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Anthony Josephs curates an evening celebrating Windrush Gen

PICTURED: Anthony Josephs

FROM NOTTING Hill Carnival to jerk spice and pirate radio, British and Caribbean culture are so entwined here that it’s now almost impossible to separate them.

To celebrate the anniversary of the Windrush and some of the first Caribbean migrants entering the UK, poet and musician Anthony Joseph has curated an evening that acknowledges that pioneering generation and looks at how musically and culturally they’ve created the Britain we now know.

"The UK is unique in Europe in that it’s the only place where black people came and were able to gain some sort of cultural and social power," he says.

"Unlike with other colonial powers, Caribbean people here managed to maintain Jamaicanness or Bajanness."

So how do you go about condensing all this history into one event? Joseph says he’s decided to take a chronological approach, from calypso’s heyday in the 40s and 50s to today.

"Calypso is the original folk music of Trinidad. It originated in Trinidad in the mid-1800s or even before. It was brought from West Africa by slaves who ended up in Trinidad and started blending their own protest songs and chants with the music of the Europeans and indigenous people who were there at the time’ Joseph explains.

"They created a folk music which was built on protest and critique of the colonial government; it's really the mother music of the English-speaking Caribbean. It's where everything else comes from, even Reggae comes from that protest route.

"We're looking at the way this music has changed and changed the landscape of the UK’ he says, and this is reflected in the guest artists performing with him."

Firstly, there’s Mighty Sparrow: "He's been making music since the 50s; he's unmistakably the King of calypso.’ There’s also the Queen, Calypso Rose: ‘Rose is – as a calypso artist and as an artist full stop – quite remarkable in that she's incredibly popular now internationally.’ And Brother Resistance: ‘He represents the 70s and 80s revolutionary literature scene; he lived here in the 80s and experienced first-hand the Brixton riots." They’ll be joined by more contemporary British Caribbean voices to bring the story into the present day.

The irony of the Windrush scandal in the 70th anniversary year since the boat docked at Tilbury seems perverse, but maybe it shows just how timely this celebration of the influence of Caribbean culture on Britain is.

Joseph says: "There’s always a small faction of people who are against integration, or won’t welcome people from abroad – we see it now with refugees. But at the heart of what it means to be British is this liberal idea that if you work hard and contribute, it doesn’t matter where you’re from. Britain is welcoming and it values fairness. That’s been a factor in why the cultures have integrated so well."

Windrush: A Celebration will be at the Barbican as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival on Saturday 17th November, find out more here

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