top of page

British musicians united in Rock Against Racism

More than 700 artists from Britain’s music world, including pop star Rita Ora, One Direction singer Niall Horan and producer Nile Rodgers, came together to “wipe out racism” declaring “silence is not an option” in response to discrimination and abuse.

The pledge made in a letter published in Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper comes four decades after British musicians banded together for Rock Against Racism (RAR)- a cultural movement that emerged in 1976 in response to rising xenophobia.

A Rock against Racism picture. Image credit Syd Shelton

Specifically, between 1976 and 1982 RAR activists organised national carnivals and tours, as well as local gigs and clubs throughout the country. RAR brought together black and white fans in their common love of music, to discourage young people from embracing racism.

The musicians came from all pop music genres, something reflected in one of RAR's slogans: "Reggae, soul, rock'n'roll, jazz, funk and punk". The movement was founded, in part, as a response to racist statements by well-known rock musicians.

Yet, this year RAR comes amid a growing global movement to tackle racism following the brutal murder of George Floyd, a Black man, in police custody in the Minneapolis earlier in May.

“All forms of racism have the same roots — ignorance, lack of education and scapegoating,” the musicians and other industry figures wrote in the letter.

“We, the British music industry, are proudly uniting to amplify our voices, to take responsibility, to speak out and stand together in solidarity. Silence is not an option.”

The Clash onstage at Victoria Park. Image credit REDFERNS

The letter comes after British grime rapper Wiley was banned from social media following a string of anti semitic posts. Wiley apologised on Wednesday and said he was not racist, but his manager detached all ties from him – read our latest article here.

Other signatories included girl group Little Mix, singer-songwriters Lewis Capaldi, Olly Murs and Jess Glynne, rock band 1975, Blur bassist Alex James and musician Goldie.

“In recent months through a series of events and incidents, the anti-black racists and anti semites, plus those who advocate Islamophobia, xenophobia, homophobia and transphobia, have repeatedly demonstrated that they want us all to fail,” the artists announced.

“Whether it be systemic racism and racial inequality highlighted by continued police brutality in America or anti-Jewish racism promulgated through online attacks, the result is the same: suspicion, hatred and division. We are at our worst when we attack one another.”

Image credit Wikipedia

The letter was also signed by music managers, agents and labels including EMI, Sony Music UK and Warner Music UK.

“Music brings joy and hope and connects us all. We stand together to wipe out racism,” they said.

In support of the recent worldwide protests inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, in the United States, some bands have changed their names, with Lady Antebellum changing their name to Lady A and the Dixie Chicks dropping the “Dixie” to be known as The Chicks.

In Britain dance music DJ Joey Negro dropped his stage name to go instead by his real name Dave Lee and fellow DJ The Black Madonna stopped using her moniker.


bottom of page