Black Matter is a new song cycle written and performed by Giles Terera, the Olivier award-winning star of Hamilton. It is centred on the streets of Soho, where Terera saw “people hurting each other, people helping each other” leading him to create “songs of protest, joy, anger and love”.
This song cycle is both deeply personal and fiercely political, touching on friends, colleagues, the Black Lives Matter movement, growing up Black in London, the Grenfell scandal, the private and the public. These are songs which respond to the immediacy of a moment, and a summer like no other when the rush of central London is forced to stop.
A gifted singer-songwriter, Terera has crafted this project for solo performance, and in the main, this is exactly that, a concert recorded at Crazy Coqs with a quiet intimacy and intent of purpose. Despite the absence of a live audience, he engages with the camera and wins over his virtual viewers. This is a virtuoso show with engaging songs and thoughtful statements.
In an hour-long set, a wide range of topics are covered: from the lost potential of Khadija Saye, an artist and performer whose life was cut short by civil and governmental incompetence in the Grenfell fire; to how Black women are treated in the entertainment industry. It is a perceptive piece of pride and power, but the songs have their own strength and integrity which transcends their themes and makes them accessible on their own terms.
Black Matter comments on the streets of London during a summer of lockdown; in its way it is a love letter to changing times. It opens with shots of a deserted Piccadilly Circus, shorn of its usual teeming throng of tourists. Terera accompanies his songs on guitar and piano, sometimes highlighting his song-stories with exploratory introductions about the world he sees and understands.
“One step after another, one small step at a time,” says the opening song in the cycle. Black Matter is challenging as well as entertaining, highlighting the realities of Black life and culture through melody and lyrics which move Terera’s stories along.
You can book for Giles Terera’s Black Matter at https://www.fane.co.uk/giles-terera It streams from 24th – 31st March and can be viewed for up to a week after purchase.
Reviewer: Louise Penn
Reviewed: 18th March 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★