A Change Is Gonna Come: Powerful Protest Song Playlists

Tuesday, May 15, 2018 - 11:08

In May 2018, the Southbank Centre played host to a quartet of fantastic female talent; American soul singer Carleen Anderson, pianist and composer Nikki Yeoh, rapper Speech Debelle and jazz saxophonist Nubya Garcia.

Appearing together for the first time, this phenomenal foursome performed interpretations of iconic songs from the time of the 1960s struggle for civil rights, through to the present day in a special concert exploring the power of protest songs.

Complimenting the four for this memorable performence were bassist Renell Shaw, who has collaborated, recorded and toured alongside Rudimental, Skepta, and Nitin Sawhney, plus drummer Rod Youngs, who has played with Gil Scott-Heron, Hugh Masekela, Courtney Pine and Jocelyn Brown, among others.

Ahead of the concert, three of the artists taking part kindly put together for us their own playlists of powerful protest and musical message, which you can enjoy below.


First up is drummer Rod Youngs with a ten-track playlist that moves from Billie Holiday’s iconic performance of ‘Strange Fruit’ – Abel Meeropol’s 1937 poem protesting the lynching of African Americans in the USA – to more contemporary classics, including the social commentary of Grandmaster Flash’s ‘The Message’ and Public Enemy’s ‘Fight The Power’, which highlighted the abuse of power in late 1980s USA.



Carleen Anderson has plucked for a soulful septet of songs that includes the track from which this special concert takes its name; Sam Cooke’s incredible song of hope in the face of struggle, ‘A Change is Gonna Come’. Also on Anderson’s playlist are Donny Hathaway’s version of ‘What’s Going On?’, the Marvin Gaye track prompted by Vietnam and the Cold War, and Gill Scott-Heron’s ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’, drawn from the 1960s Black Power movement.



Finally we have this eleven-track mixtape from Rennell Shaw who, like Anderson and Young, covers a broad spectrum of protest. From James Brown’s anti-drugs song ‘King Heroin’ and the psychedelic soul of Billy Paul’s anti-war record ‘War of the Gods’, to Mos Def’s social commentary on ‘Mathematics’ and the posthumously released ‘Thugz Mansion’ from Tupac Shakur.


Produced by Sound UK and supported by Arts Council England and PRS Foundation’s The Open Fund, A Change Is Gonna Come: Music for Human Rights took place at our Queen Elizabeth Hall on Monday 21 May.


The show must go on(line)

Sadly, for everyone’s safety, our venues are currently closed. But you can still get your Southbank Centre fix online. We will continue to share inspiring and thought-provoking arts stories through our website and social channels.

follow us on Twitter
follow us on Facebook
follow us on Instagram

As a charity, we rely on ticket sales for a huge chunk of our income. But now they’ve stopped. And it's a huge worry to us, and the people we work with. We all need the escape of art and culture; it can inspire and unite us. So please – if you can afford to – consider a donation to the Southbank Centre today, to help us be there for you in the future.

listen to more playlists