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Being Black Whilst Being An Artist - Sibongile Mkoba

Being black whilst being an artist means always questioning whether you are doing enough for your community through your art. It is questioning whether your music is “too white” or “too black”; it is constantly weighing yourself on the scales of being authentic, whilst still trying to be profitable.

Many times in my journey as an artist I have found myself questioning the choices in the music I create because of this invincible struggle. I remember during the process of writing my song “Zesty fiend", I found the beat tagged ‘Indie rock type beat’. I questioned how this would represent what I stood for. I didn’t want to be seen as a self-hating black woman for creating music to genre tropes that were seen as not black. At the same time I couldn’t be “too black” in my music, out of the fear I made my listeners uncomfortable. So as the beat played, I went over these points in my head, until the melody came to me and I immediately started writing….

Chilling with my bestie

Just come and test me

(These are actual lyrics to the song in case you were confused)

Critics would argue that I sounded my blackest when writing this song and I would agree. Because, at the end I chose to be me. I recognised that music is more than a means to an end, it is a story that needs to be told; no matter how heavy, ghetto, struggle, lit or black it might be. Black artists should never ever have to feel like they can’t tell their story at the risk of compromising themselves. The same way black people shouldn’t have to feel like they need to change their hair or name, heritage or skin to be able to live.

We are artists, we are powerful musicians that are constantly forced into warfare because to be us, as black musicians is to fight. But music should never compromise our own stories out of fear that it doesn’t fit the mould.

As an immigrant who found a home in Coventry, I am proud of the immense talent that resides in this City. I only hope to see it grow beyond the boundaries that are currently in place, to allow for a livelier future. A more accepting future for all genres and all artists from all backgrounds.

With that said, let’s support our artists. Trust us, it isn’t cheap being this risky.

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