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18 Kima Otung

How FOCUS Wales is shining a light on Black Welsh music and beyond

30 April 2024, 09:15

Welsh DJ and curator Kaptin Barrett talks through the broad and diverse music programme hitting Wrexham next week at FOCUS Wales.

This year’s edition of Focus Wales, Wrexham’s acclaimed new music showcase and industry conference, brings together a diverse range of genre and influence, uniting acts from around the world with British and international delegates and creating clear opportunities for acts to extend their audiences overseas.

Alongside a glowing lineup highlighting Welsh language acts, the festival has also worked with partners to present an eclectic mix of black-origin-music from hip-hop and rap to RnB and neo-soul.

Working with several partners, Focus Wales have curated a lineup spread across several showcases. Jukebox Collective are a community-rooted, youth-led collective nurturing tomorrow’s creative voices, promoting national-talent through their Academy and Future Creatives initiatives. Welsh promoter Dave Acton’s Larynx Entertainment will present a stage alongside Next Up, an initiative headed up by James “Prendy” Prendegast and supported by the Wales Millennium Centre, and Starving Artists, a talent development agency and events management company that promotes black music and music of black origin in Wales.

Also curating a lineup at Focus Wales is Kaptin Barrett, a jack of all trades in the Welsh music scene. His Kaptin Selects stage takes place at Penny Black, Room 1 on Friday, 10 May.

20 Magugu

Coming up as a DJ and promoter in the 2000s, Barrett left Cardiff for a decade to act as Head of Music at Boomtown Festival. Returning to the Welsh capital he took up a position as the Hip-Hop Coordinator for Amgueddfa Cymru/Museum Wales.

Speaking to Best Fit about Black music in Wales, Barrett says: “Wales has a long and incredibly rich history of Black music, and the talent here stands up against anywhere else in the UK, but many artists still struggle to be heard or understood both within Wales and outside. Although things are undoubtedly changing, there's still a lack of infrastructure here in Wales, or understanding of how the music fits into the wider Welsh landscape which is still heavily rock orientated. It's getting to the point where these acts are simply too well-loved by audiences to ignore.”


Barrett began collaborating with Focus Wales as a guest panellist, the festival’s goals neatly aligning with his passion for Welsh rap, reggae and RnB. “I wanted to help shine a brighter light on some of the incredible talent that was coming out of the country,” he says. “I started my Kaptin Selects showcase a few years ago and I now take over the top floor of Penny Blacks with a selection of rappers and singers that are exciting me most each year. Many acts are managing to break out of the boxes they've been put into with acts such as The Honest Poet performing at Cambridge Folk Festival or Mace The Great at SXSW, thanks to help from Focus Wales.”

Barrett believes that Focus Wales acts as a platform for artists at the tipping point of their breakthroughs, ready for international audiences. Here, he guides us through some of the most exciting artists influenced by black music and showcasing at this year’s Focus Wales.


"South Wales had an incredible grime scene in the 2000s and Magugu was in one of the standout crews of the period, called Brothahood. In recent years he's developed his own musical style called Pigin Rap, influenced heavily by his upbringing in Lagos, Nigeria. After his collaborations with the late Welsh dubstep pioneer Stagga, he became one of the go to vocalists in the underground bass scene across the world, but is now focussed on putting out his own music on his own terms."

Sage Todz

"Like most of Wales I first caught Sage on his 'Rownd â Rownd (Round and Round)' video which went viral here. I'm very much used to hearing Welsh language hip-hop, but this was the first time I'd heard anybody over a drill beat rapping about growing up in a small Welsh town. This was no gimmick either, he has continued to release incredibly strong tracks which showcase exceptional skills and a really strong presence. He represented Welsh music during the last World Cup and despite some controversy with the Eisteddfod last year about not having enough Welsh language in his music to perform, he has proven to be just as popular with young first language Welsh speakers as those who are unable to speak it."

Lloyd and Dom James

I have something of a dream that Welsh language rap can be accepted alongside any other UK rap music. If there's one pair that can make that happen it's Lloyd Lewis and Dom James. Their track “Pwy Sy'n Galw?” is incredibly catchy and is constantly an earworm for me, even though I'm still not sure exactly what it means. They're TV presenters on S4C as well as musicians, so both have bags of charisma and Lloyd is also a well respected rugby player for Newport RFC. I've still never seen them both perform live together so I'm really looking forward to seeing them.

Kima Otung

"Every now and then I come across an artist who seems to arrive so fully-formed I wonder why I've never heard of them before. Kim Otung is one of those artists. I've never seen her before but I'm very much looking forward to catching her show."

Luke RV

"The first time I heard Luke was in 2018 and I was instantly struck by his melodic rap style. He's been one of the most hard working artists I've seen since then, and he's built up a really strong back catalogue of tunes along with a decent following. His recent headline show at Clwb Ifor Bach had a brilliant turn out and I noticed at least fifteen rappers from the scene in the room, which proves he's definitely got the respect of his peers. He's constantly growing as an artist too, so I really do feel this is just the beginning for him."


"Vision is a second generation rapper, being the son of Pun Ra from Applied Science. You can really feel that his hip-hop and grime knowledge is strong as his flows and wordplay are a cut above most other rappers his age. He's been releasing solid tracks so far and as his name suggests, he is incredibly focussed. I've been collecting the oral history of hip-hop in Wales for the museum and he's the rapper most talked about as somebody to watch in future."

Aleighcia Scott

"When I heard that Aleighcia was longlisted for a Grammy last year I was so excited. After listening to the other albums I honestly thought she might have a chance as her Windrush Baby album was easily one of the best of the bunch. Sadly it wasn't to be, but the fact that one of the best reggae albums from last year came from Wales fills me with pride and nobody deserves the accolades more than Aleighcia. She's a seriously talented singer, songwriter and performer, as well as incredibly hard working and humble with it. Plus she works tirelessly behind the scenes as a BBC Radio and TV presenter, and she's a real advocate for other artists within Wales."


"Talking about neo-soul, I first saw Adjua at Focus Wales two-years-ago and was blown away by her performance. She has a gentle confidence which carries into her music. She's the kind of artist that the room naturally wants to shut up and listen to, and that's a rare and valuable skill.


"One of those artists who can turn her hand to most UK bass music styles. Her biggest tracks tend to be UK garage but she's just as adept on UK funky and grime. Although I have a tendency to think of her as vocalist for club tracks, some of her best moments have been the more thoughtful and introspective moments as both a rapper and singer, and it's obvious when you catch her live that she's got opinions on everything, along with an endearingly no nonsense approach to it all."

Aisha Kigs

"Relatively new on my radar but I've been following her closely since hearing her on BBC Radio Wales. There are a number of really strong RnB vocalists in Wales at the moment but it certainly seems like it's Aisha's moment to shine right now and I love how she takes in pop elements from Afrobeats and dancehall, but still has a mature neo-soul sound."

FOCUS Wales runs from 9-11 May. Tickets are on sale now.

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