Tag Archives: international music

A Rather Laidback Review | The Calais Sessions

I was excited about ordering this CD. It combines two of the things I am very passionate about in my life: my love of music and the work I do with refugees in our local area. I’ve always enjoyed learning about other cultures and their varying traditions. So when I saw an advert asking me to purchase The Calais Sessions CD, I knew it was something that needed to be on my shelves.

calais-sessions-cd-cover

The album is a collection of songs featuring musicians who resided in the Calais Jungle. A makeshift studio was set up in the camp and an array of instruments were offered to the people. The website and album sleeve both promote this as the voices of those people behind the headlines. But it is also an expression of raw and pure emotion from those who have fled their homes because of traumas the majority of British folk can never truly understand.

My first time listening to the album was in the kitchen (a fine place to review an album), cooking up a fusion of Italian and Spanish. The first track was ideal for the job, as I needed to make a basic bread dough and knead for 5 minutes. On shuffle, the first song played was Deskovo Oro, an ideal 6 minutes and 11 seconds long. I finished kneading just in time for the song to change over.

The track was produced quickly, with all of the musicians involved being given a chance to express their skills and styles through their own adaptation of Blagoja Deskoski’s track of the same title. Lead by a Romanian violinist, there is a clear bass established through drums and other string instruments then accompany. It’s fast-paced and had me moving around the kitchen more than I would had I not been listening to the track. With no vocals, I wasn’t distracted and so focused entirely on the stunning sound.

Many of the songs are in a different language. The opening track to the album is called The Lost Singer, performed by four Syrians and dedicated – the CD sleeve has kindly translated the words – to ‘the Syrian martyrs’. La Llorana is a Spanish song, telling a truly sorrowful story. Ya Rab’oun was written by 21 Abdullah from Kuwait, where the main language is Arabic. Khandahar is sung in Farsi, though the original poem was written in English. Yesus and Hallelujah are both sung by singers of Ethiopian and Eritrean origin. The track Ismail is named after the artist, who was known as ‘the music man of the jungle’, who fled his country after being threatened by the Taliban who refused to let him perform.

University Story is a collaboration between an Iraqi rapper and two UK volunteers who have done a lot of work in the Jungle. It is a mixture of languages: I’m not sure whether the rap is done in Kurdish or Arabic – it doesn’t sound familiar to me at all, so I assume not Arabic. It’s a stunning song, with the English lyrics summarising the physical reaction to a love torn by distance.

Long Road has a traditional folk sound to it. It was produced by the team who ran The Calais Sessions, and is dedicated to all the musicians they’d discovered in the Jungle. It summarises to beautifully the natural association with all refugees “so far from home” and touches on the sentiment of those volunteers who can picture their home as the place they will return to, knowing that the people this track is aimed at cannot do the same.

It is the giggles at the end of Deskovo Oro and the cheers and whooping at the end of bonus track Every Heart That Loves which captures my heart. No matter how terrible the situation may be, music can always be a way to release emotion, share emotion and have voices heard. Even if you don’t understand the words, you cannot connect with the voice and the instruments and join with the story.

For me, the album is beauty. When listening to it is easy to forget that this beauty was created in a place symbolic of loss and devastation. It had me dancing around my kitchen and I have already grasped a couple of lyrics so that I am singing along.

All profits from the sale of this album go to Citizens UK. To get your own copy head over to http://www.thecalaissessions.com/buy-music

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Independent Venue Week

A week of celebrations for those small music venues around the UK, and a nod to the people who run them. Week in, week out these venues offer local artists the chance to experience playing live in front of a varied audience, as well as inviting those from further afield.

From Monday 26th January – Sunday 1st of February, venues across the UK will be hosting an eclectic mixture of the talent which has graced their stages as part of Independent Venue Week. Stewart Baxter, of Warren Records, pointed out that “January is always quiet month for all businesses and a time when these venues struggle so IVW helps highlight these places, bring in big acts and put a spotlight on places like the Adelphi.”

Hull bands always refer back to their times at the Adelphi, the iconic venue situated on De Grey Street, which kicks off their celebrations with a reminder of their 30th birthday shenanigans. On Sunday 25th, they will be showing a film premiere of the Live performance of the Kaiser Chiefs gig from November for members of the club.

Adelphi IVW poster

With events following each night of the week, there is a collection of talent from Hull and beyond to pull the audience in. This is the key element of Independent Venue Week. At a quiet time of the year, audiences often forget to support their local acts. The Hull music scene is growing significantly, with an increasing number of venues. But for every new venue or band willing to play, they need the audience to follow and support them. The summer festivals pull in huge crowds, but it is the weekly nights and small venues outside of the city centre which need your support throughout the year. Stewart added that “These places are responsible for every live act you see today, everyone started at a local venue, and without their support and belief in new music we wouldn’t have any of it. So it’s important to remember where it all starts, to support these bands now knowing that many of them will go on to greater things and we have helped them get there.”

#madeinhull poster

On Tuesday there is something different on the cards. #MadeinHull will see 10 bands on the stage, playing the instruments which have been set up for them. Selected at random on the night, each of these bands will then have the chance to perform a couple of songs to the crowd who gather. No messing about, simply get up and play when your name is called out. For the small price of £2, a night of opportunities.

On Thursday, US bands The Weeks and The Apache Relay, grace the stage, alongside Hull’s own Young Jack. This one is expected to bring in a huge crowd, after their last visit to the Adelphi was sold out.

On Friday, Fruit is hosting Summat Good, featurin Paris XY, Oedipus The King and T.G.L.D for a night of music and art, as the art collective Something Entirely Different produce work around the venue. A reminder that Hull boasts not only its growing music scene, but also the art scene as well.

frankie & heartstrings gig poster

Back at Adelphi, Saturday night sees Sunderland band Frankie & The Heartstrings perform, with support from the fantastic LIFE and new band Vulgarians. Their music described as “the terrible truth for the creative freaks”, they have an energetic sound, which I assure you will you on your feet and moving around the room. A fantastic line-up.

Concluding on Sunday with Lach reading from his debut book of poetry, ‘The Thin Book of Poems’. Described as “a face-ache funny, beat-punk-unplugged joy” by The Guardian and “a gruff-and-tough punk turned poet with a heart of gold” by Timeout New York, this night, with support from The Pub Corner Poets, offers a relaxed, humorous adventure.

Don’t let the January chill keep you at home this week. Even if you can only spare the one evening to support our local venues, ensure you get down to either The New Adelphi Club or Fruit. With such a collection of artists available, there’s something to entice everyone.

Musings From The Mosh Pit

In interviews, many bands have commented that they feel a different sense of joy with a hometown audience. That the atmosphere is different, the adrenalin targeting different zones of the brain.

Can it be possible that you feel a similar sensation as a member of the hometown audience?

This is something I’ve been muddling over in my brain for some time now. I spent my summer camped out at festivals 20 minutes walk from my front door. I saw the same bands play over and over. And I got excited about it every time.

Trinity Festival ended with a visit from Eastbourne’s Toploader. Popular at the brink of the millennium, I had worn down my copy of Onka’s Big Moka in my teenage years. I knew that I’d still have the lyrics to almost all of the songs catalogued somewhere in the back of my brain. Yet, it was during their set that I allowed other members of the audience to get on my nerves. Pushing and screeching and clawing for attention, it wasn’t actually that different to the audiences for the previous acts of the weekend, of which were mostly Hull-based. But my claimed section in front of the barrier was being attacked by those who had come for only that one band. I was at siege with people who had taken the time to get frazzled by alcohol on a warm day, when I had been promoting local talent and enjoying the undulating crowds who had supported them throughout.

I did, of course, enjoy Toploader’s performance. My friend having been trapped outside the sardine can centre of Trinity Square, I was back to being on my own. Though I was on my own in a large crowd rather than on my own with the stage. Perhaps this was the fault, this was the reason I let frustrations bite and nag at me. Like a grumpy toddler, I didn’t want to share.

No, my role as a music writer is to share the experience. I love the idea of bringing someone that same wonderful awe I get at a live gig. So, it isn’t that.

A week later, and I was crammed into the Adelphi with members of the community and long-running Kaiser Chief fans. I’d paid my way, as we all had, and again was working on a review. Their first album had also adorned my CD rack at one time, and I was genuinely ecstatic at the thought of seeing them perform. Yet, I finished the night biting my tongue and panicking that the review I would write would be negative. I’d attended with the same friend as Trinity, working together for the piece: she reviewing Black Delta Movement and LIFE, as I took on the international favourites.

Kaiser Chiefs @ Adelphi
Kaiser Chiefs @ Adelphi

I couldn’t explain it. I had simply enjoyed BDM and LIFE better. Chatting with Mick Sanders, LIFE, after the gig, he pointed out that it was exactly the same set as they played at Trinity. I had worked this out after two songs, and realised that it had only enhanced the experience. I was seconds ahead of the other audience members when it came to knowing the words, and even called out the title of their final song as they warmed up to it: instinct pumping the adrenalin as I burst into the catchy opening line and bounced to the familiar tune.

It wasn’t that Kaiser Chiefs or Toploader didn’t put on show. Ricky Wilson was credited for demonstrating exactly how to do this, having interacted with the crowd throughout with anecdotes, clapping and a runway to the bar.

The Colour Line performing at The Sesh
The Colour Line performing at The Sesh

Last night, I attended The Sesh – a regular event showcasing local talent. I can only manage this during school holidays, and the bands in the line-up were four I had not seen live. Three were Hull bands, one including James Coggin who I’d interviewed a couple of weeks before with a different band, and the fourth was a special guest from California, Plague Vendor who are currently touring with The Black Lips. It was amazing; there were times you couldn’t wipe the grin from my face.

Chasing Athena held stunning instrumentals, and lead singer Ian Berry has a beautiful voice which digs into your soul. Age of Atlas told bizarre jokes and had technical issues, but were magical to watch on stage, a heat of energy. Headliners for the night, The Colour Line refused to let themselves be confined by the stage, and I ended up in a mosh pit for the first time since leaving university. Then, a younger more invisible self, I’d prefer to stand and watch from the outside. Now, I touched more backsides than you probably should on a Tuesday night, as I helped carry the performers into the crowd or back to the stage. I did spend a considerable amount of the set viewing the antics of the audience, frantically galloping like gorillas in a circle pit, bouncing mops of hair throwing their sweat around, and general movement as they followed Sam Rudderforth around The Polar Bear. I watched as the photographer for the night cast aside his camera and join them, taking the opportunity to attempt getting one shot which wasn’t all blur.

Daniel Mawer, La Bête Blooms
Daniel Mawer, La Bête Blooms

Dan Mawer, who books the acts for the event, and who I had met when interviewing him as lead singer of La Bête Blooms, asked which had been my favourite of the bands. I couldn’t place just one of them. I’d enjoyed them all for different reasons and regarded them as highly as each other within this respective field. I would happily see each them perform again in the near future. I felt bad for not giving a simple response, and standing confused before him.

I’m not sure I can make my point on this. I’m not sure there is an answer to the question posed, because I’m not entirely sure if this is just me overthinking something rather basic.

It could be that with bands such as Life and Black Delta Movement, I have forged a bond through numerous writings on them as subject matter. It may be that live performances have always been more on the small, more intimate scale for me, and that it’s this that captivates me. Perhaps the polished showmanship of international performers is too polished; I enjoy the spontaneity and raw energy of a local gig, which bounces from its audience as much as with them.

LIFE - Mez
LIFE – Mez
Black Delta Movement
Black Delta Movement

I don’t think I need an answer. But I did need to mull it over, to share my musings from the mosh pit. To express my discomfort with my thoughts.

I’d appreciate your thoughts too. Local bands vs International. A preference? A difference? A sensation?

Manic Street Preachers: 20 years of The Holy Bible

An album which signalled beginning and an end for the Manic Street Preachers, it is dark, emotional and beautiful.
The title I have given this blog is a little imprecise: the album is 20 years old, but it’s only been a part of my life for about 12 years. It was not my Holy Bible, but the band were the closest I had come to a feeling of divinity. The spirit of Richey James Edward’s lyrics sung by the glorious James Dean Bradfield, was enough to have a teenage me seeing a chance at heaven.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Manics were, and still are in a more ghostly manner, all-encompassing in my life. I no longer sit for hours surrounded by their paraphernalia, drowning in their lyrics, as I did at eleven, when This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours sought me out and took hold of my heart. They have become so much a part of me, that I do not need such a direct connection with them. My first tattoo was of my favourite song, emblazoned forever on my back, and just as with this tattoo I often find I catch a glimpse in the mirror and for a moment realise I have almost forgotten that it was there. I know it is there, but it’s been so long since I glanced at my own spine. Yet, knowing they are there means even when I forget, I am not removed from them.

The Holy Bible was their third studio album, released on the 29th August 1994. As with the Manics themselves, this album was attacked by the majority as a morbid collection of monstrosities and self-indulgence, and cherished by the minority who saw it as a series of screams in both pain and sheer pleasure. The band had stated that they felt they were drifting away from themselves, becoming too stereotypically Rock. And so this album came with a somewhat different sound to the previous Gold Against The Soul and allowed lyricists Richey and Nicky Wire to delve into their very souls and musicians James and Sean to lift them up with a hefty platform.

Six months after its release, Richey checked out of the Embassy Hotel on the day the band were due to set off for a US tour. Two weeks later his car was found on the Severn Bridge, abandoned, and since Richey James Edwards has been a memory and the occasional sighting by a possibly overly-ambitious fan.

Yet Richey’s spirit is still very much alive. He is remembered by all Manics fans, even those – like myself – who never truly knew the band of as a four-piece, through consistent questioning by interviewers and the use of his lyrics in later albums. James, Sean and Nicky have never accepted closure and his family turned down the option to declare him “legally dead” in 2002, instead allowing the term “presumed dead” later in 2008.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/emp/embed/smpEmbed.html?playlist=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bbc.co.uk%2Fiplayer%2Fplaylist%2Fp0276kbm&title=Mastertapes%3A%20Manic%20Street%20Preachers%20on%20returning%20to%20The%20Holy%20Bible&product=iplayer“>Mastertapes: Manic Street Preachers on returning to The Holy Bible


For me, The Holy Bible greeted me at a time when I was facing my own demons.

The lyrics rang out and stirred something new in me. I could fall asleep to the words one night and be haunted by them another. Any truth I found in the lyrics, frightened me. They are, after all, an insight into one very disturbed mind.

Yes hits home so many teenage realities. “I don’t know what I’m scared of or what I even enjoy” – fear was my enjoyment as a teenager. I started to face them and to run full pelt at them, with a desire to overcome and subdue all that terrified and haunted me. And what teenager doesn’t relate to the “11th commandment” of solitude? What teenager doesn’t question their identity and their place in the world?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA4st 7lb was a song which inspired my university dissertation – 13000 words on a topic I delved into with far too much enthusiasm. It disgusted and intrigued me, leading to a mixture of non-fiction and fiction work on the topics of mental disorders, anorexia in both male and female patients and thinspiration (something which deeply sickened me). Richey summed it all up so wonderfully and hideously: “this discipline’s so rare please applaud”.

But the song which strikes me the most, especially in hindsight, is Die in the Summertime. “the hole in my life stains even the soil” referred, in my view, to a growing emptiness I held as tightly as I could. The summer in which I purchased this album was one which changed my life forever, both the better and worse. It was the summer which changed me, and saw the end of my childhood and the beginning of my road to adulthood.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 

For more news and tour dates for the Anniversary Tour visit http://www.manicstreetpreachers.com/home

A Message to the Ebola Virus: Pack up and Go

The Ebola Crisis is worldwide news at the moment. Since the outbreak started in February, flights to the Ivory Coast have been restricted and over a thousand people have died. The BBC reported this outbreak to be the “deadliest to date” since the virus was first discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976.

Newspapers are reporting that many of the infected sites – Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria – are bringing in soldiers to monitor and establish strict quarantine sites. When speaking to Barmmy Boy, a young man visiting Hull from Sierra Leone and unable to return because of the outbreak, he compared the crisis the civil war which affected the country from 1991-2002.

Barmmy Boy, aka Lansana Mansarey, is from Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone. He came to the UK to work with several schools in Hull, teaching our young people about the conflict and corruption in his country as well as offering rap lessons. He has been unable to return due to the Ebola crisis, having to extend his time here until the end of the month. Though this may seem like a lengthy holiday, now that the kids are on their summer break, Barmmy Boy continues to work over here in order to support his family, a family who he misses and worries about constantly. He spoke to a group of us about his fears for the people in Sierra Leone, including his family and the members of a friend’s family who have contracted the virus.

Next week, Barmmy Boy is working with Steve Cobby, a music producer from Hull who has worked with such musicians as Radiohead, to produce a song about the dangers of Ebola, which he described as a “stranger” coming into the country and taking control. He said that you would not accept this from a stranger, telling him to pack up and go before he could cause any damage, and so he says the people must treat the Ebola virus in the same way, shunning it until it leaves. He aims to take the song back to Sierra Leone in order to teach the young people of his country about the precautions they can take to evade this virus and stop it from spreading. Ebola is contracted through bodily secretions, including sweat, and in a country with a 60% Muslim population, the shaking of hands is a custom difficult to break. Barmmy Boy explained that to test for a fever, a person will place a hand under the jawline to check temperature, something which is perfectly sensible were you to fear the other person had the flu, but which can be deadly if that person indeed is showing one of the first symptoms of the Ebola virus.

Barmmy Boy told us that “music is a driving force for many people in Sierra Leone”, describing the ways in which young people, including ex-combat fighters, can use music to give themselves a voice, to express their ideas and discuss their problems in a way which many still feel they are not entitled to do. He explained that his music is about many serious topics, including the conflict and corruption he has witnessed in his country, taboo subjects such as child abuse and HIV, as well as promoting a different way of life.

His song about Ebola will be similar to that of his biggest and most famous track ‘HIV Dangerous, which promotes taking precautions against this deadly virus. With messages written into this song such as “get up, stand up, make up, and go for check-up” as well as “better use a condom” his point is clear. His songs are catchy, with traditional dancehall rhythms and use of repetition to ensure the meaning stands out in strength. When asked why he was using a similar sound, he simply said that this is what is popular, and in order to reach as wide an audience as possible the song needs to be one which the people can accept quickly into their dancehalls and onto their radio stations.

In addition to the song about Ebola, Barmmy Boy will produce a song about the flaws in the education system, which he aims to produce when he returns to Freetown, which he admitted “the government might not like”. Previously, he has had his music taken off radio stations, and he said that they may threaten to banish him from Freetown, but he did not seem too concerned as he has a wide fan base not only in Freetown but also internationally with the work he has done in the UK and with WeOwnTv, a media production company based in Sierra Leone working with international companies and North American Filmmakers.

Barmmy Boy stated the messages he shares in his songs are “the most important thing I do” and that “there are things that can change in Sierra Leone” which he wishes to promote and share with his people.

I wish him all the best, and look forward to the release of ‘Pack ‘n’ Go’.