Gimme some Skin: Skunk Anansie’s lasting influence

The first time I heard Skunk Anansie was about 10 years ago, off one of those free CDs you used to get in the newspaper. The song was ‘Weak’ and as soon as the electric guitar came crashing in and the lead singer Skin’s powerful vocal entered, I knew this was going to be a band I would start listening to.

At the time, I had started learning the electric guitar and there were few female rockers out there to be inspired by. Although today I play more acoustic music, I still cite Skin as one of my main influencers as a musician and songwriter.

Skunk Anansie formed in 1994 and were a frontrunner in the Britrock movement. Their career has spanned an impressive 24 years with a four-year hiatus in between. Despite their long-spanning career, they’ve remained true to their original rock and punk sound, never straying too far from their origins. Many bands go downhill after their heyday, but I’m yet to be disappointed by their newer albums, and they still have a very loyal fan base worldwide.

Skin is a British musician, born and bred in Brixton. As well as being the vocalist for Skunk Anansie, she also produces electronic music as a DJ, has worked as a model and has a degree in interior design. Her appearance is bold: her head is shaved and she frequently sports daring and unique outfits.

From seeing her live, she is a very energetic performer, diving into the audience fearlessly before crowd surfing back to the stage. But not only can she do rock; I’ve also seen her perform an intimate acoustic concert at Hackney empire theatre, demonstrating her versatility as a performer and musician.

As a black bisexual woman stepping into a white, male-dominated territory, Skin is unapologetic. She fiercely tackles issues of racism, prejudice and social issues head-on in her music, never being afraid to say it how it is.  Her lyrics were a large part in what drew me into listening to Skunk Anansie.

They take on a variety of topics. In ‘Intellectualise My Blackness’, Skin brazenly takes on the topic of institutionalised racism where she calls out a white partner who claims to not be racist, yet instead of overt displays of racism, he intellectualises black issues in order to look intelligent and impress her. In actual fact, he’s just as racist as “those other shits” he claims not to be.

Overall, Skunk Anansie have done what few modern bands have done: produce great album after great album, singing about issues that matter to them and trying out different styles. I look forward to what they will do next.

Ella Patenall

Image: Jess Brown

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