The past, present and future of Manchester’s black music will collide this month

The History of Mancunian Black Music will celebrate the city's underground heroes

By Ben Arnold | Last updated 18 February 2024

Share this story

Think of Manchester’s music history, and the same old names will inevitably emerge – The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, The Smiths, Joy Division, New Order, the Hacienda, Oasis.

When Chanel brought its caravan of fashionistas to the city last year, the pop-up catwalk on Thomas Street echoed with the sounds of Blue Monday and Bizarre Love Triangle. It was thoroughly predictable.

From the underground shebeens of Moss Side to the city’s rap, trap and grime scenes, the heritage of Manchester’s black music scene runs deeper than those names that are turned over and over when ‘Madchester’ pitches up in conversation.

Kane Dunn of Eyes On The Pies, managed the careers of artists like Just Banco and Meekz, and will be presenting his own version of Manchester’s rich music history later this month in a live event at Media City. And there will be no Wonderwall in sight.

Just Banco
Just Banco

“We want to tell the stories of Manchester music that haven’t been told before,” he told Manchester’s Finest.

“Within Manchester, there’s always this story that is told, across the board. It’s Oasis, it’s the Hacienda, it’s a great history that we all have. But the black music history is often overlooked. 

“And when we say black music, obviously we don’t always mean black people, we just mean music that was heavily influenced by a black sound. People like Shifty, who was one of the biggest white MCs of the 2000s.”

Kane name checks bands like Moss Side’s Cleopatra, were signed to Madonna’s Maverick label, but reckons have also been ‘overlooked’ ever since, despite touring with the Spice Girls, having their own sitcom, being produced by the legendary Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and once performing at the Vatican at the request of Pope John Paul II. The members will be present at the event taking part in one of the panel discussions.


“They’re still overlooked in the scope of the Manchester scene,” he says. He also names the influential Broadway Sound, the soundsystem also from Moss Side which championed its own street soul sound, mixtapes from which still change hands now.

“That movement was so influential for Manchester music in the 90s,” he says. “A lot of kids had parents who were heavily involved in the sound systems, so we’re celebrating black Mancunian culture on a wider scope than someone in a barber shop telling a story no one gets to hear.”


At the History of Mancunian Black Music, there will be panel talks and then live performances from a host of notable Manchester artists, DJs, MCs and creatives. Joining Dunn on stage will be the likes of director Joshua Reeves, acclaimed music video maker KC Locke and grime pioneer Slay.


Habitat’s Faro will be hosting a session focussing on the early beginnings of homegrown talent Bipolar Sunshine and his fellow ex Kid British band mates Simeon McLean and James Mayer, who were all apart of grime collective Knight Ryders.

Bipolar Sunshine co-wrote the Grammy nominated Brown Skin Girl for Beyonce, and will be sending in a video message for the panel segment, along with performances from the likes of Captin, Meany, Sleazy and President T.

Bipolar Sunshine throwback
Bipolar Sunshine and Simeon McLean

Kane will host the final discussion of the night with music production house and 360 degree creative agency Studio 88 on their legacy origins in the Manchester music scene with R&B singer Barrington Stewart who setup Longsight’s Cultural Fusion youth project alongside Owen Thomas, helping young people realise their potential through music. Studio 88 are carrying on this legacy, developing exciting grass root talents in the region and creating accessible commercial music pathways to spring-board artists and creatives into the music industry.

“It’ll be a very open forum, but one of the first times these creatives will all be in the same space,” he says.

“We hope to bring together a network of people in the city who understand what has been done prior to them, they could be people just up the road from you who have done amazing things. To draw in those maps and those bridges.”

The History of Mancunian Black Music happens on Friday 23 February at The Empty Space in Salford Quays. You can grab tickets here