“We hear the violence and the gang life – but that’s not the full picture”: Addressing the stigma around ‘black music’

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R&B artist Ricardo Williams will be performing at Soul Acoustic 2020 – a music tour showcasing artists of colour – and explains why we need more platforms for black artists.

Based in Great Barr, Birmingham, 36-year-old Ricardo has been making music since childhood.

He recalled the first time he felt drawn towards music, aged nine: “My mum gave me a classic 90s R&B mixtape, and that was what made me fall in love with music.”

Ricardo believes giving black artists a platform like this is very important. Credit Ricardo Williams

Soul Acoustic will feature a range of musicians of colour performing music across many different genres.

The tour will be kicking off on 25th March at The Hare And Hounds, Birmingham. It will go on to Leicester, then Manchester, and Soul Acoustic 2020 will conclude on 29th March at Notting Hill Arts Club, London.

Artists performing alongside Ricardo this year will include R&B artist Morgan Munroe and singer-songwriter Cariss Auburn.

Previous years have seen artists from Misha B to award-winning Shakka take to the stage.

This year’s poster. Credit – Punch Records

Being of Jamaican heritage, Ricardo believes that opportunities for developing artists of colour are essential to give them the opportunity to break into the £5.2 billion British music industry.

“It’s an amazing platform to allow people of colour to express themselves like this.”

Ricardo Williams

Previously having supported the likes of Stormzy and Emeli Sandé, Ricardo described his music style as: “an evolution of 90s R&B, which is heartfelt and soulful, focusing on love and heartbreak.”

However, Ricardo feels his music does not match the often-negative stereotype of black artists and black culture. “When people think of ‘black music’, grime and hip hop have become the poster boy,” he said.

“That means we’re only seeing one message – the violence and the gang life – and that’s not the full picture of the black experience,” he added.

“Soul Acoustic will allow ‘black music’ to be seen in a whole different light.”

Ricardo Williams
One of Ricardo’s sold out events

The event is run by Punch Records, an organisation working to create artistic opportunities for young people from diverse backgrounds.

Punch Records’ Nikki Marie has been running the festival since 2016, and is keen to challenge these misconceptions.

“We’ve had venues cancel on us in the past because they think of the stereotyped image of black music and envision a rowdy audience,” she recalled. “But Soul Acoustic will be very calm.”

Being half Jamaican, Nikki has seen the difficulty many musicians of colour have faced to make career progress, with less than one fifth of workers in the music industry being BAME.

She hopes Soul Acoustic will give them a needed step up.

“There would certainly be more black artists becoming successful if there were more opportunities for them on mainstream line-ups and charts.”

Nikki Marie

She added, “So, Punch is in a really important position doing the work it does, and it gives me personally the opportunity to change people’s perceptions of others like me.”

Previous events have been a huge success – and this year is set to be just as good. Credit – Punch Records

CEO of Punch Records, Ammo Talwar, recognises why events like this are so important – alongside working at Punch, he is chair of UK Music’s Equality and Diversity Taskforce, working to make the commercial music industry more inclusive.

“It’s important that we showcase an authentic representation of great music and new work at Soul Acoustic,” Ammo said.

“The acts we’ve selected this year are an example of sounds being created by talented black musicians across the country.”

Ammo Talwar, Punch Records CEO

Looking forward, Ricardo reckons 2020 will be a good year for him.

After spending 2019 focusing on releasing his latest album, Intermission Vol. 1, he said 2020 will be about, “having fun creating again,” and focusing on, “connecting with the people who have supported me up to now.”

For Soul Acoustic tickets, visit https://www.wearepunch.co.uk/event/soulacoustic2020/.

Click here to listen to the official Soul Acoustic 2020 Spotify playlist.

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