Three Key Sound Tony Hippolyte

Jane Lisewski

Ivor Denbigh

Fil Planet

Known for his roles as an actor on stage and TV. Perhaps his best known was as Mr.Cool in Absolute Beginners. The film was originally based on Colin Innes' famous novel depicting street culture at the time of the Notting Hill Riots in the 1950's, but was unfortunately hijacked by the candyfloss cartoons of the 80's Brit showbiz establishment. Tony, whose uncle was depicted in the book, did the best he could in a film which got lousier every time another fading star climbed on board. Lionel Blair, David Bowie and Patsy Kensit (as usual), along with other troupers (for instance, the graceful Sade) helped make it a project less successful than the Titanic (boat, not film).

Apart from the stunning Body Contact, postponed due to the Hungerford Massacre, Tony did not pursue the acting; disillusioned in no small part with the attitude of that medium's treatment of black actors. He has also done a lot of stage work, most notably starring in the title role in the black musical, Ragga. He had already played drums in a group with John Heathcote and Tyrone Thomas, and in 1993 began singing with the Three Key Posse. In a style he originally described as techno-toasting, he has fused the mellow tones of a soul balladeer with the ruff roots sounds of the dancehall. You can hear echoes in his voice of the great singers of the Jamaican Pre7s, as well as the big band crooners and the space dub chanters. Tony writes all the lyrics on his songs with the occasional interjection from his colleagues. The songs are inquiries into human nature, the systems that oppress and distort it, and the means we have at our disposal to subvert the impositions of ignorance. You can hum them too.

Tony Hippolyte at Goldsmiths College, 1998

All pictures by David Somerset, © 1998