The Black Origins of Shoegaze

The ethereal mix of obscured vocals, guitar distortion and effects, feedback and overwhelming volume traces much of its sound to the influence of Black musicians

Photo of The Veldt
Credit: The Veldt photo by Michael Galinsky, courtesy of FairPlay

June is Black Music Appreciation month. This month we’ll be celebrating the musical contributions of Black artists, including those from Jacksonville. And, with the help of our friends at FairPlay, we’re offering readers a deeper look into the Black origins of various popular music genres, from country to shoegaze, punk, reggaeton and more.

Though widely associated with artists like My Bloody Valentine, The Jesus & Mary Chain and Cocteau Twins, shoegaze — the ethereal mix of obscured vocals, guitar distortion and effects, feedback and overwhelming volume — traces much of its sound to the influence of Black musicians from its origins to today.

The music of British band A.R. Kane, founded by Rudy Tambala and Alex Ayuli, is considered a precursor to Shoegaze.

Slide with text
Credit: Courtesy of FairPlay

“They were a jangly indie band until we put out ‘Baby Milk Sun Snatcher’ [in 1988],” says A.R Kane’s Rudy Tambala of My Bloody Valentine. “Suddenly they slowed it all down and layered it with feedback.” Stream A.R. Kane on your preferred platform.

Credit: Courtesy of FairPlay

Labels struggled to market groups like The Veldt — a North Carolina band that mixed soul with shoegaze — that didn’t fit the narrow stereotype of a Black rock group.

Credit: Courtesy of FairPlay

“For Black artists, doing anything outside of the bubble, beyond what’s derivative of what white kids are doing, being able to express yourself honestly, is not celebrated at all,” says Doc McKinney, superproducer for such acts as Santigold, Rapheal Saadiq, K-OS and The Weeknd. “So when I heard [the Veldt], it gave me confidence.”

Courtesy of FairPlay

The Veldt are credited with influencing artists in a wide variety of genres, including TV on the Radio, The Weeknd and Miguel, among many others. Stream The Veldt on your preferred platform.

Credit: Courtesy of FairPlay

For a deeper dive into the Black origins of shoegaze, we recommend this interview with A.R. Kane’s Rudy Tambala from British music website The Quietus.

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