About Candace Allen

Candace Allen

Candace Allen is a novelist and was the first African-American female member of the Directors Guild of America. Race and music are an integral part of her life, from Miles Davis’ friendship with her family, her later immersion in the classical music elite, to her political activism in the 60s and the recent Obama election campaign. Educated at Harvard, she grew up in Stamford, Connecticut, and has lived in Islington, London since the 1990s.


Does (classical) music change the way we lead our life? In Soul Music novelist and former black activist Candace Allen investigates whether the pitched battles between ‘our’ music and ‘their’ music of her youth are alive among young people engaged in music study. Following the beat of music – from classical to black music – in her own life to places where different cultures meet, she visits Palestine, Venezuela, Scotland, the streets of London and Kinshasa. She is delighted to find a fresh and vibrant attitude that is very different from the tribal multiculturalism of the past.


‘The most interesting book to date on the subject of social music projects like El Sistema, Buskaid and the Al Kamandjâti music school…. passion, zeal and candour…will appeal and infuriate.’

–Marshall Marcus, Southbank Centre s Sistema Research Programme

‘Amazing wordcraft… devastating throwaway insights… how the generation younger than mine is using musical culture to inspire hope.’

–Simon Hewitt-Jones

‘Intriguing… series of reflections on the interplay of race and music, particularly western music… Enthralled by her grasp of the educational subtleties of El Sistema… There is much food for contemplation and much for confrontation.’

–Norman Lebrecht, Arts Journal

‘So powerful… She reveals much about what lies at the heart of any journey into so-called classical music.’

–Guy Dammann, New Statesman

‘Singing songs of freedom from Kinshasa to Caracas.’



–Evening Standard

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