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Black music industry poll is a whiter shade of pale

WHITE FACES are as prominent as black ones in a list of the 100 most influential people in British black music published this week by Touch magazine.

Jay Kay, of Jamiroquai - a white performer already successful at the Mobo (Music of black origin) awards - is in the top 100, as is Andy Parfitt, the white controller of Radio 1, and Tim Westwood, the white disc jockey who recently became involved in a shooting incident.

Black faces include Trevor Nelson, who is described by Touch's editor, Vince Jackson, as the most important man in British black music. Mr Nelson founded the dance station Kiss FM in the late Eighties and now presents Radio 1's Rhythm Nation, as well as the MTV programme The Lick.

The Spice Girls' Mel G (formerly Mel B) is a winner, although the magazine says she has "scaled the heady heights of fame with the world's most untalented female group".

Asian faces also feature prominently, including Talvin Singh - who epitomises the strongly multicultural feel of the selection. "Ten years ago Talvin left for the Far East with 20 quid in his pocket to master classical Indian tabla artistry before fusing it with the emerging drum and bass sounds of his native E15," the magazine says.

The mix revives the debate over whether white people grabbing prizes and doing well in black music is a sign of racial discrimination at work. "It's still the case in the black music industry that there are a lot of white people controlling the art, and at the controlling end of the business," said Derek Bardowell, the music editor of the black newspaper The Voice.

But Mr Jackson said: "The scene we write about is a very multicultural scene, and black music needs white people to buy it, because of the country's racial make-up". In any case, black music, "is an umbrella term to cover hip hop, soul, garage, reggae and jazz".

Asian Dub Foundation, for instance, is cited as "one of the leaders of the new wave of musicians to splice different cultures to create something new". The approach, Touch indicates shows no disrespect to any underlying issues of racism. ADF, after all, "are one of the few bands who are politically vocal. Candid about their views on racism, the band have lent their support to Satpal Ram's miscarriage of justice case [Ram was jailed for murder in 1986] as well as the Kick Racism out of Football campaign".

Other key winners in the Touch list, which is not ranked, include Roni Size and Reprazent, the Mercury prize winners from Bristol who have taken "the drum and bass formula to new heights". Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliff, of Basement Jaxx, are deemed to be "leading the way in British dance music...their LP Remedy is already a classic, setting a standard for the future of house music".