Arts + Culture

Michaela Coel Will Be the Keynote Speaker At the Prestigious Edinburgh International TV Festival

The "Chewing Gum" show runner will be the first black woman, and the youngest person ever to give the lecture.

Michaela Coel will give the keynote lecture at this year's Edinburgh International TV Festival, an annual event which brings the biggest names in British television and media to discuss the challenges facing the industry.

With all that Coel has already accomplished in her career, she will now be adding becoming the first woman of color, and fifth and youngest women to give the MacTaggart lecture under her belt.


Michaela is constantly making big moves internationally and domestically on and off-screen, continuously earning the title "the first to..." in front of her name beginning at a young age. Born Michaela Ewuraba O Boakye-Collinson in London, Coel is the proud daughter of Ghanaian immigrant parents. She went from being the only black girl of her year in a Catholic school in London, to becoming the first black women enrolled to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in five years, to dominating the Royal Exchange and National Theaters in London. She gained notoriety by her artistic uniqueness through poetry and storytelling which resulted in becoming a consecutive poetry slam winner, amongst many other awards. Her playwright award for Chewing Gum Dreams turned the dream into a reality as it led to her current Netflix hit series, Chewing Gum.

When in between roles, some of which have been in innovative, popular series' like Netfilx's Black Mirror, and blockbuster titles Star Wars: The Last Jedi, she can be seen sharing words of wisdom. She consistently empowers women of color who are striving toward a career in the media industry, and holds interviews and talks to encourage media honchos to seek more diversity.

The Edinburgh International Television Festival is both a festival and charity to create paths for people of all ethnic backgrounds to enter into the TV industry. As director of Sky Arts & head of entertainment for Sky, Phil Edgar Jones put it on the Edinburgh Festival website, Coel "speaks directly to the next generation of talent coming through the ranks and has something to teach the TV 'establishment' too." So it is no wonder that she was chosen as a speaker this year.

Interview
Photo: Shawn Theodore via Schure Media Group/Roc Nation

Interview: Buju Banton Is a Lyrical Purveyor of African Truth

A candid conversation with the Jamaican icon about his new album, Upside Down 2020, his influence on afrobeats, and the new generation of dancehall.

Devout fans of reggae music have been longing for new musical offerings from Mark Anthony Myrie, widely-known as the iconic reggae superstar Buju Banton. A shining son of Jamaican soil, with humble beginnings as one of 15 siblings in the close-knit community of Salt Lane, Kingston, the 46-year-old musician is now a legend in his own right.

Buju Banton has 12 albums under his belt, one Grammy Award win for Best Reggae Album, numerous classic hits and a 30-year domination of the industry. His larger-than-life persona, however, is more than just the string of accolades that follow in the shadows of his career. It is his dutiful, authentic style of Caribbean storytelling that has captured the minds and hearts of those who have joined him on this long career ride.

The current socio-economic climate of uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic has thrusted onto the world, coupled with the intensified fight against racism throughout the diaspora, have taken centre stage within the last few months. Indubitably, this makes Buju—and by extension, his new album—a timely and familiar voice of reason in a revolution that has called for creative evolution.

With his highly-anticipated album, Upside Down 2020, the stage is set for Gargamel. The title of this latest discography feels nothing short of serendipitous, and with tracks such as "Memories" featuring John Legend and the follow-up dancehall single "Blessed," it's clear that this latest body of work is a rare gem that speaks truth to vision and celebrates our polylithic African heritage in its rich fullness and complexities.

Having had an exclusive listen to some other tracks on the album back in April, our candid one-on-one conversation with Buju Banton journeys through his inspiration, collaboration and direction for Upside Down 2020, African cultural linkages and the next generational wave of dancehall and reggae.

This interview has been shortened and edited for clarity.

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Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

[Op-Ed] Speeka: “‘Dankie San’ brought me closer to kasi rap”

A personal reflection on one of South Africa's most influential hip-hop albums, 'Dankie San' by PRO.

Ed's note: South Africa's national channel SABC 1 recently aired a 2-part documentary on the making of Dankie San, the late South African rapper PRO's 2007 album which is considered by many as his magnum opus. The album is considered a "kasi rap bible." In this Op-Ed, South African hip-hop producer and powerhouse of kasi rap, Speeka reflects on the album's impact on the South African scene and his own life.

2007 was a strange year for me. I had matriculated the previous year, and, thanks to succumbing to peer pressure, was studying I.T.. I eventually dropped out because instead of doing my Programming assignments, I focused most of my energy on being a hip-hop head and making beats.

I cared very little for anything outside hip-hop culture. I was deeply entrenched into both American and South African hip-hop—listening to everything from Mr. Selwyn to Kanye West, Morafe, The Roots and PROkid.

Of all the South African MCs I was listening to at the time, PRO (then known as PROkid) was right at the top of my list. He was one of the few MCs who was able to spit in English and vernac (IsiZulu and South African township slang known as tsotsitaal) with the same lethal precision – both written and freestyled.

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Interview
Photo courtesy of the artist.

Interview: Bumi Thomas Was Given 14 Days to Leave the UK

We speak with the British-based singer-songwriter about her fight against a "hostile environment policy" and the release of her latest EP, Broken Silence.

There's a lot of vulnerability and soul packed into Bumi Thomas' latest EP. Given the surrounding context of a legal battle, Broken Silence was released, in Bumi's words, "at a time when microcosms of institutionalised racism have garnered so much momentum highlighting the domino effect of systems of oppression that have led to this powerful, global resurgence of the Black lives matter movement."

The inspiration behind this EP came at a time when Bumi faced a legal battle to stay in the UK, after receiving a letter from the UK Home Office to leave the country within 14 days. Understandably causing huge stress, this case turned from an isolated incident to national news, with 25,000 people signing her petition and raising money via crowdfunding for legal fees.

We spoke with the British-based singer about all of this below.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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