Photographer Pogus Ceasar gives Richard McComb a tour of black music in Birmingham over the past 25 years – Legends through a lens
The colour scheme is stark, unyielding, the white studio space flooded with sunlight from the overhead windows on this early spring morning.
Black and white photographs, framed in black, hang from the walls. There are no fancy, bawdy colour flourishes here. Welcome to the monochrome world of photographer Pogus Caesar.
When I walk into the room – actually, there are two – there is no one else about. But I am not alone, far from it. Similarly there is no sound, no audible chatter. And yet the place is ringing with voices, thumping with drums and bass, buzzing with a cacophony of rhythm and melody, roaring with visceral pleasure.
It is said every picture tells a story but in the case of the 37 images displayed inside Fazeley Studios, Digbeth, they also sing a song. The pictures capture some of the biggest global stars of soul music, R & B and reggae, many of them taken during performances and visits to Birmingham. The collection represents an unrivalled record of the city’s black music experience of the past 25 years. Birmingham may never rival Detroit’s Sweet Sound of Motown, or Kingston, Jamaica, but the city has given a stage to their legendary sons and daughters.
The pictures spark different associations for each individual visitor to the show, titled Muzik Kinda Sweet. Looking at some of them, it is hard not to hear an act’s trademark hit playing in your head. The eye is caught by rapper MC Hammer, wiggling in those ridiculous sequined balloon pants, during a show at the NEC. I defy you not to hear: “Can’t touch this.” Jazzie B, of Soul II Soul fame, is kicking back at Pebble Mill studios in 1999, giving the peace sign: “Back to life, back to reality…”