Lois Dalphinis

Music, Context, Words and Audience

This is a review and contemplation of The I Can Be Collective’s  Headphones In, World Out – Music, Language & Lyrics workshop I attended at the Black Cultural Archives.

The core selection of works and artists under discussion were:

The Specials
Linton Kwesi Johnson
Plan B

and some Afrobeats ( I couldn’t stay for the discussion on “whether Afrobeats could ever dominate the UK music scene” and I feel it was discussed in this way due to it’s celebratory nature).

The workshop attendees were mainly in their early to late 20’s with a variety of backgrounds, professions and musical interests. For me, the importance of The Specials and Linton Kwesi Johnson may have been lost, whilst artists such as Akala and Plan B evoked an immediate response. This is most likely a matter of being able to relate to something “produced in your generation”, although, I don’t feel that this is completely true.

The Specials signified a collective struggle in the economical downturn of the 1980’s (Ghost Town was the selected work by this group), whilst Linton Kwesi Johnson spoke on political and social issues faced by the black community. Many of these issues are still relevant in contemporary society. The Linton Kwesi Johnson track which was under discussion was It Dread Inna Inglan (For George Lindo).

Discussion focused on how music and words combine and “get the message across” to the audience or not.


Do songs for entertainment get more air play than music with a social or political message? Is spoken word political or entertaining?


I didn’t believe that at that time a black poet could have the luxury of art for art’s sake. It had to be in the service of the struggle. I tried to use poetry to highlight particular movements and to record certain events.

 Linton Kwesi Johnson (Mekin Sense Outta Nansense, Socialist Review)





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