Stream of conscious: Black Matter

With theatre's closed over the past year and creatives out of work, it's not surprising to see that with everything going on, there's plenty to write about. Or put into a song cycle. Actor Giles Terera presents his new song cycle Black Matter inspired by the events he saw on London's streets in a streamed concert event this month. 

Living in London's Soho over the past summer of lockdown, Black Lives Matter, Eat Out To Help Out provided plenty of inspiration for observations about being a black man in Britain today. He notes that "I saw Soho shift from deserted tranquillity, where the only sounds were birds and church bells to the noise and heat of demands for social justice and civil unrest. I saw couples and families sneaking bike rides, and I saw violence – protests and peacemakers, homelessness and empty properties. People helping each other and people hurting each other. I saw confusion and hope and strength."

The topics vary from deportations and the Black Lives Matter movement to artist Khadija Saye's death in Grenfell Tower. Terera's musical influences vary from blues and jazz to musical theatre. Through these styles, his smooth vocals contrast against the sharp observations about what it is really like living in Britain today. But while there's much to be angry about, he's giving audiences enough positive messages so that they're ready to change the world. 

Filmed at Cabaret venue the Crazy Coqs in Piccadilly with just Terera a piano or guitar, the focus is on the man, the music and the message. Not every streamed concert can claim to look or sound as good as this one, and the attention to detail in getting this recording looking and sounding so good is to be admired. 

But the empty cabaret room with just the table lights on reminds us that we should be there. The stream could have benefited from more introductions of the material to give insight into the songs. But perhaps that might have to wait for when performed in front of an audience. 

The concert will be streamed and available globally from March 24 through to March 31 and runs for an hour.

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