Did anyone see BBC2’s Culture Show last night?

Firstly, I must say, I was impressed. I’ve watched this show on and off since it aired and have always found it dull, ignorantly opinionated and elitist, but last night I watched with great interest. Kevin Spacey was great on his stint as Artistic Director of the Old Vic, Peter Jackson equally so about his latest book adaptation, The Lovely Bones and the use (or overuse) of CGI in film. I even discovered the helter-skelter views of superstar philosopher, Slavoj Zizek, which I found fresh and intriguing. By far the best edition of the show I’ve seen.

It was also great to see a rare Roots Manuva interview, and hear Chris Ofili talk about his latest  show at the Tate Britain. I’m in awe of both pretty much equally when it comes to the art they produce. My only gripe (yes, you guessed it – there is one!) was the fact that The Culture Show chose to play a smattering of Dr Dre tracks as an accompaniment to Ofili’s art! Now, I like Dre’s music, but where’s the link? Oh sorry, I get it – Ofili is Black, and was in part inspired by Hip Hop, AND produced work drawn from his time spent in a King Cross studio; so there MUST be some link between Dre’s late nineties G-music and Ofili’s fusion of traditional African art with Western abstract painting. Of course!

This was the only lazy point of a really interesting programme, and only serves to highlight the fact that as Black British artists, we still have a hard time getting the mainstream to understand who we are and what we do. I’m very disappointed with the director, because had he been more alert to the artist’s work and the underlying Black British aesthetic displayed in paintings such as No Woman No Cry, he would have realised that the soundtrack could not be married with the visuals. The oversight was not overtly racial, but cultural ignorance helped to produce a genuine artistic mistake.

It’s not always that way. Many years ago I gave an interview for BBC1’s BookWorm. During the edit, the director rang me saying they’d tried to fit Dre’s music over the piece, but it just wasn’t working. The rhythms were all wrong. He asked if I could recommend any British Hip Hop and I supplied a long list that included Rodney P, Roots Manuva and many others… He ended up using the UK music and it was a perfect fit. It would be great if in future people thought a little deeper, not settle for cultural shortcuts that have very little merit, or meaning.

~ by courttianewland on 29/01/2010.

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