UK Music Diversity Task Force chair Ammo Talwar on how cities produce revolutionary music genres

UK Music Diversity Task Force chair Ammo Talwar on how cities produce revolutionary music genres

After the success of this year's Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool, a new one-day event, Modern Music Cities, is taking place in the city on Friday, July 14 at The Spine, Liverpool, UK.

The event will ask what contemporary music cities look like and need to look like in the future, with a programme of discussions, panels and presentations.

Chair of the UK Music Diversity Task Force, Ammo Talwar, will be among the speakers at the event. He will be highlighting the efforts in promoting diversity and inclusion in the music industry. UK Music CEO Jamie Njoku-Goodwin will also be appearing at the conference.

The launch of the Liverpool City Region ReMap Report on Black Music will be presented by chair of the Liverpool City Region Black Music Action Group, Jennifer John.

Here, Ammo Talwar highlights the importance of cultural diversity in cities and its impact on innovation…

Here in my hometown Birmingham, as I write this, something big is happening! Actually, something big is getting named, named after our biggest (maybe) musical export - Ozzy Osbourne. "Ozzy" will be the new name for the 10-metre-tall mechanical bull that stole the show at the Commonwealth Games. This second Ozzy was “saved for the nation'' after 15,000 people jumped on a petition started by a concerned Brummie. But I wouldn't have named him "Ozzy", not when the longlist included gems like "Optimus MOO", "Thum-BULL-ina", and "Boulton" (I believe I'd call him ... "Matthew BULL-ton").

Of course, it's right and proper to celebrate our modern musical success stories - and Black Sabbath's backstory is a true working-class odyssey. So maybe our UK cities need more musical mascots - Birmingham could and should big up reggae, ska and bhangra as well as heavy metal. All of us have come to know and appreciate that Detroit is more than techno; it's Motown and P-funk as well. And Chicago is not just house; it's also blues and jazz. And anyway; what is this “secret sauce” that certain cities brew up and enables them to keep cooking up these revolutionary music genres?

Cities have always been where people – especially minority communities – migrate, move and mix things up, looking for work and bringing our foods, fashions and, of course, our music. Cities are also safe havens for marginalised people – especially young people – seeking a fresh start in communities where they feel they can live their authentic lives. My hometown of Birmingham is a majority-minority city; London, Leicester and Luton are others.

I strongly believe that this fusion of different cultures, viewpoints and experiences in our global cities is exactly that “secret sauce” that drives innovation. It can and will generate new creative capital for the UK – if we can fine-tune our policies, perspectives and investment. Jungle, grime, UK garage and UK hip-hop were all carefully marinated in the UK's secret sauce of diversity - or maybe "diver-city". But what are other countries doing?

Jungle, grime, UK garage and UK hip-hop were all carefully marinated in the secret sauce of diversity

Ammo Talwar

When we Google for the most downright dynamic and disruptive urban centres in the world – San Francisco,  – they all have one thing in common. They are among the most culturally diverse cities on earth. Over a quarter of Singaporeans were born outside their city and over half of Sydney-siders. A quarter of São Paulo's population was born outside the state. Half a million San Franciscans are multilingual. 

Research from the US suggests that it is just this sort of cultural diversity which is driving innovation, with immigrants responsible for over a third of the US' current patents and patent citations, as well as the new economic value these patents are realising. In fact, between 1990 and 2016, immigrants accounted for more than a quarter of all new patents issued in the US.

Clearly, we now live in a hugely complex, interconnected world where globalisation, opportunity and freedom of movement shape our diversity, and our diversity shapes technology and culture. But the downside is this: we all know that, despite our always-on shared social media world, there is a growing polarisation between rich and poor, right and left, "us" and "them". Growing anger, growing blame. What could change this for the better?

Millennials will soon represent the overwhelming majority of the workforce - 75% by 2025. Gen Z'ers are fast on their heels (those born between 1995 and 2010). The combined impact of these two new generations marching into the workplace will dramatically transform our business paradigms and practice. While our generation often views diversity through our historic lenses of Protected Characteristics, Millennials tend to see diversity as an intersection of varying experiences, different backgrounds and individual perspectives, full of creative possibilities.

So, we should embrace and welcome our new, youthful overlords! But before they arrive, we must clean the house and prepare the bedrooms. We cannot leave the next generation to confront the same issues of structural inequality and unrepresentative governance that we have wrestled with for so long. We need to continue collectively to MOVE THE DIAL, ensuring our organisations are responsive, resilient and representative and that the full value of all our creative cultures is unlocked.


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