Thousands of rock fans will be converging on Somerset next week for the Glastonbury Festival, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, but Lenny Henry has put a dampener on the summer fun by complaining about the lack of diversity in the Glastonbury audience – in other words, that there are too many whites. According to Henry, in conversation with Clive Myrie for the Radio Times, this is ‘a dominant culture thing’ – which, translated, means that the dominant culture is white and excludes blacks.
Lenny Henry’s remarks are as insulting to the intelligence as they are gratuitously offensive to whites. Yet the poison of identity politics has seeped into our society so deeply, the diversity fetish paranoia of our times is so pervasive, it is Glastonbury organisers who have been ‘contacted for comment’. It is as if by facilitating an event in which large numbers of people (who happen to be mostly white, as is the wider population) gather to enjoy music, they have perpetrated a hate crime of the first order.
Would anyone complain that the largely black audience of a rap or hip-hop (rap to a backing track) concert lacked diversity? Is it likely that the modern-day New Age hippies who converge on Glastonbury are closet fascists and racists? Does the dominant popular musical culture, to which blacks have contributed so much, through blues, gospel, soul etc, really exclude blacks?
The source of the trouble seems to be that Glastonbury, which is primarily a festival of rock music – its founder Michael Eavis, on whose farmland the festival takes place, happens to like rock music – has never featured much in the way of rap. Indeed, Eavis is on record as saying that he does not much like rap. He has even confessed to the Guardian that, ‘My own tastes are not diverse, not really’ (my italics). These are, of course, shocking revelations in a diverse multicultural society, but there is a more fundamental question here: What does the phenomenon of ‘rap’ tell us about black youth culture and identity politics cum critical race theory?
Let us take Jeffery Lamar Williams (alias ‘Young Thug’) as our example of a leading, award-winning, rapper – who would be unlikely to feature at Glastonbury. According to Wikipedia, Young Thug is noted for ‘his fast working method’, his tendency to ‘freestyle’ tracks live in the studio and ‘quickly develop lyrics on the spot’. He has claimed the ability ‘to write a hit song in ten minutes’, saying, ‘I’m in the studio so much, I’ll just try stuff. I just think and try, think and try. I don’t really know how to sing, but I’ve been trying for years.’ Young Thug has six children by four women.
Here is a sample of the lyrics to ‘In Dis Bitch’:
Snake ass niggas got me ridin’ with my garden tool
I’m a Martian dude, little monkey dude
Even if you were a couple million, they wouldn’t sponsor you
If a thug number two, they’re pro’ly under you
Young Thug in this bitch
So, go get over here and show some love in this bitch
And I’m so about this, go ahead and rub on this bitch
And we might just end up making love in this bitch
Switching to YouTube, we hear these lyrics mouthed in monotone to an electronic techno-disco backing track of surpassing banality. By contrast, the demo tunes off my son’s Yamaha have a melodic and rhythmic complexity that puts them in a parallel musical universe.
Rap may well have some consoling value to members of the black community, but its mix of aggression, resentment and self-pity lends it little interest to anyone outside the subgroup, and confers zero musical appeal. Those who present rap as the authentic voice of black youth, a cultural form on a par with those that constitute ‘the dominant culture’ (white, hegemonic, oppressive etc), or who pander to rap in the name of ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’, merely condemn black youth to permanent exclusion from the superior resources of the dominant culture. Black youth remains firmly confined to the ghetto, to perpetual anti-social adolescence.
Is rebellious rock any better? True, the lyrics tend to the adolescent and the banal (I love, you love, me love etc) and the harmonies are rudimentary. Nevertheless, the melodies and rhythms have universal appeal, and unless we are classical or jazz purists, we will all have our favourites, which we danced or swayed to in our teenage years. They gave voice to the natural rebelliousness of youth, the juvenile desire for easy enlightenment, for satisfaction, for peace and for love.
Paradoxically, blacks, most notably African-Americans, have contributed enormously to the dominant popular cultural tradition, that is, to ‘white music’ – often via such genres as gospel, blues, rhythm and blues, and soul, which originated in the African-American community. But unlike rap, these genres had genuine musical qualities and universal appeal, which is precisely why they were integrated into the dominant cultural tradition.
The sad truth is that rap has as much cultural and musical value, as much consciousness-raising potential, as the junkie’s fix of heroin. It is a social and cultural dead end. Musically, it was never even alive.
Rock on, Glastonbury!
Listen to George Steiner on music and consider what we have lost . Editor
Yes, I agree fully with this article. Can’t stand rap, or indeed most of what passes for music these days. Lenny Henry really needs to put a sock in it.
Wonderful article. Articulates what I have been thinking for years about repellent rap music. And
, yes, I do think classical music is the greatest music in Creation. Many thanks.
Mr Editor: Surely Mengelberg was even more relevant to Amsterdam than Furtwängler? But I’m not sure that Steiner’s speech is relevant to the article.
Mr Monteith: It seems to me that Mr Henry is accusing Mr Eavis of racism. Would it not be possible for Mr Eavis (whose credentials as an ultra-leftie are impeccable) to sue Mr Henry for defamation?
Reminds me of the accusation last year that the Proms were ‘snow white’ due to systemic racism in the world of classical music. Let’s hope Sir Lenny does not pay a visit to the Proms this summer, or to the Royal Opera House. Swan Lake would give him apoplexy. All those ballerinas dressed in white, and the evil wizard, naturally, in black.
Don’t fret, Massa Henry. The ENO is no longer National or English. Trad ballet is either diversified, distorted or dropped. The RSC has denounced “racist” critics and even Shakespeare. Anne Boleyn “looks like” them. So does Hamlet. Classical music is European = white = racist, obvs. There is a growing “literature” on this. Ditto, philosophy, mathematics, logic…see e.g. “Professors” Andersen & Collins, “Race, Class & Gender” (2019), Nebaul Maysaud, et al. Princeton University says Latin is racist.
@ Mr Broadley
Sir Len-worth-$9 million is soon to get his own black & white minstrel show on TV soon to praise the contribution of Caribbean immigrants to the other 97% of the host population.
Lammy, Olusoga, Abbott, Wolley, Ouseley, Younge…doncha jus’ love ’em?
La lotta continua, nome sane, man?
“MAN AT THE TOP… Having played Henry V, it was only a matter of time before Adrian Lester brought his statesmanlike demeanour to a contemporary leader. And so, in Peter Kosminsky’s new drama…a six-part thriller set in 2024 [sic] that depicts a cyber attack on the UK from Russia, Lester is cast as the Prime Minister… ‘A black PM in Britain’s future will happen. It’s just a case of when,’ the 53-year-old actor adds….’When we were in lockdown and George Floyd was murdered, the entire western population had to realise there is something very wrong with society….every company looked at the way in which they might be adding to the problem…Oscars…Bafta…’.” (Radio Times, 25 June 2022)
Do you get the feeling that we are being primed or prepared for a very different society? On current trends in less than 30 years Africans will exceed a quarter of the world’s population. Will they want to stay in Africa? If you don’t want to consult Clare Ellis, Renaud Camus, Stephen Smith, Patrick Buchanan, Douglas Murray, or Tucker Carlson, for what Steve Rose and Jamaal Bowman, for example, attack as a deadly “Nazi” conspiracy theory called “race replacement”, just have a look at Eric Kaufmann’s Penguin paperback “Whiteshift”.
In practice, “Diversity” is primarily a show of deference to whatever culture the black African diaspora produces. Celebration is mandatory – lack of enthusiasm is racist. Other “excluded” groups must take their place in the queue behind the black Africans.
When I first came to London in the mid 1970s the (much-maligned) Southbank Centre was wonderful place to enjoy affordable performances of Classical music. I guess difficult, demanding music and the environment of cool, austere concrete were too much for our cultural elite to bear. The site itself is now an ugly mess and the listed performances are diverse in the extreme. The Purcell Room, once an important venue for the subtleties European chamber music and high quality music from around the world, has become a platform for the earnest and hectoring – a moral lesson in every performance.
Supported by government funding, the Woke artist need never worry about going broke.
Surely you must admit that young black men are culturally superior in jumping about to rhythmic noises. This is a real art which honkies are unable to appreciate because of their innate racism.
Flicking between channels this evening, I came across the Isle of Wight festival, and sure enough, the audience was a sea of white faces. One is so used to having diversity rammed down one’s throat that it came as quite a shock. It might have been the nostalgic Talking Pictures channel replaying a gathering from the 1950s or 60s. The only explanation I can think of is that black youth, and possibly the black community more widely, excluding West African Christians, egged on by racist BLM hate merchants fixated by ‘whiteness’, is now irretrievably sunk in its ghetto subculture.
Sir Lenny Henry is not ashamed to take the White Man’s shilling, think of those BBC payments, or the White mans honours. Perhaps he aspires to Sir Anthony Blairs Order of the Garter.
Can I see him earning such honours in the manner by which they were once earned, in trial by combat on the field of battle, standing alongside comrades who share a mutual respect and trust?
Not on the field of Tewkesbury, but perhaps it would seem, on the fields of Glastonbury.
I would love to have heard what George Steiner thought of rap. I don’t think he would have minced his words. Steiner once compared himself to a messenger whose mission was to keep alive the great Western tradition. Where are the George Steiners now?
Steiner disliked homosexuality and used the word “camp” in two “relevances”, and was honest about the Jamaican life-style. He is still worth reading on Trotsky, Heidegger and Hitler.
There were a number of contemporary Jewish-American intellectuals who sought to keep alive western traditions, not all identical with the neo-cons, who made their valuable contributions through “Commentary”, and “Encounter” one particular issue of which on account of its 90% contributors was nicknamed “Enkosher”. Sadly the Holocaust (admittedly one of Steiner’s own understandable pre-occupations) has been elevated to the dominant Icon of western malefaction, along with but superior to Slavery, and plays a part in one aspect of Wokedom (although the shift of non-white CRT to anti-Zionism is getting an adverse response, such is the complexity of the real world of political ideas and interests). From Harold Bloom, Sidney Hook and Robert Aron to Murray Rothbard, Michael Levin and Paul Gottfried, we owe something to these Spinozas de nos jours.
In deference to the site we are on, we might add the name of Roger Scruton to the list. Incidentally, Scruton thought Steiner verbose, which I think was a tad churlish of him. Steiner’s speeches and lectures were magisterial, as the one above demonstrates.
The premature death of Roger Scruton was a tragedy for conservatism.
In my experience, those who identify themselves as “anti-zionists” are simply antisemites in a then disguise. They’re quite adifferent than those who simply think Zionism was a bad idea for whatever reason. An analogy: Obviously not liking Jewish food isn’t “antisemitic.” But if you dedicate your to fighting its consumption, one would suspect your real issue is try to make trouble for Jews. hatred is towards the Jews who eat it
The main trouble is that the word “antisemitism” like “racism” has acquired innumerable “meanings”, especially since WW2 and the subsequent state of Israel. This can bedevil and even prevent any discussion of the unique so-called “longest hatred” regarding which there is a truly enormous and varied literature.
To give one among many examples: some Jews regard Christianity as ipso facto antisemitic just because it is supercessionist, i.e. regards Jesus as the Messiah, and is therefore opposed to Judaism and those who still uphold it, i.e. Jews. That some Jews are atheists who do not accept the Torah as historically or philosophical valid, and other Jews disagree with a national state in the geographical area of the Torah, may or may not make them “self-haters”. One could go on and on…. All very complicated, sensitive, explosive and often hazardous.
As the late Professor A J P Taylor once advised, better for Gentiles to talk and think about something else! Of course, some Jews are disappointed by such a recommendation!