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Music

How Skunk Anansie got their name

Skunk Anansie are one of the most iconic British acts of the past 30 years. Iconoclastic to the core and fronted by the enigmatic frontwoman, Skin, as soon as they broke onto the scene in the mid-1990s, they cultivated a growing and dedicated fanbase. Notably, in 1999, they were the last band of the 20th Century to headline Glastonbury Festival, closing the Pyramid Stage on Sunday.   

Often lumped in with the Britrock movement, you could argue that Skunk Anansie don’t fit into that category even though they’re a guitar-oriented band. One thing is clear, though, they were one of the leading lights of ‘Cool Brittania’, and continue to be to this very day. One of the most successful British rock bands of all time, they expertly blend other styles of music such as funk and jazz into their unique sound. 

Describing the band’s fluid sound, Skin described Skunk Anansie as a “clit-rock” outfit, fusing elements of metal and hard rock with Afro-Feminist themes. She’s also noted that the Sex Pistols and Blondie were huge influences on the band, as well as genres such as dub, reggae, electronica, hip-hop and world music. 

To date, the band have released only six albums. Paranoid & Sunburnt, Stoosh, Post Orgasmic Chill, Wonderlustre, Black Traffic and Anarchytecture. Some of their biggest hits include ‘Hedonism’, ‘Charity’, ‘Selling Jesus’ and ‘Weak’.

Audiences have long wondered about the origins of the band’s name. It turns out that it was inspired by the Akan people’s folk tales of Anansi, the spider-man of Ghana. In addition to this, the name also derives from a cartoon Skin watched as a child in Jamaica. 

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Skin told Radio X in 2021: “Anansie is the half-man, half-spider nursery rhyme character that I used to watch on TV in Jamaica when I was little. There was this lovely lady called Miss Lou and she used to read Anansie stories on television and she was this storyteller kind of character. So I wanted something that was to do with my heritage. Cass [Richard “Cass” Lewis] came up with the name ‘Skunk’ because he said skunk is a black and white animal in a jungle and nobody wants to bother that animal. Not even a lion would mess with a skunk.”

She continued: “So I put them together because I remember Arnold Schwarzenegger said, people said to him ‘why don’t you change your name Mr. Schwarzenegger?’ And he said, ‘because it’s really difficult to learn and I think that if you have to learn it you’ll never forget it.'”

Showing just how much they diverged from what was going on around them at the time, Skin also revealed that she chose a two worded band name for a reason. At the time, all the biggest bands had a one-word name, such as Oasis, Blur, Elastica and Pulp, so she thought that having two would make them “stand out a bit”. 

She was right. With a name like Skunk Anansie, Skin and Co. were perfectly equipped to enjoy a tremendous amount of success.

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