News 23 October, 2023

RSL Celebrates Black Excellence in the Creative Arts 

RSL Celebrates Black Excellence in the Creative Arts 

Performers of African and Afro-Caribbean descent have influenced the British creative arts industry for decades. Their impact has not only changed and inspired fellow performers, but their individual groundbreaking successes continue to receive various accolades from international industry awards to Knighthood from the British Monarchy. Here, we are celebrating just a handful of UK Black performers in both the music and performing arts industries that show what Black excellence looks like within the creative arts.


Craig David, MBE

With his debut album ‘Born To Do It’ selling over 7 million copies worldwide, Craig David is one of the most successful British R&B singers of his time. The Southampton singer’s single ‘Fill Me In’ coined him the youngest solo artist in the UK to reach no. 1 at the age 19, making him an icon of British music and the face of UK Garage. David’s pioneering music has earnt him five MOBO awards, two MTV Europe Music Awards and the most prestigious of all, an MBE for his twenty-year contribution to the UK music industry. Craig David’s contribution to the British music industry paved the way for a new wave of British artists we know and love today.

Cynthia Erivo

Rising star Cynthia Erivo is not short of excellence as a British actress, singer and songwriter. Her current accolades include an Emmy award for Outstanding Musical Performance in a Daytime Program, a Grammy win for Best Musical Theatre Album, a Tony award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical and multiple Critics’ awards whilst also receiving 57 various other nominations for her roles. To the aspiring Musical Theatre student, she has achieved the pinnacle of critical acclaim in her field. Some of her most notable roles are found in productions such as The Color Purple, Harriet and Widows, showing there is a pathway to stardom for the next generation of British performers. Her achievements are truly inspirational.

Emeli Sande, MBE

Known for hit classics such as ‘Next To Me’, ‘Read All About It’ and ‘My Kind of Love’, Emeli Sandé is a proficient singer-songwriter who rose to fame in the 2010s. But behind the scenes, Emeli has written for other great artists such as Rihanna, Labrinth and Alicia Keys. Born Adele Emeli Sandé, her songwriting career spans 15 years and provided vocals for some of the UK’s greatest grime artists before launching her own successful solo career. Now with six industry awards including the BRIT Award for Rising Star and the BRIT Award for British Album of the Year, Sandé’s contribution to the UK music industry has earnt her the coveted MBE in 2017.

Want to follow in Emeli’s footsteps? Learn Emeli’s hit single ‘Next To Me’ and ‘Read All About It, Part II’ in our Rockschool Piano Debut and Rockschool Piano Grade 1 books.


Piano Grade 1

The essential syllabus for the aspiring, contemporary pianist. Piano Grade 1 will provide you wit...

Piano Debut

The essential syllabus for the aspiring, contemporary pianist. Piano Debut will provide you with ...

Idris Elba, OBE

Idris Elba OBE, is one of Britain’s most successful Black male actors of this generation. With 30 industry awards and 103 nominations, Elba’s success as an A-list actor spans several years. Born in Hackney, East London, Elba rose to fame with hit TV series such as The Wire in 2002 and accolades soon followed, granting a Golden Globe win for Best Actor in a miniseries or TV movie in Luther, two Screen Actors Guild Awards wins in 2016 and a myriad of other industry awards throughout the years. Elba has also been appointed with the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his services to drama.

John Boyega

Rising to fame with his breakout role in Attack The Block (2011), John Boyega gained worldwide stardom from his role as Finn in the Blockbuster franchise Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. Now with a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor in Small Axe, a BAFTA for Rising Star Award and several other industry awards, Boyega has utilised his skills behind the camera as a co-producer for 2022 blockbuster Pacific Rim. For young performers looking to make it as A-list actors, Boyega’s success shows how captivating indie performances can lead to roles that dreams are made of.

Leona Lewis

As the first female and first X Factor winner of mixed heritage, Leona Lewis was setting precedence from the moment she hit our screens. Known as the receptionist turned superstar, Lewis’ X Factor winning single ‘A Moment Like This’ became the ‘fastest selling single by a female artist in Official Charts history’. However, success for Leona didn’t stop there. Soon after Leona began to make a name for herself, the London singer teamed with award-winning producer Clive Davis to produce the sensational hit ‘Bleeding Love’ which became the biggest selling track of 2007. Now, Leona advises aspiring singers and musicians on how to navigate the industry. Leona’s journey to stardom is testament that talent and consistent hard work can place you on worldwide stages.

You can learn Leona’s hit single ‘Bleeding Love’ in the Rockschool Grade 7 Vocals book with its accompanying track on the RSL Shop.

Popular Music Theory Guidebook Grade 6 - Grade 8

Popular Music Theory Guidebook Grade 6 - Grade 8

Rockschool's Theory Guidebooks are the ideal introduction to music theory for musicians, composer...

Vocals Grade 7

The essential syllabus for the aspiring contemporary vocalist. This book will provide you with ev...

Dame Shirley Bassey, KBE

Known as one of the most glamourous and lavish singers of her time, Dame Shirley Bassey has been the voice of iconic hits and legendary film soundtracks for decades. Bassey was one of the pioneering Black female singers to gain national and international stardom with songs such as ‘Big Spender’ and ‘Diamonds Are Forever’. With success at home and abroad, Bassey’s music made its way onto the big screen, with Bassey becoming the sultry voice behind the 1964 James Bond classic title song ‘Goldfinger’. Shirley’s continued success paved the way for other singers, especially those of African and Afro-Caribbean descent, to be seen on worldwide platforms and global stages in an era where that type of representation was very few and far between. What’s more, Shirley’s musical contribution to the opening and closing credits of the 1964 James Bond film demonstrated the versatility of Black performers in both music and film. Without knowing it, Shirley’s groundbreaking performances created a space and platform that would later recognise phenomenal performers such as Cynthia Erivo in years to come.

You can find Dame Shirley Bassey’s hit song ‘Big Spender’ in the Rockschool Vocals Grade 7 book.

Popular Music Theory Guidebook Grade 6 - Grade 8

Popular Music Theory Guidebook Grade 6 - Grade 8

Rockschool's Theory Guidebooks are the ideal introduction to music theory for musicians, composer...

Vocals Grade 7

The essential syllabus for the aspiring contemporary vocalist. This book will provide you with ev...


His name is a homage to how he has taken the UK music industry by storm. Michael Ebenezer Kwadjo Omari Owuo Jr, professionally known as ‘Stormzy’, is a London born rapper of Ghanian descent who has been internationally known to put the UK Grime genre on the map. With over 30 award wins including three BRIT Awards for Best Male Solo Artist and Best Album of the Year as well as six MOBO Awards to date, Stormzy has been praised for his continued success as an artist. Much of Stormzy’s success has been linked to the relatability he has with his audience and the numerous successful collaborations he has had with other artists. Now with 3 UK no. 1 singles, 14 UK Top 10s and 30 UK Top 40s singles alone, Stormzy can be coined one of the most successful UK Grime artists of his time.

You can learn to play Stormzy’s ‘Standard’ or ‘Scary’ in the Rockschool Drums Grade 3 and Grade 4 books on the RSL Shop.


Drums Grade 4

Rockschool's Drums Grade 4 book is an in-depth guide to the expressive techniques that you'll be ...

Drums Grade 3

The Drums Grade 3 book will help you get to grips with improvisation and solo passages, as well a...

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