We hung out with Dreadlox Holmes, the British multi-faceted Black musician who chose Paris as his new playground. For him, Paris is not just a better scene for Black musicians, it’s also a more financially viable one where he can help young singers shine.
Steve Wellington aka Dreadlox Holmes’ musical background is impressive. His influences take us back to Jamaica where he grew up, all the way to London where his journey into music really began. The guitarist who’s been part of bands such as Scrap Iron Scientists and Siren Filter has been living the Parisian life for four years now. If touring the world in a van is no longer on the menu for Steve, his career as a producer, songwriter and music coach is far from over. Settling down in France ended up offering a wide range of new perspectives and new directions for him to explore.
A Golden Land for African music and Black musicians
« France is a more musical place than the UK », points Steve. Both France and Britain have a dark colonial past with Africa, and both countries have seen African music influence their own scene over the years. But the French music scene really opened up to African music and African musicians. Artists such as the iconic duet Amadou et Mariam or the Tuareg band Tinariwen are part of the French musical landscape just as any other French artist. Big cultural events have given room to many African musicians to express themselves, like the Trans Musicales of Rennes who presented African Rock bands such as the Dizzy Brains or the South African band the Brother Moves during their unmissable 2015 edition.
As a Black musician, Dreadlox Holmes deplores the lack of opportunity the UK offers and the lack of diversity within British Rock bands. Skunk Anansie and their charismatic female lead singer Skin, being the only British Rock band with a Black person fronting that comes to his mind.
In Paris, Wellington says he strongly feels the “African side of things.” Even though Jazz, Soul or Funk are also very present in the UK, Steve feels a deeper connection between France and Africa. To him, « African music is loved respected here » in France. French artists actually want to share with African artists instead of just using what the latter have to offer to big up their music, says Steve kindly pointing the finger at Gorillaz’s lead singer Damon Albarn.
France’s Financial Support to Artists
France is also an easier place to live financially speaking. As everybody knows, making a living as an artist is hard and requires support. Steve regrets that “the British government doesn’t support shit”and only backs what he calls “that Brit school”, the upper echelon people who they give grants to, such as Amy Whinehouse or Adele. The musician really appreciates the French government’s position towards helping artists financially. In France, artists can directly pretend to a social coverage provided they reach a minimum of work hours per year. The government also provides minimum allowances to unemployed people. The RSA -a minimum solidarity income- is available to any unemployed citizen above the age of 25, on the basis of 524.68€ a month. This means that as an artist, you are indirectly helped too: You can find time to work on your art and still be able to afford paying your rent. For Steve, this is truly amazing and a real bounty for the many incredibly talented French singers that are to be found in Paris.
Making Parisian Golden Voices Shine in English
Most of these young artists now sing in English. According to programme director at France Inter radio network, Bernard Chereze, French artists on Inter’s English-language airplay have gone from being almost inexistant in 2007 to 20% in 2010 and French singers now find their voice through English lyrics. Wasn’t it for quotas which compel French Tv and radio networks to broadcast a minimum of 40% French songs, the amount of French artists singing in English on the radio would probably even be higher.
It is however quite hard to understand the words these amazing singers are using and French young artists really need to improve the way they enounciate English words. This is what Steve is working on with young French artists who would like to go international. Thanks to his experience as a songwriter and a coach, he polishes these young nuggets so that they shine.
For Steve Wellington, Paris offers more viable perspectives than the UK, both artistically and financially. But the musician knows how to contribute to this country’s artistic development by assisting its youth throughout their musical journeys as he does with Jade Sea Blue. His relationship to France definitely goes both ways, and we sure wish Steve and his protégés a lot of success in the upcoming years.
All pictures were taken from by Steve Wellington himself. See them on his Instagram.