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Don't Stop the Carnival

Don't Stop the Carnival tells the story of Black British Music and the people who made it, from Tudor times to the mid '60s.


Kevin Le Gendre
Music, Cultural Studies, History
United Kingdom
Date published
24 May 2018

This is a story of empire, colonialism and then the new energies released by the movements for freedom and independence of the post second-world-war years; of the movements of peoples across borders; of the flow of music around the triangle that takes in Africa, the Caribbean, the USA and Great Britain; of temporary but highly influential visitors like Paul Robeson and Winnifred Atwell; and of the settlement of ex-colonial peoples who brought their music to Britain, and changed its forms and concerns in the new context. 

It is the story of institutions like the military that provided spaces for black musicians, but it is also the story of African drummers in the British military in the Middle ages, Ignatius Sancho the composer and friend of Laurence Sterne in the 18th century, early nineteenth century street performers such as Joseph Johnson and Billy Waters, child prodigies such as George Bridgewater and composers and singers such as Samuel ColeridgeTaylor and Evelyn Dove in the later 19th and 20th centuries, whose music is still played today. Above all, it is the story of those individuals who changed the face of British music in the post-war period, who collectively fertilized British jazz, popular music and street theatre in ways that continue to evolve in the present.

This is the story of the Windrush generation who brought calypso and steel band to Britain’s streets, Caribbean jazz musicians such as Dizzy Reece, Mona Baptiste and Andy Hamilton, or escapees from apartheid South Africa, such as Chris McGregor and Louis Moholo who brought modernity and the sounds of Soweto to British jazz, and the first signs of a later generation who gave ska and reggae distinctive British accents. Based on extensive research and many first-hand interviews, one of the great virtues of Kevin Le Gendre’s book is lack of London-centricity, its recognition that much important development took place in cities such as Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Bristol. As a noted reviewer of black music, Le Gendre brings together a sense of historical purpose and the ability to describe music in both vivid and meaningful ways.

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Kevin Le Gendre

Kevin Le Gendre is a journalist and broadcaster and writer with a special interest in black music. Deputy editor of Echoes, he contributes to a wide range of publications that include Jazzwise, MusicWeek, Vibrations and The Independent On Sunday and also appears as a commentator and critic on radio programmes such as BBC Radio 3's Jazz Line-Up and BBC Radio 4's Front Row.

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