This summer, Somerset House is showing The Influence Project, a new photography exhibition celebrating the impact that leading black musicians have had on contemporary sound and culture. Congolese, London-based photographer Alexis Chabala and producer Lorayne Crawford have captured the characters of both icons and contemporary artists through captivating portraiture, film and sound, to offer visitors a unique and important interpretation of musical history. Featuring photographs shot since 2014, The Influence Project will investigate the connections between these established and emerging pioneers, reaching across time to shape the sound that we hear today.
Kojey Radical © Alexis Chabala
The exhibition chronicles pioneering voices of the mid to late 20th century music scene including revolutionary R&B influencer and the force behind the Parliament/Funkadelic machine, George Clinton; international stars of disco, Sister Sledge; legendary soul singer and four-time Grammy Award nominee,
Candi Staton; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Bill Withers; and Shuggie Otis, the ‘Heir to Hendrix’
whose hit record Strawberry Letter 23, famously covered by The Brothers Johnson, was used by Quentin Tarantino for the Jackie Brown soundtrack and sampled in 2003 by Beyoncé.
George Clinton © Alexis Chabala
Contemporary artists include Dr Dre protégé, Anderson .Paak, alongside previous Somerset House Summer Series headline performers such as British singer-songwriter and winner of two MOBO awards, Laura Mvula; the free-thinking pianist, Robert Glasper, who has dominated the Jazz charts, won two Grammy Awards, and recorded with the likes of Mos Def, Kanye West, and Kendrick Lamar; and Aloe Blacc, the chart-topping musician known for his singles ‘I Need a Dollar’ and ‘The Man’. The legendary hip hop collective and one of this year’s Summer Series highlights, The Roots, have also been photographed for the exhibition.
Anderson Paak © Alexis Chabala
Celebrating artists through the ages addressing social issues using their music, the exhibition also includes Kojey Radical, hailed as ‘One to Watch’ by The Guardian for the young British poet’s drive to
create socially conscious rap music, and Rapsody, the only woman nominated for Best Rap Album at this year’s Grammy awards – an album tackling war, drug abuse, gender dynamics and police violence. Portraits will be accompanied by quotes and details, highlighting the history and the significance of their music throughout the generations. From literal and direct forms of sampling, to the role of mentors and role models, the exhibition will explore the range of ways musical innovators have influenced today’s artists, and how they in turn might inspire the next generation – creatively, socially and politically.
The show will also include a new film featuring artists talking candidly on camera about their inspirations and the ongoing challenges of appropriation, whilst a unique soundtrack will fill the gallery floor. The Influence Project will form part of the East Wing Edit, a summer of exhibitions, talks, pop-ups, events and workshops, delving deeper into the stories showcased in Somerset House’s season of music, film, independent print and contemporary circus performances. All taking place in Somerset House’s East Wing, the East Wing Edit includes discussions and performances from key musicians involved in the exhibition, including a performance from American R&B legend, Lalah Hathaway and a week-long pop up from #RealMusicRebels, a collective of socially conscious artists, co-founded by Hathaway, spearheading the movement for musical integrity and activism. Ambassadors include Robert Glasper, Christian Scott and Shabaka Hutchings.
The exhibition will also be exclusively accessible to holders of Summer Series Enhanced Tickets in the
evenings during each live performance at this year’s festival.
27 June – 22 August 2018 Free East Wing Galleries, Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 1LA
Laura Mvula © Alexis Chabala
About Alexis Chabala
Alexis Chabala is an independent photographer based in London. Having studied Fine Art & Photography in Brussels, Alexis worked at Metro Imaging Studio and Arii Media & Panavision before pursuing his personal projects. Since then, Alexis has worked with clients such as Wallpaper, Tatler, Muse Magazine, Viewpoint, Men’s Health, Luxure Magazine, Burberry, Clam Magazine, Volt Cafe, Abbey Road Studios, and many others.
About Lorayne Crawford
Driven by a passion for music since childhood, Lorayne Crawford has extensive experience in the music industry, including over ten years working as Artist Liaison for some of the UK’s largest summer music festivals. Lorayne has worked on major television projects such as Channel 4’s Power into Art documentary on the conversion of London’s Bankside Power Station into the Tate, and a two-part documentary on the construction of the International Space Station.