Music Review: NAO, Jorja Smith & #BlackLivesMatter
Charley Strachan, proud feminist and Head of Arts for the Leeds University Union Women in Leadership Society, looks at Jorja Smith's performance back in October 2016. She sheds light on the disjointedness between music, meaning and politics.
The gig opens with Jorja Smith; she looks uncertain on stage as if she’s not supposed to be there. Like someone has asked her to come in, but she was told to go into the audience rather than perform. At this point, no one seems to even notice her, nobody seems to care.
Fast forward forty minutes and you realise the diversity of the room, mostly black people with a few edgy white girls thrown in. Most people still seem sober and and she announces her last song, Blue Lights. “There’s no need to run if you’ve done nothing wrong. Blue lights should just pass you by”. Everyone suddenly seems to be interested in what’s going on. The room falls quiet. Completely different to NAO’s bright lights and light beats.
Could this be Jorja attempting to help people escape the cave? Standing there, a middle-class mixed race girl, I was struck by the silence whilst the song played, hearing the sirens in the track I immediately thought of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and what it means in this country. Maybe if it didn’t seem like everyone was listening to each lyric it would have gone unnoticed, but instead, a veil was lifted off the room. However, NAO appears and the political mood shifts. With a dramatic pitch black entrance, obnoxious dissonant chords and the occasional blinding spotlight any hint of politics disappears and the piercing vocals fit in with the new atmosphere. Wearing large hoops, a bomber jacket, swinging her arms around and swaying her gorgeous mane I completely forgot about Jorja’s previous track. It seems that the way people treat music is entirely individual, whether it be for academic, leisure or protest reasons, but if it can be successful in promoting change, as it has done in our recent history, why should we shy away now?