The best thing on Twitter yesterday was #Beethoven. By the time I noticed it was trending there were hundreds of thousands of tweets. If you missed it, it started with this thread earlier in the week…
Beethoven was black?? Lmfao yâ€™all aint gonna hear the last of this from me— Alyssa (@howtopless) June 16, 2020
Which then went viral. And, as you’d expect by now, the memes soon followed. This is the one where I started losing my composure:
big piano has tried for years to erase the blackness of our brother Beethoven or b. Hovin as we call him in the hood— Desus Nice (@desusnice) June 18, 2020
This is the one that most people on my timeline were sharing and at this point, it was a complete takeover:
Mood when you learn that Beethoven was black pic.twitter.com/zrYY3NOKgs— ðŸŽƒJay SalohcinðŸŽƒ (@EYSP9377) June 18, 2020
Pure joy, right? Whether or not you believe that Beethoven was Black, as Ineye Komonibo points out at Refinery29, “the contributions of Black men and women to classical music have been largely ignored by experts and popular culture alike”.
To underscore that point, here are some names we’ve all probably not heard of:
I get this "Beethoven was black" idea is generally non-serious banter, but why waste all that effort to promote a silly conspiracy when you could instead be celebrating *ACTUAL* black contemporary composers like Saint-Georges, Johnson or Bridgetower who were phenomenal musicians? pic.twitter.com/oxUellCBjB— Mr. Singh (@Chindiazindabad) June 18, 2020
Here’s a name you might remember – Sheku Kanneh-Mason is the young Black cellist who was named BBC’s Young Musician of the Year in 2016 and two years later performed at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding. His parents are Stuart Mason and Dr Kadiatu Kanneh who both played musical instruments when they were growing up and they made sure “never to remark on the lack of Black people in classical music to our children”.
Now? Sheku and his six siblings are all classically-trained musicians. Black excellence!
19-yr-old Sheku Kanneh-Mason won us over with his beautiful cello-playing at the #RoyalWedding. But, he's not the only talented one in the family. Turns out, he's got 6 other classically-trained siblings. Meet them, his parents & learn their story--> https://t.co/kKbJO6gSUQ pic.twitter.com/9eieouVmQw— IG: TheOneAndOnlyShelleyWade (@shelleywade) May 21, 2018
To learn more about the Kanneh-Mason family visit their website.
This week, in an interview with Good Morning Britain, Sheku said that it’s too simple just to say that classical music is racist. It’s the lack of opportunity and access to musical education because of racism that has resulted in the lack of representation in the field, as it is in almost every field. So it always comes back to the fact that racism is a systemic problem.
Sheku and his family are often on Facebook Live sharing their gifts with the world. Recently, in response to the pain and outrage over the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and so many more, following a statement read aloud by their parents, Sheku and his siblings, including sister Isata, a frequent collaborator (they performed together at Carnegie Hall in December– photo attached), shared their family version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah as a “tribute to those in our communities who have suffered from racism and racist violence either at the hands of police or others. Music is a testament to suffering, to hope, and to love. Let it be a testament to change”.
Yours in gossip,