Corey Mwamba


Belonging (incomplete reflections)

I haven't talked about my... CAREER... IN JAZZ... for a while. Just checking in to let you know that in general it's going absolutely fine.

I think the thinking about the work has come about because I'm comparing what's said about me by people who come to the gigs with those who quite evidently do not and will not [I'm not talking about those who cannot: that'd be insane].

I suppose it's worth pointing out that in a lot of ways I'm a mid-generational musician... in terms of black British jazz narrative, I'm in that tiny sliver of time between J-Life and the new Tomorrow's Warriors [as-is now]. My learning came predominantly from being on stage, with self-directed reading, experimentation and self-reflection.

At the time, doing totally improvised music and being black was seen as being a bit of a freak. In fact, being black and consciously not using the lingua franca [bebop-derived music vocabulary] was not on the cards either.

And I don't want anyone to think that I'm trying to say that not being black made it easier: I AM saying it. There were parameters, and those parameters came from EVERY side—I was no more accepted by any black music organisation/collective/label than anyone else at the time. These things have always been difficult.

I'd previously written that [in Britain and Ireland, and any rate] there was a perception that totally improvised music isn't something that black people should be doing. I don't think that perception has died down at all. Some of that has to do with a perception of the "tradition of jazz" and how we should—or indeed who should—connect with it. Some of it is about seeing the roles of black people in music as immutable.

But it's worth pointing out that these things are in fact changing; and I have developed more of a sense of belonging than I previously had. Slowly, but they are. I get asked to parties more often, and I don't have to dress the same way as everyone else.

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