Audiences in black & white

It was Stax night at the Proms last week. I gave it a rave in the Times. Yes, the 75-minute running time was too brief – with so many singers on the programme (Eddie Floyd, Sam Moore, Beverley Knight, Tom Jones, James Morrison and Ruby Turner all had their moment in front of Jools Holland’s big band) there wasn’t really time for any of them to do more than the bare minimum. And yes, the whole thing was essentially geared towards the audience watching on TV. But the music was so uplifting that I was happy to be swept along. There’s a dissenting view from Gregg Kofi Brown, who wonders why there weren’t more black people in the audience. That point hadn’t even registered with me, to be honest, mainly because I’m so used to seeing so few black faces at events like this. Are the Proms organizers to blame for that? Not knowing how the concert was marketed, I can’t say one way or the other. All I do know is that, off the top of my head,  I can only think of one jazz/R&B star I’ve seen lately who does attract a sizeable black following at the major venues: Gregory Porter. It really does trouble me that an artist like Eric Bibb, who draws together so many strands of African-American music, invariably plays to audiences that are 99 per cent white.  The same applies to most of the world music acts I’ve seen in the last decade. Maybe I’m forgetting some blindingly obvious exceptions. There definitely seems to be a problem. Is there a solution?

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Chief theatre critic for The Times. Twitter: CliveDavisUK Facebook: Instagram: clivephotos
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