A Change Is Gonna Come: Powerful Protest Song Playlists

Tuesday, May 15, 2018 - 11:08

On 21 May, Southbank Centre plays host to a quartet of phenomenal female talent; American soul singer Carleen Anderson, pianist and composer Nikki Yeoh, rapper Speech Debelle and jazz saxophonist Nubya Garcia. The foursome are joining the sizable forces on our Queen Elizabeth Hall stage to explore the power of protest songs.

On stage together for the first time, they will perform interpretations of iconic songs from the time of the 1960s struggle for civil rights through to today. And complimenting the four are bassist Renell Shaw, who has collaborated, recorded and toured alongside Rudimental, Skepta, and Nitin Sawhney, plus drummer Rod Youngs, who has played with Gil Scott-Heron, Hugh Masekela, Courtney Pine and Jocelyn Brown, among others.

To give a flavour of what to expect from their performance, three of the performers have put together their own playlists of powerful protest and musical message, which you can enjoy below.

First up is drummer Rod Youngs with a ten-track playlist that moves from Billie Holiday’s iconic performance of Strange Fruit - Abel Meeropol’s 1937 poem protesting the lynching of African Americans in the USA - to more contemporary classics, including the social commentary of Grandmaster Flash’s The Message and Public Enemy’s Fight The Power, which highlighted the abuse of power in the USA.

Carleen Anderson has plucked for a soulful septet of songs that includes the track from which this special concert takes its name, Sam Cooke’s incredible song of hope in the face of struggle, A Change is Gonna Come. Also on Anderson’s playlist are Donny Hathaway’s version of What’s Going On? the Marvin Gaye track prompted by the Vietnam and Cold War, and Gill Scott-Heron’s The Revolution Will Not Be Televised - drawn from the 1960s Black Power movement.

Last, but most certainly not least is this eleven-track mixtape from Rennell Shaw who, like Anderson and Young, covers a broad spectrum of protest. From James Brown’s anti-drugs song King Heroin and the psychedelic soul of Billy Paul’s anti-war record War of the Gods, to Mos Def’s social commentary on Mathematics and the posthumously released Thugz Mansion from 2Pac.

Produced by Sound UK and supported by Arts Council England and PRS Foundation’s The Open Fund, A Change Is Gonna Come: Music for Human Rights took place at our Queen Elizabeth Hall on Monday 21 May.


Though this event has now passed, Southbank Centre boasts a year-round programme of contemporary music spanning from electro to jazz, blues to dance, and everything in between.

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