Birmingham concert for human rights

By Leigh Sanders | Music | Published:

Four of the most gifted soul, jazz and hip hop artists will explore the power of protest songs in a special night at Birmingham Town Hall.

The show takes place at Birmingham Town Hall

Leading an incredible sextet are the soulful Carleen Anderson, jazz virtuosos Nikki Yeoh and Nubya Garcia and Mercury Prize-winning rapper Speech Debelle. On stage together for the first time, they will perform unique interpretations of iconic songs from the time of the civil rights movement through to today in A Change Is Gonna Come - Music For Human Rights on May 29.

Alongside such classics as A Change Is Gonna Come (Sam Cooke) and The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (Gill-Scott Heron) this special concert also features powerful new compositions by Anderson and Yeoh, highlighting the ongoing fight for equal human rights.

“Life translated in art throughout the ages, in Greek Mythology, Shakespeare and various expressionistic forms have always addressed the issues of the inequities in social and political power,” said Anderson of the show's influences. “While contemporary creatives who speak out against injustice are sometimes influenced by a commercially beneficial objective, in grateful contrast are those artists who, as ever, are compelled by a universal incentive to be a reminder of the equal opportunities yet to be addressed and achieved.”

Yeoh added: “Art must not be anodyne, culture cannot be decorative, artists should challenge the most powerful in our society. If we do not, we are not doing our job properly. We often associate the protest song with the civil rights movement and the 60s counter-culture, however its roots stem from injustice and inequality which manifests its self indiscriminately across all borders and cultures, it never seems to fade from the human condition.”

Born in Texas, Mercury-nominated Anderson was reared on the sounds of the Pentecostal Gospel church where her grandfather was pastor, and whose family was friends with Martin Luther King. She moved to the UK in 1990 to become the lead singer and composer of The Young Disciples, and is known for her role as featured vocalist with The Brand New Heavies, Incognito, Dr. John, Ramsey Lewis, Nigel Kennedy, Paul Weller and more.

Since her emergence on the British jazz scene in the mid-90s, pianist Yeoh has performed with DJ Pogo, Neneh Cherry and The Roots and composed works for John Surman and Joanna MacGregor. Nikki received The Jazz FM Instrumentalist of the Year Award 2017 for her long awaited solo album Solo Gemini.

Debelle is a rapper and musician from South London, probably best known for winning the Mercury Music Prize for her debut album, Speech Therapy, in 2009. She has also hosted the BBC documentary Hidden Homeless.

London-based saxophonist and composer Garcia, is one of the leading forces behind the resurgence of jazz-influenced sounds in the UK. Last year she was awarded the Steve Reid Foundation Award and released her debut recording with Jazz re:freshed.

The band also features the incredible talents of bassist Renell Shaw who has collaborated, recorded and toured alongside artists such as Rudimental, Skepta and Nitin Sawhney, plus drummer Rod Youngs who has played with Courtney Pine, Sia and Jocelyn Brown.

A Change Is Gonna Come - Music For Human Rights is at Birmingham Town Hall on May 29, starting at 7.30pm. Tickets are £17 and available from the box office on 0121 780 3333 or by clicking here.

Leigh Sanders

By Leigh Sanders

Senior sub editor for the MNA portfolio and entertainments writer leaning towards features and reviews. Get releases to me at


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