Kano Lights Up London

Word By Finlay Bell

Photography By Karan Teli

Gunfinger central in Shepherds Bush as War Child presents: Kano

For Kano, a lengthy stint away from the stage (for obvious reasons) was finally rectified on 11th August. After nearly a year and a half, the Grime forefather finally returned to the rave. For many individuals like myself, the anticipation for one of the most beloved figures in UK rap culture to return the enjoyment into our lives after 18 months of restriction and repression was brewing within the O2 Empire concert hall in Shepherd’s Bush. 

This was very evident. The first conversation I overheard while I was eagerly waiting for Kano’s arrival perfectly encapsulated the longevity and importance of his career to those in attendance. “This is my son’s first ever gig – he’s 14”, he explained to 2 men in front of me, both seemingly in their early 20’s. It is unique to find an artist that can transcend age and time to still be a performer that means so much to so many in today’s day and age – yet, here we stood, waiting for Kano, who has done exactly that in his near-20 year Grime career. 

Just after 9 PM, the lights dimmed and the crowd let out a roar – we all knew it was time. As the lights returned, Kano stood centre stage surrounded by a choir. The tongue-in-cheek rendition of “SYM” commenced – a middle finger to the elitist UK society that deprives minorities of prosperity despite the role they play in modern Britain, speaking to all those in the crowd that supported the cause against the establishment. From here, the party got started. To the delight of many, “P’s and Q’s” rang out early on the setlist. A fitting response followed as everyone went crazy. This only persisted, as I thought to myself looking around the venue throughout the night; from the front row to the rafters in the O2 Empire, the crowd was constantly moving in a glowing display of appreciation to the set that Kano was bringing.

Banger after banger came: “3WheelUps”, “Garage Skank Freestyle”, “T Shirt Weather in the Manor” and so on all were performed on the night, much to the elation of everyone in attendance. Kano perfectly captured the angst of his fans and responded to them with a beautiful set that people of all ages were enjoying. Complete with a drummer, pianist and brass section, he also displayed his versatility that so many have come to love. One individual next to me pointed to this as being the main reason for seeing Kano – It “blew his mind’ to see all the artistic elements he brings to his shows, being so much more than performing to just a backing track. The fans deserved a show of this calibre after such a long wait, and as the show wrapped, all I could think was that Kano had delivered spectacularly. 

To conclude, I want to say a huge shout out to the organisers of this concert, War Child UK. They are an organisation that aims to help children affected by the horrors of war throughout the world. Despite all the hardships many of us have faced over the last few months, we shouldn’t forget we are luckier than most – please make sure to check them out, donate or help in any way you can to assist a great cause.

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