. 

Grime pioneer Wiley by Laura BrosnanTRENCH

Looking back over the past thirty years, in particular, across the spectrum of Black British music, it’s becoming more difficult to label any singular genre one sound. 

Terri Walker, Dotty, Lady Leshurr and Loudmouth at EMI Studios by Laura BrosnanTRENCH

There’s no way of predicting what the future of Black British music will sound or feel like, but it’ll certainly contain the essence of now. However, it’ll only continue the tradition of blending and interweaving the web of different forms of sounds that have come before.

Credits: Story

Words by Jesse Bernard
Photography by Bob Marley: Legend, Notting Hill Carnival, 
Laura Brosnan [Frank Archives]
Videos by Noisey
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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