‘There were pitched battles, fist fights’: how Britfunk overcame racism to reinvigorate UK pop

‘There were pitched battles, fist fights’: how Britfunk overcame racism to reinvigorate UK popApril 2, 2021

Blending jazz-funk, glam rock and punk energy in the late 1970s, Britfunk crash-landed into the charts and inspired club culture. The musicians relive one of the first homegrown Black music scenes

Last year, a few weeks before lockdown began, Gilles Peterson was watching the Brit awards when the American musician Tyler, the Creator won the international male solo artist award. In his acceptance speech, he said something deeply unexpected: “Shoutout to all the British funk of the 80s that I’ve tried to copy.”

Peterson was startled. He had been an aspiring teenage DJ during what has become known as the Britfunk era – a period from 1976 to 1982, when London spawned a succession of homegrown bands putting their raw spin on the sound of funk – and could vouch for its impact and importance. There’s a convincing argument that Britfunk was the UK’s first homegrown Black – or at least multiracial – musical genre: certainly, it’s neck and neck for the title with lovers rock.

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