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BWW Review: BLACK MATTER, Online

A new song cycle penned by Giles Terera is streaming for a limited time only


HamiltonIn his Olivier Award-winning performance as Aaron Burr in Hamilton, Giles Terera asks Alexander Hamilton, "Why do you write like you're running out of time?"

Now the tables have turned, and Terera has clearly been busy composing Black Matter, a song cycle consisting of twelve songs covering protest, joy, anger and love. Produced by Fane Productions, in association with Timebomb, the one-man show has been filmed for a digital audience at the Crazy Coqs club in London.

Inspired by scenes observed in his local area of Soho, Terera aimed to write the work in response to the chaos caused by COVID and more. Covering both specific concerns caused by lockdown and the continuation of systemic racism and prejudice, the candid nature of the lyrics certainly grabs your attention.

A dramatic piano opening nods to the chimes of Big Ben, giving way to a funky guitar groove played by Terera. He puts his own spin on the classic nursery rhyme "London Bridge Is Falling Down", using it as a launchpad to highlight issues faced by his black peers in navigating life in the UK.

Terera covers a plethora of topics from faith to homelessness to the Grenfell disaster and more; even Lin-Manuel Miranda gets a mention. A candid recount of an observed interaction with the police is perfectly underpinned by dramatic piano underscoring. Blended with footage from the racial justice protests from last summer, the piece has been carefully crafted and skillfully stitched together.

There is a nice balance of sombre ballads and light-hearted bops, played in various musical styles by Terera. It is a shame there can't be an audience in the room at the moment to sway along to the music and listen to Terera, an accomplished storyteller whether in song or spoken anecdotes.

It feels appropriate that this was filmed in the intimate setting of the Crazy Coqs on Terera's central London doorstep. The multiple camera angles and blend of static and moving shots certainly make the piece easy to watch and to hear. The sound mix makes every lyric stand out while also capturing the guitar and piano performances well.

Black Matter is an engaging and powerful artistic response to the current climate. This performance is deftly delivered by Terera, demonstrating his well-known skills as a performer and now a writer. Watching this is a well-spent hour of your time.

Black Matter available online until 31 March

Photo credit: Dan Poole

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