Photo exhibition of black music legends in Birmingham, England

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…”

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7 thoughts on “Photo exhibition of black music legends in Birmingham, England

  • 22nd March 2010 at 2:35 pm

    Top photographer Pogus Caesar pulled off a brilliant show at Fazeley Studios, the opening night had in excess of 700 people attending the venue, there was fashion shows, dj’s live sets with lots of beautiful people in attendance.The exhibition space was vast and the framed black and white prints were superb. For many years Caesar has documented world class legends such as Stevie Wonder, Grace Jones and jimmy Cliff, his collection also hosts rap royalty Jay-Z and reggae stars Lee Scratch Perry and Augustus Pablo. Caesar uses the most basic equipment an old battered Canon Sureshot camera and achieves amazing results.

    All in, this was a fantastic exhibition which highlighted the many international artists who have visited and performed in Birmingham.

  • 26th April 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Pogus Caesar's exhibition was fantastic! It was like walking into my own record collection. Photo after photo displayed in a stark white gallery, paying homage to black music legends like Dennis Brown, Lee Scratch Perry and an awesome Grace Jones staring right into Caesar's lens.

    Muzik Kinda Sweet for real!!!

  • 5th May 2010 at 7:56 am

    Yes an exceptional show, all the better for seeing black music royalty in one space. Interestingly many of the pics were taken in Caesar's hometown of Birmingham 🙂 So fascinating to know that reggae supremos such as Delroy Wilson, The Wailers. Black Uhuru, Dennis Brown walked the streets of UK's second city. On the word up/// apparently there's plans to publish Muzik Kinda Sweet in book form, due out at some point. Join the line now.

  • 15th September 2010 at 7:18 am

    Friday 15 October
    Pogus Caesar Launching Muzik Kinda Sweet

    MAC, Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham, UK B12 9QH

    6.45 ? 8.45pm?
    In association with Punch Records?

    Muzik Kinda Sweet is an evocative and nostalgic look at iconic Black performers from the last 25 years. Candid snaps on city streets contrast with the vibrant energy at stageside, revealing the personalities behind an influential generation of music heroes.?

    Birmingham based photographer Pogus Caesar worked up close to his subjects with an early model autofocus camera, developing by hand. The results are very human portraits which counterpoint today

  • 15th November 2010 at 2:48 pm

    Like the printing on the book, thick ink that jumps from the pages:)

  • 4th September 2011 at 11:31 am



    Date: 1st – 30th October 2011

    Venue: British Music Experience at The O2 Bubble, London, UK

    The British Music Experience presented by the Co-operative, in association with OOM Gallery will be showcasing an exclusive exhibition of 38 rare photographs celebrating legendary black musicians working in the UK.

    Using a simple camera photographer Pogus Caesar followed the musicians and singers around the famous venues producing a collection that celebrates a style of black music that brings together the UK, USA and the Caribbean.

    From Stevie Wonder in 1989, Grace Jones in 2009 and Big Youth in 2011, this unique exhibition documents how black music, in its Reggae, Soul, Jazz and R&B tributaries of sound, has changed and renewed itself over the decades.

    Journeying from Jimmy Cliff to Jay-Z via Mica Paris and Mary Wilson of The Supremes to David Bowie’s bass player Gail Ann Dorsey, these images conjure up an alphabet of the music of the Black Atlantic.

    The photographs selected from OOM Gallery Archive are also as much about the clubs and venues, as it is about the singers, producers and musicians. The Wailers at The Tower Ballroom, Sly Dunbar at The Hummingbird Club, Courtney Pine at Ronnie Scott’s, Cameo at the Odeon Cinema, Ben E. King at the Hippodrome and the at BBC Pebble Mill, many venues now lost to regeneration or renewal, and only recalled through memory and imagery.

    In their day such venues welcomed black music with open charms, giving safe havens to their audiences, and helping to shape the city’s own distinctive underground and mainstream sound.

    Author and historian Paul Gilroy remarks “Pogus Caesar’s emphatically analog art is rough and full of insight. He conveys the transition between generations, mentalities and economies. These images record a unique period in what would come to be called black British life.”

    In a 30-year career of taking pictures, Pogus Caesar has uniquely captured moments of everyday life with a simple Canon 35mm camera, spontaneously recording the unfamiliar, as well as the celebrated and the iconic. With reference to the title Caesar says ” In my teens, when listening to the latest records, if the song had a wicked rhythm and cool lyrics and we would nod our head and say yeah man, the Muzik Kinda Sweet!


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