It’s my song on the Listening Party for Musical Truth by Jeffrey Boakye and Ngadi Smart. This unique book for teens and adults provides a musical history of Modern Black Britain in 28 songs.
There is no better way to start this review than with an introduction to the book by Jeffery himself…
The line that really sticks with me from Jeffery’s intro is:
“Music can carry the stories of history like a message in a bottle.”
This book is made to be read whilst listening to the music. It was an entirely new literary experience for me, and frankly, it BLEW MY MIND. This powerful book can reach so many children who might relate more to music than books. It also acts as a wonderful alternative guide to music and the meaning behind Black music over the past 8 decades.
For each song, Ngadi has done a striking illustration of the musician to accompany Jeffrey’s contextualisation of the music. For my song on the listening party, I am showcasing track #20 on the Musical Truth playlist, It Takes More by Ms Dynamite.
This song (which I used to listen to on repeat!) takes me back to being a teenage girl. In Musical Truth, Jeffery explains Ms Dynamite’s upbringing and the meaning behind the lyrics. He also explains her personal dilemma over accepting an MBE. She ultimately accepted it to recognise how hard her Windrush grandparents had fought for the rights of Black people in Britain, renaming it: My Beloved Elders.
I will leave you to explore the rest of the blog tour (and the book!) to discover the other tracks and the meaning behind them. However, there is one other song I did want to highlight: Shape of You by Ed Sheeran which has a Jamaican dancehall beat. This is one of my favourite songs by Ed Sheeran and it’s one of the most played songs in the UK. But do listeners know they are listening to Black music? Jeffery’s words in this chapter really hit home about where we are today:
“The biggest star in black music is white, and English, which says a lot about how far we have to go.”
Musical Truth is an insightful book to be read alongside some of the most iconic Black music of all-time. From Lord Kitchener and Winifred Atwell to Ms Dynamite and Stormzy, Jeffery has shown the strength and cultural significance of Black music. He urges us to think about the people behind the music, what they’re really saying and why. Musical Truth is a book that I didn’t realise I needed until I read it. It is unique, original and ground-breaking.
Published by Faber & Faber, 3 June 2021
Don’t forget to check out the other songs on the Listening Party and discover more tunes from the Musical Truth playlist!
I am very grateful to the publisher for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book. This voluntary review contains my honest opinion.