Don't Stop the Carnival: Black Music in Britain
'Expansive, meticulous and revelatory.' The Wire — 'The definitive text on this subject.' Songlines
Kevin Le Gendre
ISBN number
Cultural Studies
Country setting
United Kingdom
Publication date
24 May 2018

The story of Black music in Britain and the people who made it, from Tudor times to the mid 1960s.—

Winner 'Best History' in the Best Historical Research in Recorded Roots or World Music category in the 2019 ARSC Awards for Excellence

'A meticulous, sweeping and vivid history of black British music.'  Diana Evans, Financial Times  

Listen to Kevin le Gendre interviewed by YolanDa Brown on BBC Radio 4 Loose Ends, 26 May 2018.

Read Kevin Le Gendre's blog post on his motivations for, and experience of writing Don't Stop The Carnival

Don’t Stop the Carnival is the story of Black music in Britain from Tudor times to the mid 1960s. It is a story framed by slavery, empire, colonialism and the flow of music around the Black Atlantic of Africa, the Caribbean, the USA and Great Britain. It is about the passage of temporary but influential visitors such as the Fisk Jubilee Singers, the Southern Syncopated Orchestra and Paul Robeson; about the post-1945 migration of people from the colonial empire to Britain; about the new energies released by independence in the ex-colonies that created new musical forms such as ska, rocksteady and West African high life.

It is the story of a struggle against racism, but also of institutions like the military that provided spaces for black musicians from the middle ages to the mid-20th century. It is the story of individuals such as the trumpeter John Blanke in the court of Henry VIII, Ignatius Sancho writing minuets in the 18th century, Billy Waters scraping the catgut on the streets, the violinist George Bridgewater and his falling-out with Beethoven, the composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor whose music is still played today, and popular 1930’s entertainers such as “Hutch” and Ken “Snakehips” Johnson. Above all, it is the story of those who changed the face of British music in the post-war period in ways that continue to evolve in the present.

It is the story of actual Windrush arrivals such as the calypsonian, Lord Kitchener, and singer, Mona Baptiste; of Edric Connor, Cy Grant and Winifred Atwell who made inroads into the BBC and British hearts; of those who brought calypso and steel band to Britain’s streets; of Caribbean jazz musicians such as Leslie Thompson, Joe Harriott, Dizzy Reece and Andy Hamilton; of great West African high lifers such as Ambrose Campbell and Ginger Johnson; of escapees from apartheid South Africa, such as Louis Moholo-Moholo who brought the sounds of Soweto to British jazz; and of that great worker across steelband, jazz and African music, Russell Henderson. Based on extensive research and many first-hand interviews, Kevin Le Gendre’s book recognises that much important development took place in cities such as Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Cardiff and Bristol, as well as London. He brings together a keen sense of history and the ability to describe music in both vivid and meaningful ways.

In 2019, Don't Stop the Carnival won Best History in the category of Best Historical Research in Recorded Roots or World Music in the Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC) Awards for Excellence

Listen to Kevin le Gendre interviewed by YolanDa Brown on BBC Radio 4 Loose Ends, 26 May 2018.


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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