Fridays Live: Soweto Kinch
SFJAZZ Resident Artistic Director

Soweto Kinch

Black Peril

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Soweto Kinch in a blue shirt against a dark background

Soweto Kinch is a seeker – a wide-open musician, finding inspiration in the spoken word, theater, dance, and history. Black Peril, first performed in London in 2019, is an ambitious work, a musical portrait of the fractured world of a century ago, when the Spanish flu raged.

From 1919-21, anti-Black race riots broke out on both sides of the Atlantic, from Glascow to Liverpool to Chicago, St. Louis, Tulsa, and Kingston, Jamaica. “There was this idea of disease, virus, the fear of infection – of white girls being miscegenated by Black men,” he says, drawing parallels to the COVID-19 pandemic and contemporary racial animus. “It says something about how societies respond to crisis. There’s always a scapegoat.” Kinch is inspired here by Black classical composers of the early 20th century, by ragtime, and by early jazz in which he hears “a pulsating energy that I identify with Busta Rhymes and Missy Elliott.” Throughout, Kinch’s brilliant saxophone work and rapping apply a cutting edge to this musical journey.

The London-born saxophonist and rapper is seamlessly aligned with jazz and hip-hop. A progenitor and leader of the burgeoning British jazz scene, he is equal parts John Coltrane and Public Enemy. Kinch has “a commanding way of looking at jazz, at hip-hop, and at the whole performance situation” (The New York Times).

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