Monday 22 February 2021

Daniel Kidane: Beyond Solidarity

Daniel Kidane (Photo Kaupo Kikkas)
Daniel Kidane (Photo Kaupo Kikkas)

Composer and Ivors Academy board member Daniel Kidane talks frankly about 2020 and a watershed moment for diversity in music.

2020 was a challenging year, not only because of a global pandemic but also because it was a year that vividly highlighted the racial inequalities that still exist in the UK. Learning that black and minority ethnic groups are at higher risk of dying from COVID-19 compared to people of white ethnicity filled me, as a person of mixed black and white heritage, with real alarm. It was further worrying to learn that the increased likelihood of death was linked to societal inequalities and discrimination. Delving into Health Foundation analysis, the extent to which black and minority ethnic groups make up a disproportionately large share of high risk ‘key workers’ was eye opening (a point I’ll revisit). Then came the slaying of George Floyd in America, which ignited Black Lives Matter protests across the globe. 

Fast forward to the start of 2021, when I had the chance to look at UK Music’s latest Diversity Report. Examining the figures relating to ethnic minorities in music related workforces, Black, Asian and ethnic minority representation descends the higher up the job ladder one goes: 42.1 percent at apprentice/intern level, 34.6 percent at entry-level, 21.6 percent at mid-level and 19.9 percent at senior level. I could not help but draw comparisons between the glass ceilings faced by Black, Asian and ethnic minority people in employment and demographic, geographical and socioeconomic inequalities. For me, the coronavirus pandemic brought the inequalities in my own industry into sharp focus. 

UK Music - Diversity Report
As a young composer I remember attending a talk given by a senior figure from a prominent British music publisher. The talk was specifically about how to get published and advice was given to the group of eager listeners as to what they should be doing to have a shot at being published. Have your works performed by respected orchestras, collaborate with well-known conductors and be recognised in your field, were all points that were mentioned. Some years later, I learnt that this publisher had published the work of a very successful stock market investor, who adhered to none of the mentioned requirements. It was at this point that the nepotism within the industry, that never really gets talked about openly when you’re a student, truly hit home. On the flipside, I am continuously being invited to talks, debates and symposiums relating to the lack of diversity in classical music. What we should really be genuine about are the current bad practices in place that ensure that any attempts at promulgating diversity within the music industry are challenged. One cannot be inclusive if the only space you are willing to include minoritised communities is in conversations about inclusion. 

The toppling of the statue to the slaver Edward Colston in Bristol, amid the Black Lives Matter protests, was among last year’s most potent images. Reading the views of some colleagues on social media, one of whom is a pedagogue at a London conservatoire, about the way change was being affected was illuminating. It was astonishing to see the number of people who were totally unwilling to understand the reasons why people around the world had had enough. The debates that ensued regarding statues being a mark of history, was to me a weird one, perhaps because I can relate to people being affronted by a statue of a slave trader standing in a UK city in 2020. Yet, when we look at the debate around Brexit and the difficulties it has brought about for many touring musicians, the resounding response from most colleagues is a negative one towards the constraints now in place. But if we look back to a time before the current situation, many a centre-left musician failed to confront the increasingly toxic discourse around migration until it was too late. The point I am trying to make is that if we want classical music to survive and thrive moving forward, it is crucial that the industry becomes more inclusive and representative at all levels now, not tomorrow.

Some organisations are taking the call to change seriously and have started taking tangible action. Last year I joined the Ivors Academy Board after composer Stephen McNeff made the conscious decision to stand down from the Board, to support the Academy’s commitments to championing equality, diversity and inclusion. PRS Foundation’s Power Up initiative launched to specifically tackle anti-Black racism in music and Hal Leonard Europe announced the appointment of an external advisory group to focus on equality, diversity and inclusion. As with all things, time will be the judge of the success of these initiatives, but they definitely feel more genuine than posting black squares on social media along with catchy hashtags. 

I increasingly believe that making it is finding the voice to fight for your art, even if you have to step on a few eggshells along the way. The sooner that gatekeepers realise we are all in this together and that we need to sort out our issues relating to equality and diversity now, the faster we can work toward other issues and stop allowing our collective culture to be trod on.

This article originally appeared in PRS for Music's M Magazine

 Daniel Kidane studied privately with Sergey Slonimsky, and at the Royal Northern College of Music with Gary Carpenter and David Horne; he is currently undertaking a doctoral degree at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, supervised by Julian Anderson. His piece Woke was premiered by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and chief conductor Sakari Oramo at the Last Night of the Proms in September 2019. You can hear Daniel Kidane in conversation with Donald Macleod on BBC Radio 3's Composer of the week, originally broadcast in 2016.

The blog is free, but I'd be delighted if you were to show your appreciation by buying me a coffee.

Elsewhere on this blog
  • To cope with the complexity of modern experience: composer Alastair White discusses the striking philosophical underlay of his opera ROBE, which is receiving its premiere recording  - interview
  • A celebration of the art of transcription: Visions of Childhood from Kenneth Woods, English Symphony Orchestra and soprano April Fredrick - CD review
  • A reflection of a lifetime's performing: Benjamin Britten's complete folk-songs for voice and piano in a new recording from Mark Milhofer and Marco Scolastra - CD review
  • From a celebration of Leonardo da Vinci and the first moon flight to a sequence of O Antiphons, the organ music of Cecilia McDowall performed by William Fox  - Cd review
  • Without discrimination, harm or transphobia: a look at transgender singers in classical music  - feature
  • The Fire of Love & Songs of Innocence: two new works by Patrick Hawes, written for the American choir The Same Stream - Cd review
  • Anything but old and fusty: the young German baritone Samuel Hasselhorn talks about his recent Schumann disc, about lieder as an art-form and widening the audience  - interview
  • Chant, improvisation and traditional instruments: Schola Cantorum Riga give us a taste of sacred music in Medieval Riga on Vox Clara on the Skani label - CD review
  • Out of the archive: Songbird brings together a group of recordings Margaret Marshall made for German radio in the 1970s and barely heard since - CD review
  • A Celtic Prayer: an imaginative survey of late 20th century and contemporary Scottish sacred choral music from George McPhee and the choir of Paisley Abbey - CD review
  • Never say Never: back in February 2020 I chatted to Selina Cadell & Eliza Thompson of OperaGlass Works, now their production of Britten's The Turn of the Screw is released on film - interview
  • Margaret Catchpole: Two Worlds Apart - Stephen Dodgson's final opera on disc at last and revealed as a work full of character and richly emotive music - CD review
  • Home


No comments:

Post a Comment

Popular Posts this month