Prince Fatty

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Prince Fatty

As a producer, Prince Fatty is eclectic, working across the board; his collaborations read like a who’s who from the mid-90s to now. However, perhaps Prince Fatty is best known for his presence in the Jamaican diaspora music scene. Still churning records out now, the latest release Be Thankful For What You’ve Got featuring reggae singer Earl Sixteen is a beautiful prequel to those happy summer days to come.

We took the opportunity, with his Record Store Day release, to catch up with Prince Fatty.

Rhythm Passport: How did you get the name Prince Fatty? Was it given to you, or did you choose it? Were you following the likes of Prince Jazzbo?

Prince Fatty: It was a quick decision, as it all started with what I thought would be a one-off record for Stüssy Records called ‘Ninas Dance’ – a Jackie Mittoo-inspired instrumental organ work out. It was a limited edition, so I figured Prince Fatty would be too, but it didn’t work like that. The fat thing came from all the musicians always saying my sound was fat!

RP: Who inspired you musically, before you considered yourself a musician? 

PF: My older brother gave me Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland when I was 8 years old, and that blew my mind, then Burning Spear at 13 years old, when I discovered dub and playing bass.

Did you have a patron who taught you the ropes? 

PF: Yeah, many old sound engineers taught me how to record; not one in particular, but all combined gave me much knowledge. If I had to pick one, then Graham Dickson, who was the in-house engineer at the Hit Factory and was Gus Dudgeon’s engineer for many years.

Have you ever had a music nemesis/rivalry? 

PF: Sure, but usually it’s imaginary and thus virtual. I have a make-believe beef with Quincy Jones, because he always had a bigger budget than me! Competition is healthy in my opinion, so that’s every soundsystem show we do. Dub-wise, touring with Mad Professor was the closest I felt to a rivalry vibe, but it was friendly after all. The goal is always to give people a good show.

Of all your collaborations, is there one that you consider as surprising to your fans? 

PF: The Last Poets album Understand What Black Is took people by surprise, as on paper you wouldn’t imagine the combination geographically possible between Dub Judah, Horseman, the Nostalgia, 77 jazz musicians and myself, with The Last Poets via the Bronx. Through the universe and its random chaos theory, it happened very swiftly and smoothly. We are now working on a follow-up.

You’ve worked with literally everyone in the contemporary dub/reggae scene, from Mungos Hi-Fi, Hollie Cook, Gentleman’s Dub Club and the greats like The Last Poets and Dele Sosimi. Is there an act that you have yet to work with that you aspire too? 

PF: A new singer called Shniece McMenamin is my latest discovery, and we have been doing much work together in preparation for her debut release. A real soul voice for the 21st century. My collaboration with Monkey Jhayam from Brazil was big for me. Living in Sao Paolo last year was inspiring, and I recorded a lot. Brazil is special, and it felt like a re-birth.

You have a new release just out for Record Store Day – Be Thankful for What You’ve Got. It’s setting the summer scene for sure! Are you performing anywhere this summer? 

PF: Yes, we are, but this summer we are in the studio a lot, so I kept the shows to a minimum.

What equipment did you start producing and learning to dub on? 

PF: I learned on big analog mixers and tape machines via the traditional tape op/assistant engineer when I left school at 17. I was there for the start of the digital domination that followed. I resisted as much as possible, and have always believed in recording live and all together to get a vibe; looking for good performance and sound in combination. Art is often not a consideration for sound engineers, as they tend to be just technical. I try and find a mix between art and science. I am lucky, I have worked in some of the best studios in the world, like Townhouse, Olympic and the old Air Studios on Oxford Street.

RP: We are big believers that the music listened to by your parents shapes your own personal musical taste. What kind of music did you listen to growing up? Is it the same kind of music you produce?                  

PF: I grew up in Italy, so they were 20 years behind everybody else. They were still listening to TheDoorsJimi HendrixBob Marley, big Italian love ballads and plenty of disco. My mother loved BoneyM, and my father, being Italian, preferred Latin sounds like cumbia, salsa and samba. I liked it all. I started bootlegging at a young age, selling cassettes at school.

RP: Do you have a favourite music route? A soft spot for production, so to speak? 

PF: Reggae and soul are my natural reference points. I like musicians to sound like musicians and machines to sound like machines.

Can you give us five killer albums you listen to on repeat?

PF: Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus by Charles Mingus; the dub album of The Same Song album by Israel Vibration mixed by FatmanJorge Ben’s AfricaDub Judah’s Babylon is a Trap; and Electric Ladyland by Jimi Hendrix.

RP: What’s next for Prince Fatty?

PF: I plan to record more in Latin America, and I am planning the next follow up for The Last Poets, which will have an Afro-feel, as I am planning to use Tony Allen (Fela Kuti’s drummer) for the beats. The Bronx meets Lagos, Nigeria in a political-poetry style. Stay tuned.


Cymande

Cymande

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There are some bands in music that become established after they have been on the scene for a number of years, say one decade. Then there are other bands that become established through sheer genius and ingenuity. This was the case from the beginning with British funk band Cymande, who were uniquely popular in the United States, as well as Britain, in the 1970s.

Cymande derives from the calypso word for dove, which in turn symbolises peace and love. The band’s demographic represents the legendary migration of people from the Caribbean to London from the 1950s, with members from Guyana, Jamaica and Saint Vincent. I believe that it was this particular flavour of rhythms that they brought with them in their musical ideology that made Cymande as irresistible as they are, mixing reggae, beautiful funk, afro and jazz into innovative catchy tracks.

It’s fun to note that Cymande are also one of the most sampled bands in British history, touching every corner of music – such as hip-hop innovator’s recovery of Cymande post ’75 by DJ Kool Hereand Grandmaster Flash, onwards to De La Soul and The Fugees, to French-based Senegalese MC Solaar. The message their music produces is that of the black experience in ’70s racist London, through Brixton-based poly-rhythms, Caribbean inspired reggae, all smoothly jazzed through funk and soul.

The band left the road back in the mid to late ’70s, leaving behind three albums for the world to depict for the coming decades. However, low and behold, the collective reformed in 2014, and now in 2019, they are coming back to play in Ronnie Scotts, London on Friday 8th and Saturday 9th of March.

Ronnie’s is a legendary venue, one of the few in London worthy of hosting such an illustrious group.

We took the opportunity, knowing the guys were on the scene again, to shoot a few questions their way. Read on for the opinion and evolutions of Cymande’s music and members.

How would you introduce the music of Cymande to those that don’t know?

Our music is an original blend of funk, jazz and soul with an undercurrent of poly-rhythmic structures from the Caribbean and Africa.

How many members were initially in the band, and how has that differed to now?

The band started with six original members, which we refer to as the core members. They are SteveScipioPatrick PattersonMike RosePablo GonzalesDerrick Gibbs and Sam Kelly. We expanded the number over time to include an additional saxophone player Desmond AtwellRay King and Joey Dee(deceased). Following the second tour of America in 1973, we reverted to the original six structure, and that was the core of the band which returned in 2014, to which we added pianist Adrian Reid, vocalist RaySimpson, and Ray Carless tenor and soprano saxes.

Can you describe the first time you all played together as a band, where and when and why?

If memory serves us well, our first gig might have been in 1971, at the Oval house in London, which was a prime music and arts venue at the time. There is no one reason for the formation and creation of Cymande music, but the aim has always been to play original music that combines elements of funk, jazz and soul, with our own special rhythmic Caribbean sensibility with a pronounced undercurrent of Rastafarian drumming.

How has Cymande’s music evolved in the years since it started to present day?

The music evolved a lot from the band’s formation in 1971 to when it came off the road in 1975. This is evident from listening to the musical progression in the three albums recorded over that period. Of course, there was the hiatus of some 35 years before the band reformed around 2010 to start planning the recording for the album, A Simple Act of Faith, but its core poly-rhythmic sense and original approach has remained constant. The evolution is probably best seen by comparing the nature of the songs, music and blend in the albums.

What was behind the decision to take the band off the road in the late 1970s?

There were a number of reasons, probably the most important was that, although we had been accepted and appreciated by American audiences in a wonderful way (which was unique for a UK black band playing funk and jazz), we found that when we returned to the UK, we were back in the land of the unseen and unheard, which was the place to which black music and black musicians had generally been confined in the UK music industry. It was dispiriting and devoid of dignity, and we all had other options, so we took a little respite. We prefer to describe the extended absence as a sabbatical. We took the band off the road, but never really split, and we have always remained connected and friends, working together on various projects over the years and discussing the idea of returning when the time was right.

You are one of the most sampled British bands in history: Why do you think the musicians in Cymande were capable of creating such innovative and desirable music?

It is difficult to point to any single factor that explains why the music developed in the way it did, but obviously, our background as Caribbean people and our experiences as second-generation immigrants in the UK served to create something unique and influential, with a great rhythmic sensibility that was infectious.

What do you think is the most important thing that happened to Cymande in the 40 years out of the limelight?

The recognition of Cymande as a historically important band in black music and the appreciation of our music, particularly by hip hop, rap and other audiences. Also, the fact that the band has managed to sustain a wonderful following by a knowledgeable and discerning audience.

As a band, who are some of your favourite artists to listen to and why?

We all have different favourites, players, bands and singers; Herbie HancockMiles DavisStevie WonderGladys Knight etc. The attraction they hold for us would be because of their musicianship, artistry and longevity. Most of these musicians (Miles Davis in particular) also put creativity and originality above commerciality, which was also the ethos followed by Cymande.

Is there anything that surprises you about the longevity of your band’s popularity?

The fact that the music has sustained itself, not simply in the United States, which is where we had our principal success but has spread far and wide to Europe and other places. Also, it was the modern younger generation who found something in our music that they could relate to.

What’s been the most rewarding part of getting on the road again?

The opportunity to be playing to great and wonderfully receptive audiences and making music for a new time period.

Anthony Joseph – ‘Caribbean Roots’

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A few days ago, I met with Trinidadian poet and writer Anthony Joseph in a coffee shop in Brixton. It was a pleasure to listen to Anthony’s stories of growing up in Trinidad, the music of calypso and soca, and what the Windrush generation means to London’s identity.

Anthony also talks us through a track from his latest album People of the Sun, talks of his book tours and speaks about his upcoming Windrush celebration gala at the Barbican Centre on Saturday 17th November part of the EFG London Jazz Festival 2018.

Tracks played:

LISTEN BELLOW

Yara Lapidus & Amira Kheir

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Who would have thought that mixing roles, letting musicians wear the clothes of journalists, would have been so stimulating…

In view of their upcoming double-bill show (at Rich Mix London on Friday 23rd November), organized by Arts Canteen and part of the 2018 edition of the EFG London Jazz Festival, we had the pleasure to host Amira Kheir and Yara Lapidus (who reached us over the phone from Paris) at the SOAS Radio studio.

We were meant to have a conventional chat with the artists about their music, influences and career, but then we thought, why don’t we let them do our job and interview each other? The outcome is an interesting and expansive conversation between two engaging persons even before being talented musicians.

Tracks played:


LISTEN BELLOW

Yazz Ahmed

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I interviewed Yazz Ahmed: the established face of contemporary fusion jazz. Since her debut album in 2011 - ‘Finding My Way Home’, Yazz Ahmed has been conquering the scene with her original blend of Arabian maqqam scales played on a unique quarter-toned flugelhorn. As well as this, Yazz’s long list of collaborations, such as Lee Scratch Perry and Radiohead has contributed to the addition of electronic music into her sound, earning Yazz global acclaim and success in her creation of a truly psychedelic East to West form of jazz. 

 

We chatted over the phone ahead of her debut concert in the Southbank Centre, in which, Yazz Ahmed will be launching her remix EP of her second album ‘La Saboteuse’.

 

So can we start by telling us the story of how and when you first started to play musical instruments?

OK, so I grew up in Bahrain, we had you know sort of strange instruments in the house, we had the guitar amongst others, and I would just mess around with those not really knowing what I’m doing. I would drive my mum mad by playing recorder duets with my sister. Then when we moved to England when I was nine my mum asked me if I wanted to learn a musical instrument in school and I said “Yes I would love to learn the trumpet”.

 

Why I chose the trumpet is because my grandfather Terry Brown used to be a jazz trumpet player in the 1950’s, and so I saw him as this big kind of hero, and I just thought he sounded pretty cool, and, you know, I just thought: Yeah the trumpet sounds like fun, I want to be like Terry. So that’s where it all started

 

Is this where you got your love of jazz from?

I think so. My grandfather would play jazz records to me, especially British Jazz artists, and my mum used to play jazz in the house and other quite cool music. Reggae, my mums a big reggae fan, so there was a lot of influences around in the house, and I really loved all of them, particularly jazz.

 

Do you feel that psychedelia was always a part of your music, or was it something that grew?

It just seems to have grown into that way. Since working with electronic artists and using electronic music, I’v found it can make you are more fluid, dreamy and outer worldly. It’s just amazing what you can do to music if you just sort of add an electronic element to it. It’s opened up lots of possibilities and  what colours I can get from using electronics as well as acoustic instruments, and it’s really fun to experiment.

 

You’ve had rather a lot of success after your debut album “Finding My Way Home’, can you tell us about an event that really had an impact on you or your music?

Yeah I think working with Radiohead and other major electronic artists has really inspired me quite deeply. In all sorts of ways, learning how to rehearse, how to take myself seriously… that as well, and again this electronic aspect with the recording. Things such as using pre-recorded material and manipulating it, collating it and using it the live performances. So I learned a lot with art-rock kind of people definitely.

 

You are of Bahraini and British origin, when did you start to connect to your Arabian musicality origins?

So my father is Bahraini and my mum is British,  and as I continued my music studies and graduated from music college, I started to discover new music.

 

The album that really inspired me to look into the music of my first home, was an album by ‘Blue Camel’ by Rabih Sbou-Khalil who was an oud player. This album brought up memories of the music of Bahrain from where I was  from growing up. That then inspired me to start researching the music and I experimented with mixing what I heard with jazz: then I suddenly felt like I had purpose and I felt a lot more rounded as a person because I was mixing my Bahraini heritage and my British heritage together, and yeah… I became one, I feel like I’m always evolving.

 

So thats where it really began, with that album, ‘Blue Camel’ -  It’s awesome, its a brilliant album

 

From the ‘La Sabateour', I think Jamil Jamal is my fav  - can you tell me about how you came to write this song ?

Sure, so that was the second piece I had written inspired by Arabic scales and rhythms and I mean it’s quiet a complex tune, but also very simple in it’s idea - along this idea and theme of evolving both identities. I used a couple of Arabic scales, but it’s all meshed together it had the kind of complex, kind of, menacing quality to it. I really enjoyed that feeling of being able to mix these two types of music together and also to bring out the wonderful improvisations of the band. Everyone has their opportunity to shine and it’s lovely how it all comes out in the piece…

 

Where are you based at the moment?

I live in a very sleepy village just outside of Lutton, it’s very peaceful it’s a nice change to London, it’s nice to write music and chill out.

 

Can you tell us about your quarter tone flugelhorn?

A flugelhorn is just like a trumpet, but it’s bigger - you can kind fo think of it as a pregnant trumpet, so it’s a little wider, the tubing is bigger, it creates a warmer more mellow sound - so the colours are slightly different when you’re playing this instrument. Flugelhorns don’t usually have quarter tones, which are used more in Arabic music, Indian music and music with that kind of free jazz.


So I had been wanting to play quarter tones to really get into the very emotional notes that you have in Arabic music: which uses quarter tones. For me, I often think of them as the blues qualities in Arabic music: similar to the blues. This kind of music where its very emotional and they tell stories about their struggles - for me thats the Arabic version: quartertones.

 

I feel I can get deeper into the music with my emotions having this new instrument. It was made for me by the guy who makes my other instruments, his name is Kenny and his company collects trumpets. He lives round the corner from me and he has a little workshop at the end of his garden where he makes fantastic instruments all by hand.

 

Are you looking forward to your concert? Have you played the venue before? What can we expect from the experience ?

I’m really looking forward to it, so my band we haven’t played at the Southbank Centre, so its obviously a very exciting thing.

 

What you’ll expect is, we’re going to be playing music from ‘La Sabatoure’ and we’re going to be playing music that is inspired by the music of the pearl divers from Bahraini. Also music that will be using the drumming groups who would typically perform in wedding celebrations, so you’ll here a bit of that.

 

I’ve also invited Brigette Baraha, a singer, and she’s going to sing you three melodies that I’ve written inspired by this music, so that’s really lovely.

 

There’s also going to be some wonderful lighting by a visual artist called ‘Tupac Martia’. It is going to be a visual experience as well as sonic. So hopefully all the senses will be awakened, enthused and excited.


We will also have an oud player who’s going to be opening the set who’s name is ‘Rihab Azar’ and she has an amazing story:

She is from Syria and her birth place is Khan and obviously Khan has been destroyed, and so she moved to London. She’s got this amazing story of her birth place and moving to London and this emotional journey she’s had.

 

I think it’s a wonderful theme of migration and collaboration of cultures, so yeah, she’s going to be opening it, so I’m very excited about that.

 

I should also mention the it’s the launch of my remix EP, it’s really fun to collaborate with other people who are not jazz musicians.It’s really exciting when you never know what’s going to happens, and that’s the beauty of music.

 

Havana Meets Kingston

I had a rather loud chat with a couple of the crew from the this huge fusion project: the brain child of Mr.Savona, this is a fusion between Cuban musicians and Africa in the taste of dub and reggae. Delicous!

Sebye Ntege

Here I spoke to the lovely Sebye Ntege about his music, his instrumentalism, his inspirations for his new album and playing WOMAD. 

LADAMA

LADAMA is a group of all powerful females from various places in South America, they come together to inspire one another with their local rhyhms, but also to teach and educate women around the world as they travel. 

Ian Brennan

Ian Brenann has had many production projects always involving civilisations from oppressed or persecuted communities. He once won a Grammy Award for production global mega-stars Tinariwen, Tuaregs of the North African desert. This year I spoke to him about Abatwa the Pygmy from Rwanda, and their trip together to WOMAD. 

 

Bollywood Brass Band

The great and grande Bollywood Brass Band have been pumping it for years. 

My Baby

Prog-rock funky pyscadelic trio from Amsterdam talk to me about their concepts behind their music, and much more. 

Hashmat Sultana

Sufi soul singing sisters from India brought their award winning talents to WOMAD where I spoke to them about what Sufi music is, their journey to the big stage and their plans for the future. 

Orchestre Les Mangelepa

Legendary band that have been playing in Kenya and all around Africa for 40 years, FINALLY make it across the pond, and I get to chat to them about their first festival in Europe / England, audiences around the world and their style of playing and music making. 

Meklit

Ethio-jazz queen is stepping out of the Mulatu Astake spotlight for ethio-jazz and is taking the name for herself, I talk to her about how she keeps her music contemporary and what makes musicians important in society. 

Amadou and Mariam

Amadou and Mariam need near to no introduction: they have been chart topping the west African music scene for decades together. I was honoured to catch them and chat to them about their music making, community and music in Mali, and plans for the future.

The Herbaliser

 I spoke to one half of the instrumental hip-hop outfit Olly, about Herbalisers origins, why it's instrumental and their journey together in music. 

Tal National

Tal National come from all over North Africa, and they bring their fusion music to audiences the world over. I spoke to them about the origins of their style and playing in England. 

In Conversation with: Afro Celt Sound System

soundsystem
Afrocelt

@WOMAD 2017

London in the 80’s / WOMAD / Whirl-y Gig / West African Music / Multiculturalism

 

When I was ruffly 16 years old, I listened for the first time to a global fusion album. This album was Release by Afro Celt Sound System. The album boasts multi-culturalism, with Scottish bagpipes, traditional Irish flutes, fiddles, Indian rhythms, West African Kora… to name but a few, all fused with infectious unstoppable electronic dance beats. 

 

This album changed my life. I had never before danced to anything non-western in sound. Nor had I heard fusions from the global North to South. I had also never previously heard the bagpipes sound funky.

 

Afro Celt Sound-System as the name might suggest fuse traditional Western folk instruments with West African instruments and merge the whole thing into the electronic dance scene. Formed in 1995 the Afro Celt band consists of mystro musicians in their own right.

 

In this interview I talk to Simon Emmerson, a prevalent figure in the changing musical trends in London since the 70’s, Larla O Lionáird of the Irish influences, and N’Fale Kouyate, the West African griot Kora player. Together in a cosy yurt at WOMAD Festival 2017, we spoke through the changing trends in music, the global Norths relation to African music and the London music scene through the ages….

——————————————————————————————————————————

WOMAD 2017 Saturday, BBC Radio 3 Charlie Gillett Stage, 8:15 - 9:30pm

 

Speaking with : Simon Emmerson, Larla O Lionairde, N’Fale Kouyate, (Johnny Kalsi)

 

I was overwhelmed to be given the opportunity to talk to Afro-Celt Sound System, as a long time lover of their fantastic fusion of traditional folk musics of the global north, with traditional folk musics of the global south, the incredibly versatile fusion dance music has had me dancing for years. 

 

I wanted to try and map out the various influences in Afro-Celts vast discography of music spanning from their first album release  ‘Volume 1: Sound Magic’ (1996). Having since spanned a further nine albums, the endless array of incredible sounds from one album to the next is truly worthy of the term musical ‘melting pot’. 

I started by asking the guys where the Irish Celtic influences came from within the band….

 

Larla: well it comes from Simon meeting Davy Spillane from County Clare in Ireland and they met over Baba Mal records, and that was where the initial content was, and ever since then there’s been a array of performers and singers who, also some Scottish musicians, so theres a big heavy influence and I joined the band a few years ago and I have been playing the Irish flutes and bohdrán.

 

SD: Im studying ethnomusicology in SOAS and I just love it, so can I ask, how did it all come together, with the Scottish the Irish, I know the West African and Indian rhythms too? 

Simon: Yeah I mean we use Bhangra grooves, Dub grooves, yeah it's a melting pot. 

 

SD: How are the songs constructed? Is it all the work of one genius conductor? 

Larla/N’Fale: Ahh Simon, Simon is the clever guy

 

Simon: Ok so I never wanted to be a virtuoso musician. I started of as a punk, my primary agenda was probably as an activist, but then over the years, you get a little bit older, and then music has become a big part of my life. But as a record producer, I got very interested the music that I grew up with in London. 

So as a kid I grew up in South London, I was surrounded by reggae and ska, I as a punk I was very much on the fringes of all the sound systems that you had in London. In the early 80’s I worked in a jazz specialist shop called ‘Mole Jazz’ and I got very into jazz, but I discovered African music. I discovered the music of West Africa; Fela Kuti, I started trying to play African guitar in the way that Africans do it, but in my own kind of punk way. 

So I met a guitarist called Spike, who was in a punk band, and we became part of a band called Weekend and we were playing kind of African licks in a kind of Indie feel. That soon developed to me being in a band called Working Week, through all that I ended up in Africa in the early 90’s and it was Davy Spillaine who set me off on the road to the Afrocelt because he told me that the aboriginal Irish were dark skinned and that there are loads of legends of dark skinned Irish. 

He told me lots of stories about how the North Africans having frame drums like the ‘bodhrán’ and having pipes, and I got interested in the Bardic tradition which is the kind of western magical tradition that goes back to the idea that music is a transformative power, that through song and poetry you keep the ancestral legends alive. I met through Baba Mal, I met the griots, and N’Fale is a West African griot, and living breathing proof that the Bardic tradition is a reality, because this is exactly what N’Fale does, it is his culture, and he is a founder of Afro-celt Sound System.

 

SD: Fantastic, so tell us what is your instrument? 

N’Fale: My instrument in the Kora (twenty-one stringed Harp, West Arica), and the Balafon (wooden xylophone, Gambia) and I sing.

 

SD: Wonderful, as a student at SOAS University (London) we have the opportunity to spend six weeks studying the Kora. It’s such a beautiful instrument. 

N’Fale: 21 strings there are to tune… *laughs*

 

SD: So in the group we have many different origins, I was wondering if there is a place you perform as a group that feels like a home for the band? A base? 

Simon: The band was conceived at WOMAD 1995. That was the fist time I helped introduce a kind of post acid house rave Sound System called Whirl-y Gig*. 

In 1995 Whirl-Y Gig set up a tent at WOMAD and we played there. Here there was a lot of my friends with bands like Joy, and Transglobal Underground and all the kind of fusion techno bands. Many of which were based in East London. A lot of us were. 

The East London Asian community had created the kind of Asian Underground so you had Johnny Kalsi and we were all clustered around the Whirl-y Gig, of which came to WOMAD, and then from that we started working with Real World (Records). So in a way Real World records and the Whirl-y Gig were very much the source, perhaps the origins of the band. 

That was because East London was this kind of melting pot at the time of multiculturalism, and we’d all been brought up with music from different cultures. Where as Ireland was much more kind of isolated culturally. 

 

Lara: At that time for sure, actually. My sort of introduction to sounds from around the world; so I lived in New York 2000/2001 for about a year and a half, and I’d have the most amazing experience when I walked home. 

Each block I passed would have a completely different musical sound. You had the meringue from Puerto Rico you had the Arabic grooves from Morocco, there was a trance session on in the next block and polish music over the road. This was the sort of scenery I had when I’d finish work and I’d walk home, and so that was something we didn’t have in Ireland. For me going to New York was a similar experience to Simon with WOMAD and such. 

 

Simon: Yes, like I said, when I went to Senegal in ’91 and I walked around Dakar I heard on African radio; there was salsa, there was funk, there was hip-hop, there was a huge amount of latino music there was, bhangra and bollywood, which of corse was huge there. So West Africa was just as much a melting pot. In Baba Mals band there were five languages, so the idea that multiculturalism was invented in the West is not true, there is just a much multiculturalism in Africa I mean reggae… 

 

N’Fale: Latino, the jazz and the pop, the blues all the blues, the pentatonic. In my country there are many natural players, my Uncle is the director of the National Ensemble Traditionál, all these differences come to this National band to build an Orchestral Ensemble, and me I educate in this family, and I discover many different cultures. Polyphonic singing, such as the singing. I am a teacher in Belgium of singing polyphonic, and I do some singing workshops in WOMAD, I use that and I catch some singers too. I am now also in Guinea musical director to coach some people, but this experience Africa gave me many possibilities to hear more different. 

Because I learn in the traditional musical family, I have no choice in my musical education, but when I go I go to a different cultures to study, and to mix again the music. The big musicians always like the musician from African. 

 

SD: So it’s safe to say you are all constantly learning… 

 

*ooh yess** 

 

N’fale: Yes I think we are always sharing, I have worked with for example Lady Smith Black Mambazo, and many others. All these experiences gave me endless possibilities. With Africa being a very nice experience for the world music; to be honest the term world music… I don’t think if I perceive very much that… because they choose the jazz out, and the French music out, the pop and rock … and the rest… what do we have to do with this? Ok same bag; world music. 

 

SD: I completely agree, it can be said that it would only seem to be world music from people in the western hemisphere, as it’s only our genres excluded. 

 

Nfale: In Africa they sing in R&B and they come and sing very nice, but if they hear them they say ok, world music, because he’s from Africa. But then there is jazz music in Africa, the base of jazz, and the blues is from Africa as is the pentatonic, but they call them ‘world music’. 

 

SD: You all like to mix it up…

 

N’Fale: The new thing for me on the music; the ‘afrotronix’ my traditional instrument with electronic, it becomes completely afrotronic

 

SD: Such as the music of Afriqoui, they have the Kora with electronic music, and African calabash drumming dubbed…?

 

N’Fale: I use the calabash, completely traditional, and I used completely modern Panasonic electronic, such as my Wah Wah with my Kora, *impression of a wah wah pedal*. 

 

S:D That’s soo cool.

 

N’Fale: I have one pedal that I like with the sound of the Kora, very very unique to other griots.

 

 

SD: I was hoping to know what music you guys are listening too at the moment in your spare time?

N’Fale: Electronic music

 

Lara: Yeah you know I listen to everything from Rock, to folk music to electronica to classical there so much music I listen to it all.

Theres a  great radio station in Ireland I love. I love that it goes from jazz to classical to pop, to rock. There all just sounds from different genres, I hate, I dislike being put into a genre. 

 

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With this, the band and myself were summoned away from the yurt in order to get ready for their performance. 

 

I made my way over to the Charlie Gillet BBC Radio 3 stage where they we to play and awaited. As expected, the crowd grew immensely, an obvious choice on the bill it seemed. 

Sure enough out came the band, with Indian drums, Koras, balafons, Irish flutes, Scottish Bagpipes various percussion instruments and of course vocals. 

Afro Celt Sound System did not let down. They proceeded to play an electrified performance with grooves that demand dancing, melodies that shake the hips and beats that stomp the feet. 

I felt incredibly pleased to see the awesome fusion dance music performed live with such liveliness, passion and energy, all worthy of the 20 year strong band. 

In Conversation With: Oumou Sangaré

Oumou-Sangare.jpg

@ WOMAD Festival 2017

Wassoulou / Mali / Feminism / Social Commentary

Having recorded her first album ‘Moussolou’ in 1989 in Bamako Mali, Oumou Sangare has made the music of her homeland: the Wassoulou region in Mali one of the signature sounds to make it globally from West Africa. As well as this, Oumou has globalised the local sound of the Kamale Ngoni. 

Having been singing since a young child, and catching the attention of many, including African blues maestro Ali Farka Touré, as a voice of her generation. Oumou even went on tour at the age of 16 with the percussion group Djoliba, and by the age of 21 Oumou was already a star. 

 

Aside being the ambassador for Wassoulou, Oumou has alway used her voice, local and globally for social comment. Specifically commenting on topics such as women status in society, child marriage and genital mutilation. Her first album was an unprecedented hit in West Africa with over 200,000 copies sold locally, consequently in the coming years, Oumou played at every major venue in the world, and toured with global legends. 

 

Using her voice for women across the world, Oumou was named ambassador of the FAO (Food and Agricultural Organisation - fighting hunger across the world), furthermore she won the UNESCO (promotion of peace and security)  prize in 2001 for her work speaking out on social issues. 

 

Of course in the proceeded eight studio albums, Grammy nominations, amongst many other awards have showered Oumou, and she is celebrating her latest album release ‘Mogoya’ (2017) by playing a few gigs around the world. 

 

I find myself here at WOMAD Festival 2017 about to talk to Oumou Sangare before her big show on the main stage. As I wait with her for our translator I am taken aback by her sheer presence. An energy emanated from Oumou has an intensely powerful, righteous woman. A little humbled, I began…. 

 

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Sophie Darling (SD) : Firstly, it is such an honour to be sitting here opposite you. I am in love with your music, and also with your activism. 

You’re an advocate for women rights, I wanted to talk about the difficulties of your strife? Was being an advocate for women rights and such a conscious decision you made to use your voice to make these political opinions, or was it something that came naturally? Something you felt you had to do? 

Omou Sangare (OS) : Very difficult, very. It was a conscious decision, I didn’t have an easy childhood, my mother was sick a lot, I felt I needed to fight to make her happy, to allow her to be happy, I wanted to fight for the injustice, against the injustice of being so sad all of that time 

 

SD:I am aware that one of your albums is entitled ‘Ten Kola Nuts’ which is the going currency for a Malian wife, can you tell us about that concept? Why did you want to talk about it? 

 

OS: It’s like a marriage package, It’s like an engagement, it’s an asking. There’ a lot of different stages in marriage, the engagement stage, then you have the devot-age stage. Basically I wanted to talk and use it as a symbol to talk about marriage, because for me that’s what deprives women of her rights, ok marriage can go well and it’s good for her, but if it goes badly, then the woman will be deprived of her life, she might become a slave, and she doesn’t want that to happen, it’s a symbol… it’s symbolic. 

 

SD: At what age did you start to play with the music Are your family musical? Where you encouraged to play music? 

 

OS: My mother, my mother *laughs* didn’t want me to leave school to follow music, but  she did want me to sing, because my own mother was a great singer, my grandmother was a musical star as well, and so my mother encouraged me, as my mum said she would hear her mothers voice in me, but she didn’t want me just to be a singer, she wanted me to follow my studies as well as be a singer. 

 

SD: Has your mother managed to see you perform at all? 

 

OS: Now yes *laughs* oh. No no no, go to school Oumor, she waited until I was a big girl, she waited until I was professional, yes.

 

SD: I know that in the early days, Nick Gold the record producer of World Circuits took an interest  in you after he was handed a tape of your recordings. How did you find things changed for you? Were the social barriers surrounding gender and music easy for you to manoeuvre? Were difficulties enhanced?

 

OM: No, the story about how he heard the music was that Ali Farke Touré was a huge huge fan of mine . So when the first record came out, he was screaming my name everywhere, and telling everyone about it, and playing the music, this is when Nick heard it for the first time, and then he went to Bamako and he said he heard it everywhere everywhere, he said oh I love that women voice, I would like to meet her. 

 

SD: Wassoulou music, I was wondering if we could ask a little about that, as I don’t know much about it. 

OS: So Wassoulou is the music for dancing, for rejoicing, for relaxing, but it always carries a message

 

SD: Do you have any pre/post gig rituals for good luck? 

 

OS:*laughs* Oh yeah, sometimes, I pour a small amount of water on the ground, sometimes I might forget, but always I try to do it, for the ancestors, for my grandmother. 

 

SD: Were you taught to sing, or where you born this way? 

OS: I was born with it

 

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I left feeling charged up by Oumous very presence. I joined the huge crowd awaiting by the main stage to watch the Songbird of Wassoulou take to the stage. Loved by an adoring audience, Oumour Sangare exploded the stage with her powerful voice that emanated across the festival. Playing old and new tunes, Oumou focused mainly on her album. With dedications to women, wives and mothers, the reaction was of indulgence and love as the audience danced and sung throughout the entire performance. 

 

I was honoured to have spoken to Oumou Sangare, and can confirm that the new album is fabulous. 

 

Oumou