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Beyond the Bassline: A Celebration of Black British Music

A look at the British Library exhibition...

Music is more than sound; it's a powerful force that can shape identity, ignite social change, and unite people. This is especially true of Black British music, shaped by centuries of experience, culture and history.

British Library Exhibition - 'Beyond the Bassline: 500 Years of Black British Music'

The British Library exhibition, ‘ Beyond the Bassline: 500 Years of Black British Music ’, takes visitors on a captivating journey through the rich history of Black British music and focuses on its impact on Britain. It is the first major exhibition of its kind anywhere in the world.

Curated by  Dr Aleema Gray in collaboration with Dr Mykaell Riley, ‘Beyond the Bassline’ takes visitors on a chronological journey through five centuries of Black music in Britain. Over 200 exhibits, including soundscapes, artworks, archival footage, spectacular costumes, interactive displays, and of course, music, tell the story of how African and Caribbean influences have shaped and influenced British music.

Pink carnival costume display

From the infectious rhythms of reggae, the soulful sounds of lovers' rock, and the energy of grime, the exhibition highlights the many genres and areas of music that Black British artists have pioneered and contributed to. ‘Beyond the Bassline’ isn't just about the music itself. It's also about the stories of the artists, the communities they built, and how their music has served as a powerful tool for social commentary and cultural expression.

The exhibition also explores the stories and work of important people and musicians throughout history, from 18 th -century composer Ignatius Sancho to Dame Shirley Bassey and Jamal Edwards.

Beyond the Bassline sign at the exhibition entrance

Leaving the exhibition, you'll have a newfound appreciation for the richness and depth of Black British music - the sounds created by struggle, joy, resistance, and an enduring love for music.

Tickets for timed entry to the exhibition are available here . The exhibition is open until August 26 th 2024.

About the British Library in London

The British Library is the national library of the UK. It houses a vast collection of over 170 million items, including books, newspapers, sound recordings, patents, prints, drawings, maps, and manuscripts. The library has a rich historical background and continues to gather new materials that are written today, as well as those that will be produced in the future.

The library is open to everyone for research, study, business support, meeting friends, and getting inspired by visiting the galleries.

Tihara Smith Products Available at the British Library Bookshop

I’m super excited to share that a selection of our products, including statement art prints and eye-catching enamel pins , are now available at the British Library bookshop for the duration of ‘Beyond the Bassline’.

My work celebrates the Windrush Generation who made a significant impact on Black music and culture, making the pieces a perfect complement to the exhibition's themes. So, after you've explored the rich soundscapes of ‘Beyond the Bassline’, head over to the bookshop and take home a memento!

So, whether you're a music buff or simply curious to explore the influence of Black music on British culture, ‘Beyond the Bassline’ is an exhibition not to be missed. Immerse yourself in the sounds, stories, and struggles that have shaped Black British music, and don't forget to check out the Tihara Smith collection at the British Library bookshop while you're there!

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