Black Welsh musicians often “forgotten” due to Dame Shirley Bassey, says new documentary

Black Welsh musicians often “forgotten” due to Dame Shirley Bassey, says new documentary

A new documentary has been made explaining how Black Welsh musicians have often been overshadowed due to Dame Shirley Bassey.

Created by the BBC, the new documentary is titled Black Music Wales and explores the experiences shared by Black musicians hailing from Wales – particularly how they are often “forgotten” due to the success of Bassey.

Fronted by Newport rapper Lemfreck, the programme also delves into the history of Welsh black music and sees how it has evolved from the late 1800s up until the current day.

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“Recognition for black Welsh musicians hasn’t been helped by the fact that there’s one very famous singer who overshadows everybody,” Lemfreck said.

It also features an appearance from DJ and broadcaster Kervin Julien, who added: “I think because Shirley Bassey is one of the most famous singers to come from Wales – too many singers are all forgotten about.

“I’m not going to disrespect Shirley Bassey in any shape or form. She’s an absolute legend but let’s just get it right, [but] sometimes it sounds like the only thing we’ve ever had is Shirley Bassey.”

Singer, songwriter and producer Dionne Bennett also agreed in the documentary, adding that she was frequently put in the same category as the music icon, despite their music being nothing alike.

“Why are we still talking about Shirley Bassey?” she said. “Why was I compared to Shirley Bassey? I’m nothing like Shirley Bassey… They pull out Shirley Bassey every time they need to pull out a black icon.”

Dame Shirley Bassey performs on stage accompanied by The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra
Dame Shirley Bassey performs on stage accompanied by The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra. CREDIT: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images
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In the show – which is available to watch here – those involved explore how Black music in Wales can be traced back to the late 19th century, when sailors and ship workers from over 40 countries began settling in a community around Cardiff docks.

It also recalls the impact of Tiger Bay, which became famed for its array of jazz musicians and calypso bands, as well as the rise of the Casablanca club in the ‘70s and ‘80s, which played host to the rise of reggae and dance.

The experiences of several other black Welsh musicians, including Juice Menace, Mace the Great, Sage Todz and Aleighcia Scott, are also included, and each recalls the barriers they have had to overcome.

In other Dame Shirley Bassey news, last year the 86-year-old singer joined forces with Garbage to perform James Bond themes at ‘The Sound Of 007’ one-off charity concert at the Royal Albert Hall. The event celebrated 60 years of the Bond film franchise and marked the anniversary of the world premiere for the first 007 film, Dr. No, which was held in 1962.

Additionally, the artist – widely regarded as the most famous singer of a Bond theme, singing tracks ‘Diamonds Are Forever’, ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘Moonraker’ – also praised Billie Eilish for her song for No Time To Die, explaining that she did a “good job” on it.

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