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Artists Across Genres are United in Their Grief for Grenfell Tower

How the music community has responded to one of the worst tragedies London has seen in recent times.
Lauren O'Neill
London, GB

We reported on Wednesday that a number of UK musicians had united for a charity cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water," with proceeds benefitting victims of the Grenfell Tower fire. Stormzy, Jorja Smith and pretty much every other UK musician you can think of contributed to the track. The song has picked up the highest first-day sales for any song this decade, according to the Official Charts Company. from more than 120,000 downloads/streaming equivalents. But though this was the most obvious show of solidarity and support for those who've been affected by the blaze, the music world, even (and especially) at the smallest level, has come out in various ways to help.


Thinking about Grenfell over the past couple of weeks has left many of us feeling powerless, enraged, frustrated and obviously hurt. And in a case like this, where we still don't know the number of those lost and likely won't for some time, we've witnessed people from across music try to do whatever they can in the face of so much pain. Some musicians showed up to the scene almost immediately. Rita Ora, for example, who said she "used to play in that block," gave a helping hand sorting through the donations made for those who had lost their possessions (though she did post a video to her own Snapchat of her doing so…), while Adele attended a vigil, met people who were affected, and visited the firefighters who are still tackling the disaster.

Others have engaged with the tragedy's highly and overtly political elements. A number of videos specifically featuring local musicians (mostly MCs), discussing the event's race and class ramifications have since gone viral. The Guardian interviewed AJ Tracey and his brother Mickey, west London locals who spoke eloquently about the pervasive issues surrounding the fire; a BBC News interview featuring Peaky, who has lived opposite Grenfell his whole life, caught traction on social media; rapper Lowkey, who witnessed the fire itself, was interviewed by Double Down News; artist and activist Akala appeared in a searing segment on Channel 4 News, where he rightfully commented that "the people who died and lost their homes, this happened to them because they are poor." Though some have been politically engaged for some time, UK rap and grime musicians seemed to find their voices for a collective cause during the general election, and they have not been quieted now. That can only be a good thing – theirs are the voices we need to hear now.


Perhaps one of the most touching ways that music and this tragedy have mixed, however, is in this freestyle from rapper Shocka:

He raps about his experiences, saying "I just know parents ain't supposed to die that way / And I know children ain't supposed to cry that way." The has since been shared thousands of times, including by Giggs via Instagram. And more than anything, Shocka's verse is a reminder that no matter how much the media might deign to comment, the people who can speak best on this tragedy are those who have been affected.

There have also been benefit concerts. One took place on Thursday night featuring London talent, and another, "West London Stand Tall," happened last week. And though any help in situations like this one is valuable, bringing people together to appreciate music in the locale where the tragedy happened is a strong show of solidarity and defiance.

And that's what we need: as pointed out by a number of the musicians referenced above, we need awareness of the issues that led to this fire happening, and we need the conversation to continue until justice is achieved for those who lost everything. And musicians, with their platforms and ability to turn issues into huge stories, are an important part of that conversation.

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(Image via Double Down News on Twitter)