Barby’s Karaoke, Barby Asante and Stockwell Good Neighbours

Barby’s Karaoke is a participatory project exploring the intrinsic relationship between music and memory, developed by Barby Asante in collaboration with Stockwell Good Neighbours.

Led by Asante, the collaborative artwork and performance focuses on the experience of a group of older Caribbean people who moved to London in the 1940s and 1950s. The work features photography and karaoke videos alongside archival documentary film from the acclaimed South London filmmakers ‘Chocolate Films’, much of which is previously unseen. 

Challenging traditional karaoke DVDs, the rich collection of Caribbean songs on Barby’s Karaoke has a greater relevance to Black British homes, and help reflect the post-war influence of Black musical heritage on UK popular culture. It is a living and celebratory piece that encourages you to join in by singing along with the karaoke and sharing songs and memories with your friends and family at your own karaoke evening.

Asante collaborated with Stockwell Good Neighbours, an African and Caribbean elders social club which was founded in 1978. Over the period of a year, Asante visited the group, talking, going on trips, leading singing workshops, playing music, bingo and playlists to stimulate musical memories.

Asante worked in collaboration with Chocolate Films to document the project, creating a film Dominoes and Bingo that delved deeper into the memories and lives of the people who had shared their stories.  

An interactive DVD and accompanying catalogue was created, featuring the documentary, Barby’s Karaoke playlist, and essays about the project. A final celebratory performance for family, friends and members of the public took place on Clapham Common bandstand.

Read Asante’s catalogue essay from 2009 here

About Barby Asante

Barby Asante is a London–based artist, curator, educator and occasional DJ. Her work is concerned with the politics of place, space memory and the histories and legacies of colonialism. Asante’s work is collaborative, performative and dialogic, often working with groups of people as contributors, collaborators or co researchers. 

Her artistic practice explores the archival, makes propositions, collects and maps stories and contributions of people of colour using storytelling, collective actions, and ritual, to excavate, unearth and interrogate given narratives, making works that consider migration, safe spaces to gather in cities antagonistic to ones presence and how one maps the self as a contributor to narratives of society, culture and politics.  She resists the idea that the stories of “Other-ness” are alternatives to dominant given narratives, but for her these stories and narratives are interruptions, utterances, presences that exist within, that are invisible, unheard, missing or ignored. By making these narratives and stories visible, asking questions and making proposals she is interested in what these possibilities offer as we examine our present and envision our futures.

About Stockwell Good Neighbours

Stockwell Good Neighbours is a registered charity for older people who live in the Lambeth area. There are currently 60 members and most are of West Indian origin. The group has been operating since 1978 and aims to provide a wide range of social activities and projects to benefit people’s health and well-being and prevent social isolation.

About Chocolate Films

Chocolate Films is an independent production company that focuses on community film projects and human-interest stories. Their ethos is to make films that change and inspire people’s lives on a local level. It recently produced Rachel Wang and Mark Currie’s acclaimed documentary feature film “Afro Saxons” (released in London cinemas, October 2008). An entertaining and engaging documentary… It’s impossible to watch it without a smile on your face” Peter Bradshaw. The Guardian 17.10.08

Previous gallery collaborations include “Disassembly” Serpentine) Universal Tourist (Hayward) and Tiny, Funny Big and Sad” (BFI Southbank). Chocolate Films runs a widespread community and youth education and outreach programme, working with organisations such as BBC Learning, Tate Britain and The Thames Festival.