BOOK BLOG: Jeffrey Boakye

Musical Truth: just blew me away

Lord Kitchener, Neneh Cherry, Smiley Culture, Stormzy . . . Groundbreaking musicians whose songs have changed the world. But how? This exhilarating playlist tracks some of the key shifts in modern British history, and explores the emotional impact of 28 songs and the artists who performed them. This book redefines British history, the Empire and postcolonialism, and will invite you to think again about the narratives and key moments in history that you have been taught up to now.

This book arrived and was one of those books that I INSTANTLY needed to read. I don’t know what it was, but I was whole-heartedly compelled to read it, and let me tell you, once I started I absolutely could NOT stop. It came with me on the bus when I went to get some shopping (which for a hardback is RARE… I don’t normally like to carry them around with me!). I sat and read it in a matter of hours and it is absolutely a book I would go back and read in a heartbeat.

Something that struck me most about this book was just HOW readable it was. It educated me, an adult, about things that I probably only had a little (to no) awareness of. It taught me things I never knew in the first place. The way it is done is just exceptional. I loved how you walk through time, different genre of music and you learn along the way. There were songs I’d never heard of before and songs that I knew really well – as soon as I finished, I went off and listened to the songs I’d never heard and it filled me with joy to think back to what the book said about it. Honestly, my heart when I saw songs on this list that I grew up listening to… I smiled so much! Having some kind of connection to this without realising the impact and importance of the songs was eye-opening: to me they were songs I grew up, singing along to; to other people they meant representation; they meant being visible; they meant going mainstream and showing off who they were to the world that kept them underground.

This is going to be something that I think classrooms up and down the country need. Kids need to know about British Black history. Kids need to be taught it. We need to teach children that these things happened in the country they live in; not that they only happen in far off countries. Our country is far from perfect and it’s important that we help children to see this as a place to learn from, a place to grow from a place to reflect.

This book, while very serious in nature and content, is filled with love, joy and colour. It tells stories of hope, of family and of culture. It tells children about the pride people had for their identities. It tells of love and of joy. This book is as much a resource for teaching children (and adults) about British Black history as it is a love letter to music… and for that I just think it’s exceptional.

Accompanying Jeffrey’s amazing words are some incredible illustrations by Ngadi Smart. There’s so much expression, so much talent and so much love in the illustrations. I love the black and white style they’re in. At the start of each new song on the playlist, you get an incredible illustration of the musician in question and I think it just sets off each of the chapters so well.

There’s an incredibly powerful chapter in the middle of the book about the importance of stopping and reflecting. It struck me incredibly hard and it made me cry (I’d been racing through the book and making me stop had quite a profound effect on me). It’s a chapter all about what happened to Stephen Lawrence and how 10 seconds can change the world. How it is important that we speak up for injustice and how it’s everyone’s job to speak up. We live in this world together; we should love each other regardless of skin colour.

Amazingly, with this book comes a playlist of the songs – you can check the playlist out here (including an introduction from author Jeremy!). Click to be taken to Youtube.

I am so incredibly grateful to Faber for sending me a copy of this book – it has already made its way into my classroom and I plan on using it in the Summer term with my Y6s!

S x

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