Lonely Table, Anja Ngozi, Ruff Sqwad Foundation and Spotlight Present: Music In Response To Art
When we first started the Untitled project, we wanted to support artists and people who were affected by the same themes we drew from Basquiat’s work. We also wanted to encourage a dialogue across mediums in the same way Basquiat traversed artistic boundaries, whether that be music, photography, film, painting, or poetry.
This led to us developing the idea of a youth workshop setting where young people would be encouraged to create music in response to art. We felt this naturally embodied the sentiments and ethos of the album – collaboration, community, and support for young creatives.
Working in partnership with Ruff Sqwad Foundation and Spotlight Youth Centre, we took seven BME 12-18 year olds to the Tate Modern and gave them disposable cameras so they could take photos of the works that inspired them. They then spent three days in the studio with Ruff Sqwad to create collaborative music in response to what inspired them at the gallery.
"Seeing the art influenced my writing process - my entire poem was inspired by a political image of France" - Tofi, 13, Workshop Participant
Photography was something we felt was a strong part of Basquiat’s work and was a key part of the visual identity of the album (check the artwork...). Some of the younger participants had actually never used a disposable camera before, so it was a fun way of taking them away from their phones. It was great to see them so engaged with the cameras from the start – we had to stop them from using up the rolls before we had even left Spotlight.
On the way to the Tate Modern we discovered that most of the group had also never been to an art gallery, provoking a fresh reaction to the art that was on display. It was particularly interesting to see what caught their attention and inspired them, with a variety of different works speaking to them for different reasons. While walking around the gallery, one of the participants Tofi (13 years) mentioned he had seen a painting of a disfigured man, and wanted to write a poem about the ways in which we change ourselves to conform to societal pressures and how this can suppress our individuality.
This was a significant moment as we saw that the different artistic mediums were being interpreted and expressed by the participants in their own field – a key aim of the workshops. Another particular highlight of the day was when the whole group were drawn to one particular painting - Atlantic Civilisation by Andre Fougeron. We all stood and discussed this key work of social criticism and its narratives of corruption, colonialism, and capitalism.
After developing the photos (that didn’t come out well at all), the group went into the studio with Prince Owusu-Agyekum (aka Prince Rapid) and Ebenezer Ayerh (aka Slix) from Ruff Sqwad Foundation to create two tracks inspired by what they had seen the day before at the Tate Modern. Interestingly, the group discussed that they didn’t actually need the photos for inspiration as they had already decided what had stuck with them. Four members of the group - Diamond (MC), Tofi (spoken word), Olu (producer), and Jalil (MC) decided that they would write a track in response to Atlantic Civilisation.
"The art provided the blueprint for the vibe of the tracks. I have since developed a larger interest in different forms of art" - Olu, 17, Workshop Participant
Their original piece of music, a reflective hip-hop track, tackles the issues that spoke to them from the painting, particularly the racism and inequality they identified with and the lyrics on the track neatly encapsulate the themes of the main Untitled album. The other piece, produced by Jubz, is a livelier track with the catchiest vocal hook you’ll hear for time. Its lyrics support the people of Palestine and was inspired by the artworks that tackled war at the Tate Modern. Again, a principal influence was the Fourgeron’s Atlantic Civilisation.
Ruff Sqwad Foundation played an integral role in mentoring and nurturing the young talent in the studio – guiding them through the tools and techniques of recording and coaching them in their writing and production. Spotlight Youth Centre were also incredibly supportive in giving us the studio free of charge for the week and helping to invite the young people for the project. It was an incredible experience and with the results so organically aligned with the themes of the Untitled album, the legacy of Basquiat was most certainly felt in the making of these tracks.
"Exploring the relationships between music and political artwork work was a very knowledgeable experience for me. This project enabled me to understand the collaboration between artists like Basquiat and the young people I work with in my community. Everybody wants change and equality.”
Prince Rapid, Co-founder, Ruff Sqwad Arts Foundation
Founded by Grime Legends Prince Owusu-Agyekum (aka Rapid) and Ebenezer Ayerh (aka Slix), Ruff Sqwad Arts Foundation (RSAF) is a registered charity set up in 2017 to help young people reach their full potential in creative careers and life. RSAF formalises and develops the work that Prince and Ebs have been doing since 2014 based at Spotlight, Bow. We aim to create meaningful cultural engagement opportunities for young people, and give them access to mainstream resources, opportunities, and progression pathways, by integrating high quality arts, youth work, industry connections, and enterprise.
Spotlight is a creative youth service designed to inspire. Shaped by young people, for young people and its all free! Spotlight has state of the art studios, film, design and broadcast facilities with performance, dance, boxing, fashion spaces with a cafe, offices and meeting/one to one rooms.
Untitled is released by Lonely Table, Anja Ngozi and The Vinyl Factory on 31 May 2019. Pre-order your copy.
Wu-Lu, Lex Amor, Ego Ella May - ‘Legend’
LayFullstop, Moroka, AJ Kwame - ‘Broadcast By Chocolate’
Lord Tusk ft. Roxanne Tataei - ‘Know Ways’
Kojey Radical, Shabaka Hutchings - ‘No Gangster’ (Produced by Kz)
Mala, Joe Armon-Jones, Nubya Garcia - ‘Scratch & Erase’
=CoN+KwAkE= - ‘Same Ol Samo’
Maxwell Owin & Coby Sey - ‘Response to Michel’
LT001 | VF294
Released 31 May 2019
Photography by Fabrice Bourgelle [www.fabricebourgelle.com].
Artwork by Fabrice Bourgelle and Anja Ngozi. Design by Raimund Wong.