When I first heard Joseph Fiennes, aka the nice looking lad from Shakespeare in Love, was going to be playing Michael Jackson, aka the most iconic black singer of all time, in Sky Arts new comedy anthology series Urban Myths, I knew there was absolutely no way this was going to work out well.
I didn’t know what the premise was going to be, the context or the story but I resigned myself to the reality that, this probably wasn’t going to be the onscreen depiction that Michael deserves.
My reaction aligned with numerous others when Fiennes’ casting as MJ was announced during the #oscarssowhite debate. Terrible timing but the Urban Myths team carried on.
The first trailer for Urban Myths was released this week and sadly we got to see how right we were about Fiennes. If you haven’t seen it yet, it is a cartoon-like depiction that could give you nightmares. It’s safe to say that Twitter reacted in the way that Twitter always does when something controversial happens; everyone had a laugh.
Since it became an institution of sorts, punk has become synonymous with grouchy coolness. Don’t wear the wrong uniform. Don’t say the wrong thing. Don’t like the wrong bands. The pretense can make bands seem unapproachable and bland. If they don’t look like they care about their own music, why should I care?
Thankfully, there are groups like West London girl gang The Tuts, the perfect antidote to this sometimes dreary (and terribly conservative!) side of the punk scene. The Tuts break all the rules; they love pop, wear matching outfits, and have big dreams for the band’s future. Discussing how open they are about their ambition, guitarist Nadia Javed says: “Other bands pretend like, ‘Oh, I’m just gonna do little farts of success and we’ll just see where it goes,’ but deep down they fucking want it. But they think it’s not cool to want it. We can’t be fucking bothered; we ain’t got time to look cool.”
Very few people have made such an impact on DIY punk music as guitarist and singer Rachel Aggs. She came to most people’s attention in 2009 as part of punk trio Trash Kit. Their sound is complex, channelling experiment bands like The Raincoats and Marnie Stern with melodic harmonies and polyrhythmic drum beats. She went on to form the ultimate post-punk party band Shopping whilst also playing in the pop duo Sacred Paws.
Loved by music nerds, punks and pop fans alike, she’s an under appreciated staple on the DIY punk scene and as a musician her melodic guitar has become as recognisable as her sung-spoken vocals and tumultuous hair do that always covers her face ever so slightly. Her fame is slowly starting to rise though; Aggs was recently named by i newspaper as one of the unsung heroes of British indie music and has gone on tour after tour with Shopping, the hardest working band in punk.
The world changes, but our need to take a break from it doesn’t. From H.G. Wells’s scientific fantasies to the popularity of the Marvel franchise and The Hunger Games, sci-fi has always been a preferred mode of escapism.
The reasons are numerous. One theory, by the 19th-century sociologist Max Weber, is that the west is in a state of disenchantment because of our society’s focus on rationality and bureaucracy over mysticism and wonder. This suggests that many people are leading predictable, stable lives and need an injection of fear and magic that seems completely removed from their own experiences. Or at least they used to feel that way.
2016 has been a fearful year. We’ve seen natural disasters, endless wars, the normalisation of far-right politics and a rise in white supremacy. Sometimes, sci-fi no longer feels like escapist fantasy. After the year we’ve all experienced it feels like we’re at the beginning of a film about a group of plucky teenagers who band together to take down the tyrant terrorising their world.
My parents always used to say that there’s no song that wouldn’t sound better as a reggae song. Now that could have been their overwhelming sense of Jamaican importance (we always think we are the biggest island in the Caribbean) influencing their pride in reggae music but it’s hard to deny the brilliance of Jamaica’s most well-travelled genre. That’s why it’s always powerful to hear new bands who take the best elements of reggae and recreate it for today.
Mangoseed collect strains of roots music from around the world to create their multi-faceted south London sound. Formed in 2008, their gigs are always a stage show of well-coordinated moves, frantic guitars and steady, cautious bass lines. The band released their debut album Basquiat, a nod to American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, in 2014 and have high hopes for the future. gal-dem spoke to Mangoseed to find out more about the band and their original sound.
In the past, if the average person wanted to know what was going on around the world, what the latest trends were or take in the thoughts of their generations most prolific thinkers they would have to open up a broadsheet and ingest the information given to them on the page.
Now with the avid use of social media that is no longer the case. Pew Research Center found that 62% of Americans get their new from social media. Since you can interact 24/7 on social media, gone are the days when newspaper pundits were seen as unchallengeable intellectuals. We no longer merely consume our information; we respond, offer our own analysis and become cultural critics in our own right.
This is most obviously the case for the black community who use social media in new and fantastic ways; from hilariously funny vine culture (RIP) to university debate worthy Facebook threads. Although black people are prolific across all social media platforms, the most well-known enclave of black thought has to be Black Twitter.
The BBC is an institution close to many people’s hearts. Known for its programmes about working your fingers to the bone baking a Victoria sponge in what must be an extremely stuffy marquee and surprisingly white East End communities, it has rarely ventured deeply into the topic of race, preferring to see itself as a non-partisan organisation.
For an organisation that’s usually too steeped in nostalgia to notice any changes in society this sideways jump to openly using racist stereotypes to start a conversation seems a little left-field. What happened to the BBC that never mentioned racism?
I want to play a game. Close your eyes, relax your mind and trust me. There’s a star onstage. A rebellious star, a captivating star, a rock star. When your eyes meet, you’re so breath taken by their presence that it feels like a weight has been dropped on you from above.
They make you move, they make you want to be them and they make you want to be with them. A well of creativity and a fountain of unending charm; they have the life experience of being downtrodden and disrespected to draw their art on.
Open your eyes. Now if you didn’t visualise a proud defiant black woman on stage then you and I are clearly reading from widely different history books. Don’t be too hard on yourself though. It’s an easy conclusion to reach considering we rarely hear about the accomplishments and influence of black women in any area. We only recently found out that the scientists that helped get America to the moon were black women. Who knows which other sisters’ names have been forgotten or falsely remembered?
Italy: The place to go for delectable cuisine, breathtaking culture and that creeping sensation that you’re living in worst of the 1950s. From Berlusconi’s many, many gaffs to the abuse thrown at black footballers, news from Italy has made us despair on many occasions.
The latest reason to shake our heads comes from Italian health minister, Beatrice Lorenzin, and her nosy insistence on butting into women’s lives to increase the birth rate in the country. Earlier this month, Lorenzin launched a series of posters to promote Fertility Day, which took place on 22nd September.
The posters featured women with hourglasses to demonstrate their ever dwindling biological clock and included slogans such as “Beauty knows no age. Fertility does” and “Reproducing is the best way for young couples to be creative”.
The Italian government and Lorenzin were roundly mocked for the sexist and ageist campaign, which was reminiscent of the fascist slogans of 1930s that encouraged women to have more children for the country.
With the likes of Single Mothers, Black Girls and Asian Babes using gendered terms to mask their masculinity, Stephanie Phillips investigates the effect it is having on women in music.
There’s an unspoken problem that all male bands face; how to stand out from the billion and one other all male bands. When you think about it can you really tell one bunch of sad looking guys in a shoegaze band from another? Aren’t Alt-J just Foals with a different haircut? Why do Thom Yorke and Chris Martin have the same interchangeably dull looking face?
Let’s face it, men are dry and said dryness has led to a trend amongst the more progressive end of indie and punk that involves finding new ways to be more than just ‘white men’. Some bands seek out female members to make them look diverse, some try on a different culture or style; blending in a half-arsed attempt at bhangra after a particularly enthralling trip to India. There are many ways to not come across as too stale, male and pale while still enjoying the benefits of said maleness and paleness.
Recently, all male bands have solved this problem by feminising their band names. Each year, music fans have the unenviable job of deciphering the reasons bands chose name such as Single Mothers, Black Girls andAsian Babes (Asian Babes actually do have one female member but we included them because it’s still such an awful name).
Shade is a hell of a drug. Once you take it you just can’t get enough.
The line between hilarity and pain is so fine it’s barely visible, but it’s there. That line got crossed once again yesterday when Azealia “the walking definition of the phrase ‘your faves are problematic'” Banks launched a vitriolic racist and homophobic attack on former One-Direction star Zayn Malik.
The Twitter rant was prompted by Azealia’s belief that Zayn copied her music video. When Zayn seemed to respond to her on Twitter stating, “I see you reaching but I don’t care” and “My @’s too good for you”, instead of Azealia replying with a quick, catty comeback, all hell broke loose.