Rap-classical music fusion celebrates less racist Britain
Published by Professional Social Work magazine, 26 September, 2023
A rap track contrasting the racism experienced growing up Black in Britain during the 1980s with today has been put to classical music.
Our Town Now contrasts the experiences of Black children once having to run a gauntlet of being racially attacked whenever they left their homes with experiences now, where the risk is diminished, though not completely eradicated.
The rap’s lyrics are by Phil Frampton, a care leaver activist and author of The Golly in the Cupboard, a memoir about his childhood growing up Black in orphanages in the north England town of Southport.
He originally wrote Our Town Now to celebrate Black History Month last year. For this year’s celebration he has teamed up with Hamburg-based solo violinist Ksenia Dubrovskaya and set the words to the Grand Adagio from Glazunov’s Raymonda Ballet.
Phil says: “The lyrics celebrate coming through from being oppressed by the social environment to a sense of control, from vulnerability to self-assuredness.
“Glazunov’s Raymonda Ballet is also a tale of bitter struggle: it has heavy hints of the racial strife of the Crusades. Our piece could be seen as a sequel where the ground is being reset so that the races are beginning to achieve a more harmonious existence. “
The rap’s lyrics draw heavily from Phil’s own experiences growing up. He says he was in four fights during his childhood after being called the n-word.
“We were picked on one by one. Now we know we are not on our own. It is about collectivism and the fact that there is an anti-racism movement to keep the haters at bay.
“Today our children live side by side. It’s much better now for ethnic minority people than it was 50 years ago. The abuse is still there but we feel less vulnerable because the levels people thought they could go to back then were so much bigger than these days.”
Phil attributes the progress made to the struggles of previous generations in challenging racism, something celebrated in the rap.
“A lot of people will say Britain is less racist than many other countries they go to because there has been a fight here,” he says.
“The fact that there has been a struggle, with support from the trade unions and the Labour Party, has made a difference. However, a major issue still needs to be addressed regarding the lasting impact through to adulthood on Black, Asian and minority ethnic people of the traumatic racial abuse they experienced in childhood. “
The title of the rap comes from a reunion Phil had years ago with a “childhood sweetheart” in Southport where they were residents of an orphanage run by Dr Barnardo’s.
“We walked arm and arm through the town and I said to her, "It is our town now".
"We were used to scurrying around, back then it wasn’t our town, especially because we were from an orphanage as well. The clothes on our backs had DBH - Dr Barnardo’s Homes - stitched into them. But when we met up again we didn’t feel vulnerable anymore.”
You can listen to Our Town Now here