If you tuned into The Voice UK this evening you would’ve witnessed the appearance of US songstress Kym Mazelle, who auditioned for the show but sadly missed out on a place for the next round because the judges failed to select her. Kym was a musical titan in the late 80s/early 90s, releasing her own material as well as lending her soul charged vocals to hits by Soul II Soul and The Blow Monkeys. What was interesting about Kym’s appearance on tonight’s show was the awkward exchange between her and Will.iam. He was obviously unaware of who she was which was surprising given their similar experiences as African American musicians forging careers in the UK.
I remember a while back reading that Will now considers London his spiritual home, and it’s definitely a mutual love fest as the British public seemed to have warmed to his quirky commentary, offbeat sense of humour and his obvious musical knowledge. Much is made of African Americans who migrate to Paris, such as Josephine Baker, Langston Hughes and James Baldwin, but there are quite a few African Americans who have attained honorary Brit status on these shores too.
Remember those Saturday evenings we spent on ‘weave watch’, hotly anticipating what outfit, eye make-up and hairstyle Kelly Rowland would be wearing during her short stint as a judge on the X Factor? Since she embarked on her solo career Kelly Rowland has virtually been a permanent fixture in this country, developing a solid fan base and adopting not only a European musical sensibility (which has now been replicated by nearly every US R&B artist) but a London girl sense of style too. The UK love ’em some Kelly R.
Author, playwright, activist and arts critic – Bonnie Greer may have been born in the west side of Chicago, but to us, she is our very own Michelle Obama or Oprah. Residing in the UK since the late 80’s, Bonnie is now a British citizen although you would never guess it by listening to her dulcet Windy City accent. Intelligent, graceful, talented and highly regarded – Bonnie represents an image of black womanhood that is all too rare in the media (and there’s an argument to be made that programmers should also be seeking out the unique viewpoints of Black British women), and it’s for that reason why we intend to snap her up for good.
Terrence Trent D’Arby
When Terrence Trent D’Arby first burst onto the scenes during the mid-eighties, the British press were quick to hail him as Britain’s answer to Prince, nevermind the fact that he hailed from New York. But for some reason his unique brand of retro-fused R&B struck a chord with the British record buying public and he enjoyed a pretty fruitful career in the UK with hits like Wishing Well and Sign Your Name. Unfortunately Terrence failed to enjoy a sustained musical career as expected, but he will forever be associated with the eighties British pop movement.
Marsha Hunt first captured the imagination of the public when she was introduced to the world as Mick Jagger’s lover and muse during the swinging sixties in the midst of Rolling Stones mania (Marsha is said to be the inspiration behind the Stones’ hit single Brown Sugar). Born in Philly, Marsha was an actress who came to London to appear in the cult musical Hair, enthralling audiences with her doe eyes and heavenly ‘fro. Although her relationship with Jagger was short lived, the pair conceived a child and Hunt remained in the UK where she still lives today. Leaving her modelling an acting career behind, Marsha has spent the latter part of her life as a novelist and is currently working on a book about Jimi Hendrix, in which she indicates that she’ll be able to offer a fresh perspective as they were both black Americans who came to London.