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Lord Kitchener's Compilation Album

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13 November 2023

Anthems Which Highlighted the Struggles: Episode 1 - Windrush Generation

PRITHVI KUMAR

In the Cambridge dictionary an anthem is described as “a song that has a special importance for a particular group of people, an organisation, or a country.” Throughout British History we can identify several anthems which have highlighted key struggles and battles fought by a variety of groups. This series looks to focus on anthems in relation to the pursuit of civil rights. Episode One will aim to tackle battles fought by the Windrush generation from 1948 to 1971. Episode Two will explore Gurdip Singh Chagger and the Southall Youth Movement. Episode Three will look at Satpal Ram and his story of injustice, ending with Episode Four which will discuss Stephen Lawrence and how it took 20 years to get a conviction for two of the attackers and a further 30 years to identify all the key suspects. 

 

The series aims to inform readers about what happened in each of these movements and provide a track-list to go with it, the idea being that the music should help to immerse you in the experience of the times. 

 

The series has helped me gain greater insight for all those who have endured systematic racism throughout recent history. I really hope it helps you, the reader, to understand what they had to go through as well. 

 

Episode 1 - Windrush Generation (1948 – 1971)

Our journey starts in 1948 as a new generation of migrants arrive in the UK with the aim of settling down into a new life. They were given this opportunity due to the need to rebuild the country in the wake of the destruction caused by WW2. The first boat to arrive, called ‘Empire Windrush’, carried some 800 Jamaican migrants to the UK. It was this ship's name that was used to characterise the new generation of migrants from around the commonwealth, who became known as the Windrush Generation. 

 

Despite the good intentions of those arriving in the country, they were typically met with a sense of hatred due to the colour of their skin. They were often scapegoated by the British media for things they had little involvement in. Over time, this caused the British public to begin to hate those arriving from the colonies. This initial blame often became violent in nature. Migrants found it difficult to leave their houses at night for example, they had to walk in groups just to avoid being beaten up. It was found that eleven Labour MPs wrote to the then PM, Clement Attlee, to stop the “influx of coloured people” into the UK. This letter was written only two days after the Empire Windrush arrived in the UK. This suggests that the British political structure was from the very start at odds with those arriving into the UK, especially those who were not white. It is clear from these facts that racially charged members of government pushed the narrative that migrants were to blame for lots of the things going wrong in the country, something we still see to this day.

 

Naturally, many of the migrants who arrived in the UK quickly became homesick due to the adversity they faced living here. One of the ways migrants were able to surpass adversity was through music which reignited feelings of their home countries. Genres such as Calypso, Kaiso and Bhangra to name a few were very popular with those arriving into the UK. It was these sounds of home which allowed migrants to remember what life was like while also helping to bring people together. This was key as life outside the community could be quite isolating due to dislike shown by many of the locals within the towns and cities they moved into. In search of a new life many artists also made the move, they were key in bringing the much needed musical culture that helped glue the community together. For example, Lord Kitchener, one of the most infamous calypso singers of the generation came across on the Empire Windrush! His singing can be heard in an interview conducted once the ship had docked into a port near London.

 

Amongst the many songs released during the period, some of my favourites were ‘Baby Come Back’ by The Equals, ‘54-46 Was My Number’ by Toots & The Maytals, and ‘My Boy Lollipop’ by Millie Small just to name a few. When it comes to Windrush focussed anthems for civil rights within the UK – there are few which come close to ‘If You Brown’ by Lord Kitchener. 

 

The song itself presents a very hard-hitting message which defined the emotions of many within the Windrush generation. 

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“If you’re brown, they say you can’t stick around,

if you’re white, well everything’s alright,
If your skin is dark, no use to try, you’ve got to suffer until you die”.

 

Lord Kitchener’s compilation album

I find the song encapsulates the feelings endured by those who were met with this deep underlying hatred throughout their time in the UK. The abhorrent nature of these experiences should remind us to take time to educate ourselves in order to not let these past failings occur again. 

 

Theresa May clearly took no interest in researching the stories of many of those within the generation as she went on to cause the notorious Windrush Scandal in 2018. The Windrush Scandal was caused by increasing anti-migration policies which meant that those who were only children during the period, who were without passport/proof of identity (as it wasn’t required for children when travelling), to become victims of potential deportation. Many also lost work due to a lack of identification in proving citizenship, some losing jobs they’ve had all their lives. The Windrush Scandal shows us that even during what many would describe as a time where equality is at its highest, there are still large gaps which require addressing. There are few artists who have spoken on the issue with more demeanour than David Orobosa Omoregie i.e. Dave with his song ‘Three Rivers’.  

 

“Imagine a place where you raise your kids,
The only place you live says you ain't a Brit,
Thеy're deportin' our people and it makes me sick,
'Cause they were broken by the country that they came to fix.”

 

Dave can be said to be one of the most influential rappers on the scene in the UK at the moment. In his song Three Rivers, one of my all-time favourites from him, he gives rise to the feelings of anger and sadness seen by many of those who have had to face the consequences of horrendous policy creation by the current government. The song also features bars describing the tragic infighting in the Balkans as well as the situation faced by many in the Middle East. I would characterise this tune as an anthem for those from the Windrush generation as it paints a vivid picture of what the current British government feels towards them, even after all this time.

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