Friday, May 24, 2024


The Boston indie rock scene is overwhelmingly white. If you’re reading this and this is the first time the aforementioned sentiment has ever crossed your mind, you’re probably white.

Opinion boxI’ve been playing live music in Boston for about four years. Back in 2013 I had the privilege of playing seven or eight gigs with a good friend who is also a ridiculously funkadocious bass player. Like myself, he is black. At the conclusion of two different shows, we were asked by two different booking agents if we were related. “Because you look similar,” they said.

The bass player and I do not look alike. We both have big toothy smiles. We’re both awesome musicians. We’re both black. But we do not look alike.

I don’t think that either of these promoters had ever even seen a local indie rock band with two black musicians before.

So why is the Boston indie rock scene so white? As Pitchfork recently pointed out in an eloquent article, indie rock in general is overwhelmingly white. I’d extend that to rock music in general, but Boston is also extremely segregated, and that level of segregation extends to its music scene. If I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen four-piece indie bands of four white guys in T-shirts, I would have to surgically attach about 50 more fingers to that hand. The promoters are white, the bands are white, the fans are white. Everyone is white.

It’s a fact that 75 percent of white Americans don’t have any nonwhite friends. So statistically it makes sense that a group of white bros would form an all-white band, invite all of their white friends to their white shows and have a big white party. The problem is, white people aren’t the only race of humans that listen to or create indie rock.

What are we supposed to do about the overwhelming whiteness of the Boston indie music scene? Honestly, I don’t know. As a black musician, whenever I book shows I make a point to look for bands made up of women, queer people and people of color because these demographics are embarrassingly underrepresented in the Boston indie music scene.

But at the very least, I believe addressing the problem starts with awareness and critical analysis.

Is your band made up exclusively of cis white men? Is your band exclusively white people? Is your fanbase primarily white? Are your shows essentially a sea of white people? The first step to dismantling racism and oppression is recognizing its existence.

Anjimile Chithambo is a musician and audio engineer who lives in Jamaica Plain. A version of this post appeared first on Tumblr.