Black History Month

Big Up My Black Guitarists in the UK

20th October 2020

As a young up-and-coming Black musician growing up in London, I quickly realised the adversities I would face breaking into the music industry.

In 2011, I decided that I wanted to become a session guitarist, touring around the world and playing for well-known artists in arenas, award shows, and festivals. My main struggle was that the majority of the guitarists who were supporting these artists during my development were predominately white. This alone was enough for me to question whether or not I had made the right decision.

Now, I know what most musical directors/managers/label heads would say: ‘There aren’t many Black guitarists in the UK”. My answer to this? They are wrong. Over the last decade, there has been a great number of talented Black guitarists come out of the UK including: Aaron Forbes, Curtis Cumberbatch, Mafro Phelan, Mafro Waters, Chrio Blake, Chuks Chiejine, Tobi Adenaike, Jemil Major, Daniel Hutchinson, Lekan Alli-Balogun, Sonzi, Yemi Odusina, Cynesha Brown-Mitchell, Nate Notes, Reuben Reynolds, and many more.

Before my generation, there was a group of guitarists who inspired me to reach my goals in the industry. One of these people was my mentor, Mike Brown. Mike was lucky enough to play guitar for the likes of George Michael, Chaka Khan, Donnie McClurkin and many more. He took me under his wing at the age of 16 and would share with me his experience in the industry, what’s expected from me in a working environment, and pushed me very hard when it came to practising.

I’m forever grateful for him as he saw potential in me from the beginning that I didn’t see in myself. When I realised I had the support of someone of his calibre, I needed to take advantage of every moment I had with him. He’s always told me that he would have loved to see more Black guitarists in the music field during his time, as there weren’t many that looked like him. I’d also like to pay respect to the legends that inspired my journey and paved a way for us, such as Noel Robinson, Andy Smith, Joseph Ross, Wayne Plummer and Wesley Muoria-Chaves.

I’m not saying that the industry needs to book us because we’re Black. That should never be the case. I just want us to be treated the same as everyone else. It should never have to be about the colour of your skin, your weight size, your hair, style, mannerism; never judge a book by its cover. It should be based on your talent and character.

I would love to see someone who looks like me playing for some of the biggest artists in the UK. That would transcend inspiration to the next generation of Black guitarists to pick up that instrument and be the future of this industry.

I celebrate us all. My Black Kings and Queens. Here’s to the future.

#BlackLivesMatter

Author

Gaetan Judd

BIMM London alumnus Gaetan Judd has had a promising start to his career, since leaving in 2018 -he has worked with artists including Samm Henshaw, Ray BLK and Burna Boy (to name just a few) and performed on Later… With Jools Holland.