This Black History Month, we wanted to celebrate all the musical excellence Black artists have brought us over the centuries. From pre-revolutionary France up to modern day, we have tracked multiple artists from a wide array of genres – their influence on music as a whole is insurmountable. We invite you to take the time with us to appreciate Black musicians and encourage your continued curiosity after reading!
Born in Angola and raised just outside of Lisbon, Pongo is a popular kuduro-style artist all around the world. She first found popularity through her work with the Portuguese group Buraka Som Sistema, specifically with their song Kalemba (Wegue Wegue). She has since put out two albums and continues to see success in Portugal and beyond.
Interested in exploring Portuguese music and culture? Click here to check out how you can bring your ensemble to Portugal with Encore Tours!
Stevy Mahy is a trilingual singer hailing from Paris and raised on the Carribean island of Guadeloupe. She marries French, Creole and English in her music to create a unique sound and feel. With two studio albums and multiple singles, Mahy has carved a place for herself in the international music industry.
Click here to learn how you can explore the international world of music through performance with Encore!
Dexter Gordon, Bud Powell, Kenny Clarke
Dexter Gordon, Bud Powell, Kenny Clarke were key figures in the spread of jazz to Europe. All three were American jazz musicians who immigrated to Paris, bringing their bluesy style of music with them. Gordon focused on the jazzy tenor sax, Powell excelled at the piano and Clarke was a genius at the drums. They came together with French bassist Pierre Michelot in 1963 to create Our Man in Paris. This album was a culmination of all the dedication and work American artists put into this new wave of music. It truly exemplified the intrigue of jazz all around the world.
Looking to bring your ensemble to France? Click here!
Sandé is both a music artist herself, as well as a songwriter for others. Despite getting her first record deal at 16, Sandé decided to stay in Scotland and get her clinical medicine degree from the University of Glasglow. Later in her career, she became well known for her singing at the 2012 Olympics, with performances of some of her original work as well as covers of other popular songs.
Follow this link to watch one of our Encore groups perform in Glasglow!
Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges
Born in what was then the colony of Guadeloupe and raised in Paris, Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges grew to become one of the most celebrated Black musicians/composers/conductors in history. He specialized in the violin and earn many prestigious positions in multiple orchestras early on in his professional life as a musician. Once he was comfortably set in his career, he started to branch into more individual opportunities, making his solo debut in 1772. The pinnacle of his career came when he was being considered for the position of the artistic director of the Royal Academy of music at the Paris Opéra. Heartbreakingly, he never got the position, likely because of the extreme racism and hate for mixed race individuals in France at the time. However, despite adversity and discrimination, Chevalier de Saint-Georges became one of the first success stories of a Black musician in France, and his accomplishments continue to inspire.
The Chineke! Orchestra
This group was founded in tandem with the Chineke! Foundation back in 2015. Their mission is to provide opportunities in classical music for Black musicians and minority groups in England. In the very beginning, this group was exclusively comprised of people of color, but since has grown to include members of all ethnicities. They often perform works from POC composers, such as the Balade for Orchestra by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.
Interested in taking your ensemble to England? Click here to learn more about Encore’s UK performance tours!
This duo is comprised of two sisters from France. Singing in their native French language, this group puts out groovy R&B music for their fans to enjoy. They expanded their influence far beyond France and especially gained popularity in the United States. They were even nominated for a Grammy for their album Princesses Nubiennes and two NAACP image awards in the late 90s and early 2000s.
Check out Encore’s sample itineraries to France to see how you and your ensemble can perform in this beautiful country!
Avril Coleridge-Taylor was a true virtuoso by every definition of the word. Writing her first composition at 12 and earning piano and composition scholarships to Trinity College of Music at 13, Coleridge-Taylor proved her wowing abilities early in her life. Being mixed race, she often ignored her Black heritage and chose to lean into her identity a White-passing Englishwoman. However, this changed when she took her first trip to Africa. She was able to connect to her heritage through music and came to embrace her African side. Later in her career, she began creating more culturally linked compositions, such as the ceremonial march she was commissioned to write for Ghana’s Independence celebration in 1957.
While we have given you a jumping off point, we hope you continue to discover new Black artists this month and beyond. Black musical culture has made such an impact on the overall music world and this influence can be felt in many artists, eras and genres. Both domestically and internationally, this impact is profound.
Part of Encore’s mission is to allow our ensembles to experience music through travel. Music education is hugely important, and we want our ensembles to be able to see this firsthand. Head over to our website to look into traveling with Encore to any of the aforementioned countries and beyond!