Black Music Research Unit

We are an interdisciplinary group of researchers, and practitioners providing a mix of academic and industry expertise. Our focus is the largely undocumented musical experience, of black and minority ethnic communities in the UK.

A key objective is to explore and promote the contributions made by these post-war, ‘black music’ performers, songwriters, musicians and industry personnel. Our first large-scale project is focused on developing a better understanding of the role played by Britain’s Caribbean community, in a story that remains largely invisible in accounts of popular music, but a story hidden in plain sight. We’ve titled this project “Bass Culture” and we apply this heading as an umbrella term, framing the impact of Jamaican music on Britain over the last sixty years.

As the ‘black music’ canon is extensive, a key objective of the Black Music Research Unit (BMRU) is to provide a central hub for existing projects and new research. In addition the BMRU is mapping and signposting existing projects within the subject area.

We’re constantly extending our network of industry and community partners, so if you're able to help and wish to get involved, contact Mykaell Riley at [email protected].

A definition for the term Bass Culture

The first published use of the term was as the title of Linton Kwesi Johnson’s 1980 album. The words ‘Bass – Culture’ have since evolved to transcend any individual genre to reflect, (directly or indirectly), music born out of the impact and influence of the Jamaican community and Jamaican music on Britain.

Part of my work at the BMRU, has been the academic appropriation and repositioning of the term ‘Bass Culture’, to describe the intersection between Jamaican and British popular music since the late 1950s. In the last few years the term has further evolved, to reflect the international impact of this British music experience.

Network of professionals and contributors

Over the years we’ve developed a network of professionals and contributors that support the need for academic research and development of the subject area. This list includes but is not limited to the names listed below:

Andy Linehan
Curator of pop music at the British library

Professor Paul Gilroy
King's College London
Email: [email protected]

Victoria Northridge

Collections Manager

, Black Cultural Archives
Email: [email protected]

Dr Jason Toynbee
Media studies / Sociology
The Open University

Dr Michael McMillan’s exhibition 'The West Indian Front Room' provided an insight to the memories and impressions of black british homes.

Dr William (Lez) Henry - 'What the Deejay Said: A Critique from the Street!', the first book by a Reggae Dancehall Deejay.

Vivian Goldman aka the Punk professor at NYU remains the principal female journalist and academic for Punk and reggae during the late 1970s early 1980s.

Lloyd Bradley
One of the major British writers on black music publications include 'Bass Culture: When Reggae was king...and Sounds Like London...'

Dennis Bovell
Musician producer and creator of 'Lovers Rock', the first indigenous genre from the British Jamaican community in the 1970s.

Joy Ellington
Head of Marketing and Promotions at Green Sleeves Records UK, the largest independent reggae label in the world.

Chris O’Brian
Green Sleeves Records UK

Menelik Shabazz
Pioneer of black independent filmmaking in the UK. His film Lovers Rock showcases British reggae during the 70s and early 80s.

Delroy Washington
CEO at Federation Of Reggae Music (FORM) UK. His organization focuses on reggae as heritage, targeting the elders within the Caribbean community.

Adrian Boot
Director of, the largest collection of reggae images. As principal photographer for "Island Records" he has photographed reggae for over 35 years. His website now serves as the primary resource for images reflecting this area of music.

Alex Pascal MBE
One of the founding fathers of the Notting Hill Carnival. He was also part of the team behind the birth of Britain's most popular black newspapers 'The Voice', and was amongst one of the first regular black radio voices on BBC Radio London.
Email: [email protected]

Kwaku is a writer and journalist and also the founder and editor of, one of the longest standing community-led discussion forums on the subject of black music in Britain.

Pogus Cesar
Photographer, artist and film-maker

Paul Goodwin
Cross Cultural Curator at Tate Britain
Paul developed 'Re-visioning Black Urbanism', a new research initiative that explores new modes of inhabiting, imagining and making cities from progressive black and culturally diverse perspectives. 

Vanley Burke
Britain's foremost Cultural Anthropologist who specialises in documenting migratory patterns of the Caribbean Diaspora.


If you’d like to contribute to this research project, please contact Mykaell Rileyon [email protected].

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