For music and art lovers alike, the V&A East Museum has just revealed its inaugural landmark exhibition titled The Music Is Black: A British History, which is set to open in 2025 at the new Stratford site. The exhibition is set to reveal the extraordinary contribution Black British music has made to British culture, and around the world, since the 1900’s.
Spanning over 125 years, The Music Is Black will explore different genres such as jazz, Reggae, 2 Tone, Drum & Bass, Trip Hop, UK Garage, Grime and beyond where Black British musicians have made remarkable contributions. It will reveal hidden stories behind early 20th-century pioneers, international music-makers and today’s groundbreaking artists from Sampha to Little Simz, Tems, Jorja Smith, Ezra Collective and more.
With full access to the BBC archives, the exhibition will delve deep into the heart of music-making and address the social, historical, and cultural context behind Black music in Britain that helped form some of the UK’s most progressive musical genres. Guests will hear directly from music makers, both centre stage and behind the scenes, to bring the story to life.
Never before seen new acquisitions and international loans will feature in the exhibition as well as immersive AV, large-scale installations, and musical instruments, equipment, and personal belongings from some of the most influential music-makers of the last century. An entire range of different art mediums including paintings, prints, playbills, posters, sculpture, TV, fashion and textiles, photography and film will be used to tell the story of the cultural impact of Black music.
This debut exhibition by the V&A East will inspire a season of collaborative programming across East Bank in 2025. The BBC, Sadlers Wells East, UAL’s London College of Fashion, and UCL East will join V&A East by hosting a series of special activities, events, displays and live performances to bring themes of the exhibition to life beyond the museum doors.
Jacqueline Springer, Curator of The Music Is Black: A British Story and Curator of Africa and Diaspora Performance at the V&A, said: “Music is the soundtrack to our lives, and one of the most powerful tools of unification. It brings collective and individual joy as we recite song lyrics at festivals and gigs, recall dance moves perfected in childhood bedrooms, and mime to guitar breaks, bassline drops and instrumental flourishes with glee. Set against a backdrop of British colonialism and evolving social, political, and cultural landscapes, we will celebrate the richness and versality of Black and Black British music as instruments of protest, affirmation, and creativity, and reveal the untold stories behind some of the world’s most popular music of all time.”