Let’s woke up the Rule, Britannia row

Let’s woke up the Rule, Britannia row

Comment Of The Day

norman lebrecht

May 09, 2021

Comment of the Day:

One of out participants harks back to last summer’s fit of cancel culture at the BBC Proms:

Ah yes, Chi-chi Nwanoku.

To quote her, re Rule Britannia, which she sought to have banned at last year’s Proms:

“The lyrics are just so offensive, talking about the ‘haughty tyrants’ – people that we are invading on their land and calling them haughty tyrants – and Britons shall never be slaves, which implies that it’s OK for others to be slaves but not us,” Nwanoku told the Guardian. “It’s so irrelevant to today’s society. It’s been irrelevant for generations, and we seem to keep perpetuating it.”

“If the BBC did not axe Rule Britannia, [I] would be mortified. “I will feel invisible with my people and our history. If the BBC are talking about Black Lives Matter and their support for the movement, how could you possibly have Rule Britannia as the last concert – in any concert?”

Regarding ‘and Britons shall never be slaves, which implies that it’s OK for others to be slaves but not us’, by the very same perverted logic ‘Black Lives Matter’ means that other peoples’ lives don’t. In fact, that has been borne out by the fact that BLM went on the rampage in the USA in a wanton orgy of violence, torching all kinds of buildings and causing other widespread damage.

On the other hand, as far is I am aware, slavery in Britain had already been adjuged unlawful in the late 18th century and abolished by an Act of Parliament in 1833, long before the USA did so.

So for her to say that ‘Rule, Britannia’ implies that ‘it’s OK for others to be slaves’ is rubbish and nobody in their right mind would interpret it as such.

But it gets far better. In 2001 the very same Chi-chi Nwanoku (correct me if I am wrong, it might have been someone else with the same name) accepted and MBE (Member of the BRITISH EMPIRE) and in 2017 she was made an OBE (Order of the BRITISH EMPIRE) in the QUEEN’s BIRTHDAY HONOURS LIST! Far from being embarrassed by this, the header emblazoned over her website says Chi-chi Nwanoku, OBE ~ Double Bassist
This is surely the same hypocritical contortionism as is exhibited by Diane Abbot and her Labour colleagues who anathematise private education while sending their children to private schools.

I have always admired Chi-Chi Nwanoku as a musician but I deplore her recent antics. She should spend her energy on doing what she does best – promoting the careers of musicians from ‘ethnic’ backgrounds. She founded the Chinkeke! Orchestra but this seems to have fallen out of the limelight. Where are the CDs? Why doesn’t she arrange and advertise public concerts? Why doesn’t she get them to be booked for the Proms – or are they out of favour because they play Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Britannia? I bet the very woke BBC would snap them up. I bet that if they appeared there, the huge majority of the audience would be white.




  • James Weiss says:

    Go ahead and feel “invisible” dearie because we’re going to sing it and don’t give two shites what you think.

  • Kenneth Griffin says:

    In next week’s Letter from Hartlepool, …

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    We always turn off the tv when the jingoism starts and that was our school song which we all hated.

    • Maria says:

      Your choice, but some of us understand the tradition.

    • James Weiss says:

      I’ll never understand people who hate their own country and traditions. They must be such sad creatures.

      • Paul Brownsey says:

        Countries are historically-accidental artificial entities which are what they are because, for example, some royal thug’s geegees couldn’t gallop on a wet Wednesday in 1624 or whenever. So why are they objects of love?

      • Herbie G says:

        Apart from North Koreans of course, James…

  • Patrick says:

    The best kept secret that Chi-Chi is openly both racist and highly unpleasant to anybody whom she feels has white privilege! Yet sending her own children to Millfield School? Working with her, she speaks to others like they exist under her shoe. Have witnessed this. As for the OBE/MBE, funny how it suits her to receive HM award, yet decrying the very nation which enables one to have freedom of speech, work, thought…

  • Rob Keeley says:

    Well said, Norman. She is a tiresome bore who imagines the musical world revolves around her and her wokery. She is just another entitled snowflake.

  • Marfisa says:

    Does this old news really need to be rehashed yet again? Surely there is nothing left to be said after all the comments on the SD posts of last September’.

    • Marfisa says:

      Edit: … SD posts of July through September 2020, nine posts (probably about 900 comments).

      • V.Lind says:

        I wondered too, as to what had triggered this. Possibly yesterday’s extraneous reference to the BBC Proms, and wondering if all this would be awakened again? (And if not, let’s get it rolling again — it inspires debates, i.e. clicks).

  • Don Fatale says:

    MBE, OBE, quite famous in the UK classical world, regular BBC appearances, and this counts as invisible?
    I’m guessing that being visible means that this country, the one that has afforded her an enviable life, should do as she demands, including abandoning its heritage.

  • Le Křenek du jour says:

    A refreshing take on this kind of shpiel by John McWhorter, linguist and lexicographer at Columbia U. (Also a fearless liberal of impeccable credentials, a Black man if such affidavits are needed, and a clear voice of sanity in our unhinged times.)

  • sam says:

    Top reasons why it no longer makes sense to sing “Rule Britannia”:

    1) Scotland will secede from the union within the year.

    Britannia is getting smaller by the day.

    2) Britannia can’t even rule the waters around Jersey from a ragtag regata of disgruntled French fishermen from blocking the port.

    Britannia is ruling less and less of the waves.

    • V.Lind says:

      Yes, and nobody wears the sort of sleeves My Lady Greensleeves did any more. FCS, IT’S A SONG — and a rollicking good one for occasions such as this, the sort of thing that jollies people along and DOES NO HARM because it means no harm.

      Leave it, and all our other traditions, alone. It has zero to do with the slave trade — it’s just the sort of “ain’t we great” song for festive occasions. Take a look at the Fourth of July songs that get trucked out ever year. Do we really want to encourage “rockets’ red glare” and “bombs bursting in air”? We’ve all had enough of those. But it’s a great, if challenging, tune and Americans use it for their national occasions.


      • Micaelo Cassetti says:

        Pomp and Circumstance no. 1 is also very popular in the US. for graduation ceremonies.
        People like her undo the work that other PsOC have achieved.

        • Eric says:

          Except that nobody in the US knows what “circumstance” means here.

          • V.Lind says:

            The sum total of words not known by people in the US is as wide as the lower 48 and throw in Alaska and Hawaii. A reporter was fired from the Washington Post or somewhere for using the word “niggardly.” And that was LONG before BLM.

          • Ed in Texas says:

            This is becoming a serious problem here in America. My sister recently got criticized by a white store clerk for using the word negate in reference to how their pricing of an item “negated” the value of the store discount coupon she was trying to use.

    • Allen says:

      “French fishermen from blocking the port.”

      They made their point and then left.

      You’re incapable of getting even basic facts right.

    • Iain says:

      Scotland leave? The only leaving going on will be the thousands of businesses and productive Scots heading south (eg: Nat West Bank).

      But it won’t get that far, not even close.

  • Bob says:

    Can I say I am offered by modern day rappers? All they do is scream slurs and call it music.

  • albert.duvall says:

    Hmm… she’s not the only person I know in the classical world who is, on one hand happy to accept regular engagements from the BBC and honours etc., whilst on the other hand complaining about ‘traditions’ and practices perpetuated by their employer. I could start a list of artists, critics, musicologists, etc. Catch-22 situation – work and get paid or stick to your moral high ground and earn nothing.

  • Dragonetti says:

    Such a shame that Ms Nwanoku needs to spout this tired old stuff. I could also happily see the back of Last Night etc part 2 if for no other reason than it’s full of second rate music that, were it not for this particular festival, would probably be long forgotten. However, whatever you think of it, it must put one heck of a lot of cash into the coffers, which can be a justification for keeping the rest of it going.
    I’ve never applied for tickets as I wouldn’t want to be there anyway. I record it ( like just about everything else on TV these days) watch the good bits and lose the rest. Easy!
    There seems to be more going on here than is instantly obvious. Others have commented on Ms Nwanoku’s general reputation. Coming from several sources I feel there must be something in it. I have never met her personally but other (usually younger) players have all said the same-terrible temper, intolerance and a general large chip on the shoulder.I have heard her play and she is indeed a top-quality musician. It makes me wonder why she seems to need to make her own opportunities rather than be part of the London establishment. Her playing is easily the of the standard for the front desk of a major orchestra. Hmm..makes you think. An orchestra section has to be very good obviously but also needs to have a selection of players who fit in and don’t forever rock the boat and cause friction. I haven’t heard of a person of colour being refused an audition anywhere in the UK. The simple fact is that any one gig these days has several more people chasing it. Too many players of any type and not enough work.
    Pardon the off-course meandering but I’m getting to saturation already with the current woke agenda. Good job I’m getting on a bit and have no need to impress anyone in particular any more!

    • Herbie G says:

      Dragonetti, you will keep bringing common sense and rationality into it! People like her don’t think in that way. If she’s so unhappy with this country why doesn’t she go and live somewhere better – there are plenty of Black African republics where she would feel more at home and where she could do phenomenal work in establishing a platform for the neglected non-white composers whose music she regularly promotes with her Chineke! orchestra – composers like Beethoven, Sibelius, Rachmaninov and Dvorak! YES! The New World Symphony – the epitome of Cultural Appropriation!!!.

      More about this to come; watch this space…

  • Hobbes says:

    It’s also a shit tune. There’s nothing good about it. Plenty of traditions fall by the wayside (hands up if you still throw salt over your shoulder after…well, whatever), so why not this one? Chi-Chi bashing isn’t a valid reason to keep it in.

  • Simon Scott says:

    It seems a number of musicians maintain double standards. Another example known to me is a violinist from a London orchestra. This person is Jewish but is totally anti- Israel to the extent of pouring as much venom as possibld on the country. Also, this person tried to veto the Israel PO from playing at the proms.
    These people bite off the hands which feed them. They make me sick.

  • Giustizia says:

    Cancel culture is fascism and must be resisted wherever encountered. The left are (is) the “haughty tyrants.”

  • Stephen Maddock says:

    It’s a shame the author of this piece didn’t feel able to do so under their own name, but this is a pretty personal attack, and that probably says more about them than about Ch-Chi and Chineke, who in my view (shared by plenty of musicians) are doing excellent and important work.

    He or she is also not very well informed – Chineke have indeed performed twice at the Proms, and I am sure they will be back there very soon. They have also recorded at least three CDs. As to public concerts: they were among the first orchestras to appear at the Royal Festival Hall when it briefly reopened last autumn, and will be among the first to appear there when it reopens this month.

    As to the endless debate about Rule Britannia – well this predated my time working at the Proms (from 1993-99) and shows no sign of letting up any time soon. My personal view is that it’s a pretty second-rate piece of music (and indeed poetry); but lots of people like the tradition and perhaps a subtle updating of the text – as happens all the time (e.g. God Save the Queen, for starters) would be a decent compromise.

  • AshamedToBeBritishMusician says:

    The frankly horrendous and bigoted “if you don’t like it go back to where you came from / shut up and be grateful” comments on this thread against Chi-chi Nwanoku make me realise just how much of a disgusting racism problem the classical music has. No wonder Chineke needs to exist.

    And yes they perform, a lot, and at the proms. And yes, Chi-chi has been a front desk professional in a number of our best orchestras. If you’re going to rip someone apart, do your homework first.

    I’m ashamed to be a British classical musician today.

    • OC says:

      Absolutely agree. The racist remarks of the previous commentator (Herbie G) are truly shameful and the comment should be removed!

  • Herbie G says:

    Here we go – I wondered how long it would take for some lazy pseudo-thinker to wave the race card and have me sent off the pitch. But I can trump (!) it with my own whole deck of cards. Let me air all my prejudices, starting with the Mikado’s little list:

    ‘…the idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone,
    All centuries but this, and every country but his own’.

    I loathe demagogues irrespective of their political alignment – arguably the two worst mass-murderers in history were Hitler and Stalin, as far apart politically as one can get. While Trump, Putin, Xi Jinping, Kim Jong Un, among others of a similar stripe, cannot be placed in the same category, they are nonetheless odious.

    I resent the ‘victim culture’ that destroys the passion to succeed against all odds. It’s one thing to learn from evils of the past in order to make the world a better place – it’s quite another to be a chronic blame-monger and attribute one’s own failures to events and people of past centuries. The biggest ‘up yours’ to oppressors is have them see their victims succeeding – in the spirit of Jesse Owens, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi!

    I shall now risk another race card by quoting that tyrant, slaver, imperialist capitalist Churchill: ‘Democracy is the worst form of government – except for all the others that have been tried’. The ultimate democracy is anarchy, but no society could exist for long in that state. In a true multi-cultural society each culture respects the others and no one group tries to assert itself over the others. The antithesis is mob rule, when one culture seeks supremacy over, or wants to destroy, another.

    I think you can see where I am going. Here’s my dilemma – can I excoriate the way that the black community is treated in the USA, particularly by the police, and also at the same time loathe BLM with its orgies of violence against all and sundry, its Marxist agenda, its ambition to re-write history and its propensity to obliterate any reasoned debate by sending the author off the pitch summarily by waving the race card?

    I believe that ideally everyone should have somewhere to call ‘home’ where they feel at ease with their fellow inhabitants and where they can freely enjoy their cultural heritage. Anyone who feels that their country is inherently hostile to their aspirations should be free to live in another society that is more in harmony with them. It’s appalling that the inhabitants of Hong Kong, for example, cannot leave; if they could, they should be welcomed here and would be a huge asset to us.

    For my part, I count myself lucky to have been born in a liberal democracy. Not perfect, I agree, but if there are any doubts, all I need to do is look over the fence to convince myself that the grass is greener here. Yes, there is certainly racism within our police force but they don’t shoot dead or beat up loads of people every month for the ‘crime’ of being black, Hispanic or from any other minority. I would jump for joy if the Afro-Americans started meting out the same treatment to the police as they receive from them, given that there seems no alternative in a country where you can buy a gun as easily as a bag of crisps and where an organisation like the Ku Klux Klan is regarded as a normal and acceptable part of society. I shall therefore still be singing ‘Rule Britannia’, ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ even after singing them has been deemed a hate crime. And if it weren’t for Churchill and Monty, would there have been a Chi-hi at all?

    There, I guess I have offended just about everyone equally, and I now await an orgy of downvotes as a result. But thank goodness that SD does not operate a ‘cancel’ policy, so if anyone wishes to express contrary opinions, they can do so; and if someone seeks to shut anyone else down in a single sentence including the ‘r’ word, they are entitled to try, just as NL is entitled to smile, shrug his shoulders and do nothing at all about it.