10 Years of Outlook: Celebrating standout performances by women of colour
Charlie Brinkhurst Cuff
20 Jun 2017
Outlook, the British-origin Croatian festival that champions bass music and sound system culture, proudly admits that its remit is music of black cultural origin. As such, there have been plenty of stellar sets over the years from black performers. From Stormzy, who literally whipped up a thunder-and-lightning storm during his closing set last year, to Congo Natty who played a remarkable live version of Turbulence’s ‘Notorious’ in 2010 to finish off the set as the crowd were so hyped, black and non-black people of colour are intrinsically part of Outlook’s makeup.
But what about women of colour? It’s true that there are fewer of us on the Outlook scene, something that is slowly changing (our baes Princess Nokia, Jorja Smith and Eva Lazarus are set to perform at the festival this year), but Outlook has already seen some genuine gal-dem WoC heroes on its stages.
So, as they celebrate their 10th anniversary, we took a look back over the past decade of WoC who have made revellers’ sweat-soaked, alcohol-tinged festival dreams come true.
2011: Janet Kay
Reggae and dancehall make up a key segment of Outlook’s output, and in 2011 they managed to bring the “Queen of Lovers Rock”, Janet Kay, onstage with roots reggae songwriter and singer Horace Andy. Her set was described as “taking your breath away from half a mile away” by The Quietus. Obviously, Kay is best known for her 1979 hit ‘Silly Games’, but her appearance represents more than a throwback – Outlook was paying a longstanding homage to the genre of Lovers Rock. Developing from a small UK scene of reggae and soul, it was a slow, romantic, and distinctly British alternative that helped to put UK music on the map. As Kay said herself: “we were the first generation brought up in this country and that music came from us, where we stood, and who we were as teenagers in 70s Britain.” She brought living history to the Outlook stage.
Here’s the classic track to put you in the mood:
Hyperdub DJ and producer Sara Abdel-Hamid, aka Ikonika, has been described as playing “8-bit synthesis, playful melodies and 140 BPM crunch”. An Outlook regular, her standout moment at the festival so far was arguably in 2013. Following a period where she released nothing during 2011 and just a single EP in 2012, the 2013 festival season was a return to form, and shortly before Outlook, in July 2013, she released her sophomore album Aerotropolis – which received rave reviews. Her performance on Hyperdub’s boat party at Outlook, alongside Kode9, Terror Danjah, Scratcha DVA, Ossie and Cooly G. Props, Ikonika is said to have proved her reputation as one of the most skilled DJs at Radar Radio.
Here’s a performance from her at another Hyperdub x Teklife boat party at Outlook last year:
2014: Lauryn Hill
Dressed in her trademark black hat, Lauryn Hill opened Outlook festival in 2014 with a powerful, eclectic performance that was at odds with other recent ones at the time – notably her infamous Brixton Academy show which one reviewer called “a 78-minute lesson in how to murder your own best songs. She didn’t even kill them softly… This was a gig so disappointing that for a while it trended on Twitter”. But, just a few days later, Hill managed to return to form, instrumentation reworked around her greatest hits, her voice as pure and powerful as ever. The magnificent, 2000-year-old Roman amphitheatre – where Outlook’s opening gigs always take place – broke into a skirmish of dancing bodies as she finished the set with Fugees flair.
Watch some of her performance below:
2016: Little Simz
Little Simz was described as having “gorgeous girl power” by gal-dem’s own April Brown last year, after we hit The Beach stage at Outlook to see her perform. As cool as ever in her round sunnies and denim dungarees, she was spitting fire from her latest album at the time, titled A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons. The rapper, musician, actress, and singer released her second album, Stillness in Wonderland, last year and it was one of gal-dem’s Albums of the Year. She was supposed to be back at Outlook in 2017, but due to PR commitments surrounding her album release had to pull out. Still, the memory of her 2016 performance on the beach won’t be leaving us any time soon.
Here is one of our favourite tracks by Simz:
gal-dem will be hosting a boat party at Outlook this year with Nidia Minaj, IAMDDB and Madam X all set to perform. Click here for tickets
For the full Outlook 2017 line up, head to their website here