Saturday, January 12, 2008

Fela Kuti

Fela Kuti was quite possibly Nigeria's greatest ever musical export, Brian Eno claims to own more records by him than any other artist and James Brown aped his style when he toured Africa in the 1970s, which is as great a compliment as could be given. Fela was best known around the world as being the founder of Afrobeat, a heady mix of jazz influenced horn-led percussion elongated and twisted to form an almost ritualistic groove that has seduced musicians and dancers the world over.

I first discovered Fela's music at the tail end of the 1990s when I was doing my daily ritual of walking down Long Street from university to the station to catch my train home and as I walked past the African Music store this insane groove caught my ears like nothing else had in a long while. I charged in to find out what it was and left with three Fela albums and took them home and immersed myself in them. They were the redemption from the bog standard prog fodder and monotonous tech house that I was listening to at the time, they were the light at the end of the tunnel. I could write thousands of words on him but an extra long diatribe probably has no place on a blog, so I hope that you'll excuse the shortness of the piece but please do yourself a favour and search out his records if you haven't already.

Fela and his band Africa 70, originally called Koola Lobitos, were greatly influenced by the civil rights movement when they toured the United States in 1969 and it was on this trip that Fela first planted his activist roots through his involvement with members of the Black Panther party. He was against oppression and he was deeply opposed to the dictatorial Nigerian government of the time. After he had formed his commune Kalakuta Republic and declared it independent he was routinely raided, arrested and beaten by the police who were acting on the part of the government who saw him as a renegade and nuisance who they'd rather have dead than 'defiling the minds of the youth'. Kalakuta Republic also gave him a place to live with all his wives as he was probably as famous for his stance on human rights as he was for being a polygamist. As Fela's biographer Michael Veal stated, 'Fela's message of African empowerment became increasingly intertwined with dominant racist stereotypes of the African as vulgar, intoxicated, primitive, hypersexualised and indigenous mystic,' it can be said that his message wasn't perfect by any means but all of the complexities and contradictions of his personality formed the Fela mystic and like all great political and social opinions you may not agree with all of what has been said but what you do agree with has a profound effect on you and gives you something to carry with you in life or is that a bit too romantic of an ideal?

Fela and his wives, yes they're all his. You'd be smiling too probably.

In 1972 Paul McCartney quite ignorantly decided to record the album that was to become Band On The Run in Lagos but didn't bargain for being held up and least of all for the lepers on the streets but he did make the effort to go and see Fela and his band and described it as such, "They were the best band I've ever seen live...When Fela and his band eventually began to play, after a long, crazy build-up, I just couldn't stop weeping with joy. It was a very moving experience." Thrilled by his experience, McCartney thought of recording with some of the musicians working with the extraordinary 33-year-old firebrand. When Fela caught wind of the plan he denounced McCartney from the stage of his club and then arrived unannounced at the studio to berate him for 'stealing black man's music'. Good for the man, the fact that McCartney is alive and Lennon is dead is proof that God hates us. I'm kidding, sort of.

In 1974 the police arrived with a search warrant and a cannabis joint, which they had intended to plant on Fela. He became wise to this and swallowed the joint. In response, the police took him into custody and waited to examine his feces. Fela enlisted the help of his prison mates and gave the police someone else's feces, and Fela was freed. He then recounted this tale in his release 'Expensive Shit'.

1977's hit album 'Zombie' was a scathing attack on Nigerian soldiers and as it was a smash hit with the people it greatly infuriated the government who ordered a vicious attack against the Kalakuta Republic, during which one thousand soldiers attacked the commune. Fela was severely beaten, and his elderly mother was thrown from a window, causing fatal injuries. The Kalakuta Republic was burned, and Fela's studio, instruments, and master tapes were destroyed. Fela claimed that he would have been killed if it were not for the intervention of a commanding officer as he was being beaten. Fela's response to the attack was to deliver his mother's coffin to the main army barrack in Lagos and write two songs, 'Coffin for Head of State' and 'Unknown Soldier', referencing the official inquiry which claimed the commune had been destroyed by an unknown soldier. It always amazes me how incredibly shite rouge governments are at covering up their acts of barbarianism and this is a glowing example.

Fela also famously ran for the presidency of Nigeria in 1979 but not without trouble. His band, Africa 70, deserted him in Berlin when they heard that he was planning on using all his money to fund his presidential bid but Fela was not one to be deterred and he promptly formed a new band, Egypt 80 and released the scathing character assassination of General Olusegun Obasanjo called 'International Thief Thief' which promptly lead to his candidacy being refused.

In the 1983 Motown were going to set up an African label and reportedly offered Fela a milion dollar deal (how much truth there is behind the figure I'll leave to you to debate its validity) and Fela's response was to contact the spirits via his personal sangoma, Professor Hindu. The spirits refused to let him sign until a grace period of two years had been observed and Fela further insisted on only leasing his back catalogue. Even then, Motown went along with it and in April 1985, the very month that Fela was about to sign, the Motown guy got sacked and the deal was off. Maybe the spirits knew something.

Fela was jailed in 1984 on highly dubious charges of currency smuggling and his case was taken up by human rights lawyers and organizations worldwide who tirelessly campaigned for his release, which they secured after 20 months of incarceration.

He regularly released albums and toured with Egypt 80 throughout the 1980s and early 1990s but it was at this time that his output suddenly stopped and it was rumored that he was suffering from a disease for which there was no known cure. It was rumored that the Nigerian government had gone to a sangoma and asked him to place a curse on the head of Fela Kuti but the truth was that after years of spreading his seed he was yet another tragic AIDS victim. He was pronounced dead on August 2, 1997 and on that day we truly lost an original who stood firmly by his beliefs in democracy and Africanism and who blessed us with some of the greatest records ever made. One thing that many people forget is that Fela was quite possibly one of the fiercest saxophonists to ever play. The sound that he got out of the instrument was almost chant-like, a growl, a purr and pure perfection. Well over a million people attended his funeral and there are numerous tribute nights to this day played in his honour. Thank you Fela and you were right, Music Is The Weapon of The Future.

The video is of Fela's 'Tears, Sorrow and Blood', which was famously sampled on balearic diggers delight Kwanzaa Posse 'Wicked Funk'. Check the way he brings the musical elements together in the intro, mesmerizing stuff.

My favourite Fela record is 'Everything Scatter', which I played as my last record in the Shack at the Electric Chair in June 2006 and it had the whole place bouncing off the roof and Kelvin Brown, a DJ who I have the utmost respect for, came up to me and said that it was in his top 5 records ever. Now that is an endorsement. It was probably up there as one of my greatest DJ experiences beyond a few gigs with Paul Hughes that I have ever had the privilege of experiencing.

Below is 2000 Black (Got To Be Free) which you can download. '2000 Black (Got To Be Free)' is a soaring call to arms to the black and disenfranchised youth to stand up against racism and oppression and it has the added bonus of fitting quite nicely into a disco, jazz or boogie set. Music for the head and the feet.

Fela Kuti & Roy Ayers - 2000 Blacks Got To Be Free

Friday, January 11, 2008

Daft Hands

Catcalledmorris (Chris to his mum) put this video up on his blog Northern Comfort and it is so brilliant, as is his blog, that I thought I'd share it with you. It must have taken ages to work it out and even longer to get a take without any mistakes. Superb stuff.

The music is Daft Punk 'Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger'.

Great find, Chris.

Sébastian Tellier

Sébastian Tellier is the master of off-beat modern psychedelia, his records are as new as they are old. If you heard his records blindly then you'd probably guess that they were produced sometime in the late 70s/early 80s but his production values and integration of electronica do give the game away somewhat. He was the first signing to Air's label, Record Makers and has toured extensively with the group. When La Ritournelle hit the stores it made unbelievable strides through clubland with everyone from Moonboots to Paolo Mojo wearing the grooves off it. It's one of those records that even when it comes on now the entire club comes up together. It is as heartfelt as it is earnest and as you can probably guess I love it.

Another thing that endeared him to me was that on some of the tracks on his sophomore album Politics he uses the great drummer Tony Allen, who is one of those men like Jack deJohnette who can turn an instrument as abrasive as the drums into something that is gentle and powerful at the same time. He's a master.

Check these videos out and get lost down the rabbit hole that is the outer cosmos of Sébastian Tellier's mind...I know, I do.

Sebastian Tellier - La Ritournelle (Mr Dan Radio edit), video by Ace Norton

Sebastian Tellier - Sexual Sportswear

James Kumo

James Kumo grew up in Kent (UK) during the 1980s, listening to London based KISS 100fm. It was here where he first heard many of his musical influences - dj's such as Paul 'Trouble' Anderson, Dr Bob Jones, Gilles Peterson, Danny Rampling, Patrick Forge, Colin Favor & Colin Dale, listening to anything from jazz, funk, latin, disco, soul to house & deep electronic grooves. James especially favouring Dale's 'Outer Limits' show, where he delved into some of the deeper electronic music.

By 1988, he had started making regular visits into Central London, to visit various record shops - Quaff Records, owned & ran by Roy The Roach, Berwick St Soho, Charlie Chester's then Flying Records, ran by the likes of Rocky Diesel, Jo Mills, Lofty and crew in Kensington Market & Dave Wesson’s Zoom Records in Camden Town - and it was here where James starting buying music.

By the early 90s, he'd moved to West London and was a regular at many London club nights where the djs were playing the kind of music he found inspirational, including the The Drum Club (Soundshaft), Shiva Shanti (The Gardening Club), Trouble's House (The Loft), New Hard Left (Bluenote), Open all Hours (Ministry Of Sound), Strutt (The Cross), it was also around this time he visited the Balearic Island of Ibiza, where he frequented night spots like Amnesia, Ku, Space and of course, Cafe Del Mar.

The exposure to this music developed James' own eclectic taste even further and by the early 1990’s he was djing himself at various nights in and around London. This included a two year residency at The Langley, Covent Garden, London, plus nights at Cherry Jam (London) , Notting Hill Arts Club (London), Nuphonic’s Bridge & Tunnel (Shoreditch, London). Further afield, he has also been a guest at The Bomb (Nottingham), and more recently, Discotonic (Dublin), Development (Manchester), Tribal Sessions at Sankeys (Manchester), Killer Robot (Cape Town SA) & a special daytime ‘Dalaflat Music’ Event in Cape Town, South Africa.

In 2004, James Kumo moved to Manchester, then later in that year married.

As passionate as ever about the diversity of music styles, today, apart from hearing him play some of the most futuristic electronic music and full throttle techno, you can also find him playing music by artists like Ednah Holt, Carl Craig, Bonnie Oliver, Rhythm & Sound, Chymera, Quincy Jones, Chet, Needs, Manuel Gottshing, Vince Watson, Chicken Lips, Inner City, Beat Pharmacy, James Mason, Taho, Antonio Ocasio, Aril Brikha, Eurmir Deodato, Fingers Inc, Quince, Cantoma, Stevie Wonder, Gino Soccio, Joris Voorn, Underground Resistance, Chaka Khan, Blaze, Grace Jones, Francois K and many many more.

In May 2006 James began a monthly club night in Manchester entitled Kumo , along with his two partners Paul Hughes and Marc Kets. "Kumo is all about having an intimate gathering, with an up for it crowd who's musical love is as varied as our own, people who aren't afraid to hear lots of different genres within the night". Previous guest dj's have included Balearic Mike, Rekid (Matt Edwards/Quiet Village/Radio Slave), Moonboots (Aficionado), Philarmonix, Diesel (X-Press 2/Balistic Brothers/Heavy Disco), Terry Farley (Faith/Junior Boys Own), Mark E (Jiscomusic) & Kelvin Andrews (Soul Mekanik). Unfortunately due to Marc leaving Manchester for sunnier climates (Los Angeles) the parties were sadly put on hold.

September 2007, saw the birth of his first child, which in turn inspired him to turn his hand to production work, after many years of listening to other people’s music, this was his time, and after many many late nights in the studio, he found himself churning out electronic trax, one after the other.

In February 2008, see’s James Kumo’s first full release on Amsterdam’s Ann Aimee Records, entitled Kumomusic EP Vol 1, with Vol 2 to follow soon after. So watch this space, there is plenty more to come!

James has just launched his artist website and you can visit it here.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Henrik Schwarz

Germany's Henrik Schwarz has long been a favourite of mine ever since I bought his superb Supravision EP in 2002. The standout cut for me on the EP is without question 'Marvin' a dope slow-burning atmospheric take on Marvin Gaye's 'I Want You'. Henrik has always worn his influences on his sleeve as the majority of his records are reliant on reinterpreting the sample material by cutting them up, looping them and locking into a groove that has as much for the head as they do for the feet of which a great example is the chugger - Chicago, which samples Roy Ayers track of the same name. Played at the right time it'll take the roof off and when Roy's unmistakable dulcet tones come through the speakers the venues tend to go radio rental.

In 2005 Sunday Music released the very limited Henrik Schwarz Live CD, which featured tracks like 'Leave My Head Alone Brain', which was huge with the likes of Gilles Peterson when it was released later that year, the Jon Lucien sampling 'Jon', his Cymande 'Anthracite' sampling, 'You Rock, We Rock, I Rock', which featured on his !K7 mix and the superb 'Walk Music'. It was a hint at things to come and firmly placed Henrik's name on the map coupled with his remixes of The Visitors (which I can't recommend highly enough), Alton Miller, Coldcut, I:Cube, Mari Boine, Camille and Alex Smoke that have firmly written his name in big black marker into the annals of house music.

I've been trying for years to tie him down to an interview for Basic Soul without much luck but here is an interview that he did for Resident Advisor.

In 2006 he released the much lauded DJ Kicks mix for !K7 which was heralded as being the mix of the year by all and sundry. It takes in records by Drexciya, Pharoah Sanders, Moondog, Double, D'Angelo, Cymande, Amampondo, Womack & Womack, Arthur Russell, Marvin Gaye, Rhythm & Sound and my personal favourite Doug Hammond. It is a labour of love on which every tune is sliced and diced in Ableton and reinterpreted for dancefloors with style and charm, and it is in my opinion one of the great mix CDs of all time. Seek it out if you haven't already.

As an added bonus here is his remix of James Brown's 'It's A Man's World', which I think only got a limited release, so I have no qualms with putting it up here for all of you to enjoy.

Here is a brief video of a concert that he did with IG Culture and the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble for a project that I think was called The Deeper Soul Arkestra. I'm not even sure if anything came of it is all truth but I know that Josh Deep was very excited about it 2 or 3 years ago. I think this video was initially a part of a segment from a Slices DVD.

Here is a video interview done with him to promote his DJ Kicks album on !K7.

...and here is playing at the Electric Souls gig from a few years ago. None of the music is his and he's only in it for a second but any excuse to show the backing singers from D'Nell, eh? Adam 'Snake Hips' H makes an appearance as well.

Voices of Political Dissent

I wrote this a few years ago as well. I can't remember what got me going but it was probably something like the Ministry of Sound in Taipei saying that they don't have time for boring politics in the middle of an election, which is as inane statement if ever there was one especially if you're from Taiwan.

As much as we try and deny the fact that politics plays a role in our daily lives, it most certainly weaves itself through the very fabric of our existences. It always dismays me how apathetic people are, especially people from our generation. Most of us don't feel the need to get up early on a weekend and go vote, we'd rather just sit around with our friends in a blazing parody of every sitcom ever and moan about how bad things are around us. Now, if we'd all gotten up and said or done something then maybe we wouldn't be looking down the barrel of rich people getting richer, libraries closing, our trash stinking up the roads as we wait for it to be picked up after the service was cut from 5 times a week to once a week. Now why does this happen to us? Fuck knows we're too lazy to change the channel on the TV without getting off our fat asses, why would we get up at 9am and kick the rich silver spoon bandits out on their ears?

Music has always been the voice of the youth. Look at someone like Gil Scott-Heron, an immaculate talent who didn't stop to croon the ladies, but rather used his God-given talents to let the world know that what was happening was wrong and that he just wouldn't tolerate it any longer and neither should we. The self-proclaimed interpreter of the black experience was loud. He was incensed. He stood up to the elite figures on Capitol Hill like Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon by boldly declaring, after Ford had infamously pardoned Nixon for his crimes, "We beg your pardon, because the pardon you gave was not yours to give." His most famous track/political statement was 'The Revolution Will Not Be Televised', a soaring statement where he predicted that a silent revolution is on the way, and a revolution that will be for the people and by the people. He's a griot in the truest sense of the word, a storyteller who passes on the message of one generation to another. He is one of the few artists who emit a degree of importance that transcends the social values of their own time and culture.

Rap music has always been one of the core sources to mobilize the youth and to let them know that "Shit is fucked up." Sadly, now it all seems to have degenerated into who can drive the biggest car and get the dirtiest bitches into their videos. Where they once used their musical vehicle to tell the establishment where to get off, they now talk about drinking expensive tipple that 99% of their fan base would never be able to afford. Their 'beefs' are never honest to God calls for someone to slash the
seats, but rather well timed publicity stunts. Take the recent 'clash' between The Game and 50 cent, had you ever heard of the game beyond that he was in G-Unit once upon a time? Well now you know who he is and you've bought his album. Sucker. Gil Scott-Heron was right when he said, "There's a big difference between putting words over some music, and blending those same words into the music. There's not a lot of humour. They use a lot of slang and colloquialisms and you don't really see inside the person. Instead, you just get a lot of posturing."

Obviously there are exceptions to rule and Public Enemy came blazing through in the 80s firing their words like bullets aimed at the heart of conservatism everywhere. Whereas before you had someone like John Lennon protesting nude from the Four Seasons - The Four fucking Seasons! - about how peace should reign and that we should all live in harmony. I'm sorry but
how seriously can take the word of a man holed up in a $1000/night suite with his eccentric Japanese wife? I can hear you grumbling but who makes more of an impact? The naked Brit, or Chuck D and Flavor Flav telling is to 'Fight The Power'? I know whose making me sit up and take notice and it's not the guy that sang about a bloody walrus.

''I don't rhyme for the sake of riddlin'," Chuck boomed on ''Don't Believe the Hype." Rather, Chuck rhymed for the sake of a better world and how one got there was a whole different issue. The songs/statements on 'It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back' are undeniable classics. ''Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" finds Chuck dodging the draft and laughing off the government's attempt to conscript him in the ''army or whatever." Chuck's stern, unadorned flow was perfectly complemented by Flav's twitchy, almost uncertain delivery. They both sounded powerful over the Bomb Squad's beats, layered high with
messy, antsy noise, and funk borrowed from James Brown. This was a record where the beats sounded as troubled as the rhymes. Public Enemy's power was in its ability to convince you that its causes were urgent. Chuck's no-nonsense baritone foretold apocalypse around the corner. Now history has unfortunately revealed to us that they were as full of shit as the people that they attacked on tape. Griff was struck with rumours about his alleged anti-Semitism and Flavor Flav's nagging drug problems and recent forays into reality TV haven't exactly pushed home the message as much as it has diluted it. It seems like Chuck D is the only one prepared to live by the principles that originally governed his output. Nevertheless they left their mark on the political landscape of a generation.

Now being a South African I've obviously experienced my own fair share of political traumas, but I'm not delusional enough to see my view as being anywhere near as bad as what my friends on the other side of the colour divide have had to endure. South Africa's prominent speakers of truth are 'The Prophets Of The City' who formed during the 80s when South Africa was
still in a turbulent chaos. Ready D initially formed the group so that he could make some money. This was the time of 'Rapper's Delight' and Kurtis Blow and all he wanted was to get up on stage and go, "Everybody say Hooo! All the ladies shake your ass!" He then hooked up with another rapper from the Cape Flats, Shaheen, who had entirely different ideas. When they got into the studio that Shaheen's father had organized for them, he started spitting political polemics as Ready D remembers, "Shaheen was talking some other shit that I wasn't with at all. He was like up on some political shit because he was an activist in school. For me I wasn't interested in politics, I wanted people to go 'Hooo', and he was 'No, no. Fuck the government' and all this shit."

P.O.C. with Quincy Jones.

Ready eventually came around to the idea, especially after random, senseless police brutality interfered with his daily existence, "At that time I didn't understand why the cops are smacking me up and down just walking up the street. Eight o'clock. Why are you not in the house? Why are you walking here? They kick you in your chops. Back home and you ask yourself why? I am just going to listen to a new Hip Hop record." Their most famous statement was 'The Age Of Truth' which caused them major headaches. You can imagine a band using Nelson Mandela samples in a time when that was a, "No, fucking no!" and with the youth movement in South Africa by now becoming very militant across the spectrum, with even white students standing up to the pigs in a bid for the bitter hatred to end, P.O.C. became the voice of a generation. You can imagine how uneasy that made the government feel. South Africa is a great blueprint for the rest of the world to see that the young and disenfranchised do have a voice and the ability to force change when required. Obviously everything comes with its teething problems, but if someone had to give me the choice of living in the Old South Africa or The New South Africa, I know what I'd choose.

Music and politics are forever ingrained in each other, and some people do believe that it should never cross and that music should be for enjoyment and that politics should be left for the dull pricks to argue over but with a medium that reaches so many and the opportunity to initiate significant steps for change it is undeniable that when the two collide that they have the ability to speak to the disenfranchised and make the world aware of the lies of social injustices, and for that reason it will always be important to have the two interwoven into one another.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Pépé Bradock

Julien Auger aka Pépé Bradock is an enigma, his records are few and far between and each can best be described as being a quirky take on the house blueprint. He hardly does any interviews and he makes no attempts as pushing his profile in the media. His records are timeless and each and every one of them doesn't seem to have aged a bit and are as relevant now as the day that they were released. Possibly his most famous track 'Deep Burnt' samples Freddie Hubbard's 'Little Sunflower' and simply loops it for what is surely one of the greatest deep house records of all time. My personal favourite is 'Life' which does the same simple loop but with the violin reprise at the end of Prince's 'Purple Rain' as the sample material. It is a record that I will never grow tired of and I've already worn out two copies of the beast. The first time I heard it played was in 2000 by a friend of mine, Ross Hamber, who was playing a warm-up set somewhere in Cape Town. The moment it came through the speakers I was mesmerized and I had to get a copy as soon as possible. It took about 7 or 8 months of scavenging to find a copy and when I did I bought two just in case. It's one of those records that if I see it in a store I'll buy it, which is a tad obsessive but maybe that is my form of otaku.

Pépé is also responsible for quite possibly the best remix of all-time, his reworking of Iz & Diz 'Mouth' that came out on Classic a few years ago. The entire record was made just by using sounds generated by the mouth and Pepe took this concept and turned it into a dancefloor destroyer by subtly changing the composition and adding a few of his unmistakable touches. It's as superb as it is simple.

Another remix of his that hardly gets any plays is his reworking of Ceseria Evora's 'Angola' which was slightly overshadowed by the large Carl Craig remix on the flip. Pépé's remix is highly respectful of the feel for the Ramiro Mendes original and effortlessly takes the track to a point so deep that you could probably take a bath in it.

The thing that I love about his records are that he doesn't tend to overcomplicate the arrangements of his tracks, he just gets a loop going and then builds on it by adding subtle yet effective elements. It takes a brave man to put out records that are so simple in the current music climate where over the top wins more often than not. Some of his records are incredibly dark and some are incredibly joyful showing an ability to execute raw emotions through sound that is unrivaled in the word of dance music. He's obviously a man that puts his heart and soul into every release and on every level they are perfect. I can guarantee you that in the years to come a lot of my records will be doing nothing more than taking up space on my shelves but Pépé's records will still be in constant rotation around my way.

Pépé's studious technique has extended to the packaging and identity of the records where he has extensively used the artist Numero Six to develop concepts, worked out in a combination of sculpture, illustration and graphic design to counterpoint his spooky, lushly-textured, soft-edged deep house.

I've been looking for information on Numero Six for years and can't find anything, so if anyone out there can help point me in the right direction I'll be gratefully appreciative.

If you haven't done so then I suggest seeking out Pépé Bradock's entire back catalogue as you won't be disappointed.

Here is a video of him speaking at the Red Bull Music Academy.

Here is Deep Burnt in all its glory.

His records tend to be released on his own label Atavisme or on Kif and aren't as hard to find as you would think that they are. I personally don't trust anyone who doesn't have 'Life' or 'Deep Burnt' in their record collections. Incredible pieces of music.

Basic Soul

Basic Soul is run by Leeds-based, Simon Harrison. Simon has been DJing and collecting records for over 16 years having got the dj bug from being a regular at the Hacienda listening to the likes of Mike Pickering and Graeme Park. Once moving to Leeds in 1992 to start university, Simon hosted a radio show on what was then probably Yorkshire's biggest pirate radio station, Dream FM, which continued until Dream FM finished broadcasting in 1996. In his final year at university he worked behind the counter of Eastern Bloc, Leeds and ended up staying there after University.

 Simon has been DJing at a number of venues around Leeds and Manchester and held a residency for 6 years at nights "Rhythm Shower" and "Performance" from 1995 through to 2001. Currently you can catch Simon at "Abstract Soul" and "Flytime" in Leeds and guesting at various venues in the UK and Europe.

 You can also catch Simon weekly on the Basic Soul Show which is broadcast on FM radio, podcast and various web-stations across the globe. Check out the ever-expanding Basic Soul website which includes album reviews, features/interviews with well known and up-and-coming artists.

Check the show here on which Simon effortlessly joins the dots between soul, house and broken beat and is one of the first names on the list of label owners and distributors when promoting their records. He's incredibly upfront and knowledgeable and his presenting style is unmistakably professional. His enthusiasm for music is infectious and I was extremely honored when he asked me to start doing interviews for his site.

I'm busy working on the new logo for his site and when I've finished that I'll stick it up on here.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Seeing The World In Grey

I wrote this a few years ago as a response to some of the racism that I found was infiltrating itself into conversations that I was having with disgruntled expats during my time in Taiwan. I was lambasted by quite a few for my viewpoints but I'm made of stern stuff and I've always stood by my views, so I thought I'd put it up here. This may seem like a strange thing to put up on a blog that is essentially about art, music and culture but I think it is completely relevant in that whether we like it or not racism is apart of art, music and culture. It's lurking behind every veiled comment, it's staring at you through artwork and it's something that has no place in society.

I've come across quite a few articles recently trying to portray elements of culture as being based purely on racial boundaries. Some people, who honestly should know better, still seem to be attempting quite feebly to drum home their view that people will always divide themselves in the way they walk, the way they talk, what they paint and especially what they listen to along racial boundaries. Everything always seems to be in plain old back and white for these people, I prefer to see things in grey. Maybe that makes me 'blind' but to me the world will always be determined not by the colour of a person's skin, but by the content of their character to paraphrase the great Martin Luther King Junior.

People who look at the Street Art scene always immediately imagine inner city kids running riot with cans of Krylon while on the way to rob the corner store, which granted in some cases can be the truth but what they don't see is what I saw, and that was mostly rich upper crust kids with trust funds and bags and bags of paint that they didn't have to boost, doing mostly commissioned pieces. Funny thing is when the rich kids got caught they got a nice little slap on the wrists while the rest ended up in tears trying to explain to their hardened cell-mates why they would go through all the trouble of breaking into a building, painting a picture and then leaving without stealing anything. They think it's the most retarded thing they have ever heard of.

Maybe by the time I got interested in the scene during my first years at university it was already the beginning of the end for the first surge of street art in Cape Town. I befriended a guy called Falco after he came to give a lecture at my university organized by a very forward thinking lecturer, Sandra Klopper. I didn't hang with his crew on the Cape Flats by any means , but what I did manage to do was document his point of views for an article that unfortunately never got published beyond on a few websites. It was quite inspiring talking to him, he didn't give a shit about racial boundaries all he cared about was pushing the very essence of what he loved. If a white kid had the necessary skills he was in no question. He saw the world in grey.

I guess that's why I have always been drawn to house music because if you were a kid from Durbanville just outside Cape Town in the very early 90s everything was a very black and white thing. You never had any black kids in your class, hanging out at the underage clubs or even have any black kids playing for your soccer team even though the club's grounds were next to the township. So, going out in town and meeting and hanging out with people of colour was always an eye opening experience for me. They weren't Kaffirs or Hotnots, they were people. They came from the same place as you mentally. They might have taken a left on the highway when you took a right at the end of the night, but for those hours in between everyone forgot about Apart-Hate, everyone just got down bumping along to grooves all night long and having a good laugh as you got up to far too much incriminating behaviour.

I did a few art projects over the years, mostly with Lebohang Tlali, a highly talented photographer who was held back not by a lack of talent, but by the size of his wallet. He is a humble and unassuming guy blessed with loads of heart and an incredible eye for narrative and composition. One photo that he took will always stand out for me, and that was a black and white portrait that he took of a proper Glaswegian brickie during his time that he spent over there during our third of fourth year. He had this rough as nails guy staring defiantly at the camera with the city slopping away behind him. In this photo he didn't portray a man with hate in his eyes as you might expect from people from the region if stereotypes are to be believed, but he captured a sincerity that was quite stunning to behold. He captured the man's thoughts impossibly well. It's the sort of photo that inspires books, exhibitions and discussions. To me, it is quite possibly the best portrait shot that I have ever seen, and it was taken by a man who sees the world not in black and white, but in grey.

It's probably one of the reasons why I hold my friend Pierre Bruwer in such high regard. The man doesn't have a racist bone in his body, he doesn't slow down or walk nervously past people of a slightly darker pigmentation, he usually looks up smiles and greets and carries on as normal. The way it should be done. Going to a party deep in Soweto? What are your concerns? Your safety? The nagging fears that you might get jacked? You might end up being hurt or being killed just because of the colour of your skin? Pierre's only concern is if the music is going to be good and the beer is going to be cold. Simple really.

My lady, Jeni, has a similar friend. His name is Kenny Rose, a teacher by day and activist by night. Just talking to Kenny you'd probably have a lot of difficulty in believing that the world is divided by black and white, now don't get me wrong he isn't delusional. He very much knows the score, but he just doesn't see the point into buying into all the bullshit. Why cut yourself off from an entire group of people? Why limit yourself to the views pushed by those who come from the same city, the same environment? Why not just realize that the world that surrounds you is made up of diversity and that diversity is something to be learnt from. We're not going to be around long enough for prejudice to hold us back.

I'm not really sure how to end this beyond just to restate how it dismays me how people in this day and age still think that it's perfectly acceptable to judge people by the colour of their skin. As cheesy as it may sound its what's on the inside that counts and that's how it should be. End of.

Blog Raid

Rinder & Lewis - Lust

Get more from On Off.

Theo Parrish - Soul Control

Get more from Dilate Choonz.

Tony Allen - Love Is A Natural Thing

Get more from Ugly Talented.

Clout - Sunshine Baby

Get more from Donna Slut.

Paper Dolls - Get Down Boy

Get more from American Athlete.


ZOUK is Singapore's most respected club. Consisting of four venues; Zouk, Phuture, Velvet Underground and the wine bar all housed in what was originally three warehouses on the banks of the Singapore River, it has set the standard for clubbing around the world. Playing host to just about every guest DJ you'd care to mention as well as numerous bands they have a booking policy that is as forward thinking as it is inclusive. I've been to the club twice, once in 2003 to see Swag and once in 2005 to see Damian Lazarus, and on each occasion I've been struck by the sheer beauty of the building as well as the clarity of the soundsystem as well as amazed by the sheer volume of booze that Singaporeans can consume.

A few years ago ZOUK published a book cryptically titled ZOUK: The Book to celebrate the history of the club up until that point. It's a beautifully designed, well thought out publication that perfectly documents the various directions and legacy of the place. It comes in a box with a ZOUKbot, a poster, stickers, a CD and the book itself. They also did a limited edition book that came with a lightbox and transparencies but it wasn't available at the time that I bought mine.

Front of the box

Back of the box

The ZOUKbot

The inside of the cover, that record does spin.

This is from the wall which all the guest DJs signed that was next to the old DJ booth. When they refurbished in 2005 they tore down the wall and all that history went with it, which is a pity.

Basic Soul Interviews

Shalamar Records

Every once in a while an artist comes along with a message so deep and profound that it touches you not only on a melodic level, but in a way that makes you reassess what your priorities are. In an age where so many artists sacrifice their message in favour of financial gain, we need someone to stand up and speak from the heart and that artist is the jazz-poet N-Side. As he so succinctly puts it, "We need more talking with and less talking at."

Read the interview here.


Having made his initial breakthrough with the very well received Freddie Hubbard and Minister Louie Farakahn sampling "Deep Blak'd" in 2004, on the resurrected Prescription Recordings imprint, Armon Bazile, a.k.a. Aybee, has since begun working alongside the legendary Ron Trent as the Indigenous Space People as well as releasing the slow-burning, jaw-droppingly beautiful Revolution of 1 EP on his own Deepblak imprint. With an album ready to drop this year, 2006 could turn out to be the year that this Oakland, California native finally gets the props that he deserves.

Read the interview here.

Robin Mullarkey

Robin Mullarkey along with vocalist, co-writer and soul mate Anna Stubbs make up Brotherly, the newest exciting act to emerge from the vibrant West London scene. Having already slung his bass on tours across the world with musical luminaries such as Zero 7, 2 Banks of 4 and the mighty Ty, Rob has a musical pedigree that reaches far and wide across the musical stratosphere from jazz to broken beat to electronica to M-Base to soul all with a serving of African influences for good measure. His ethos for Brotherly is simple, "We want to make music that sounds great. That is all. Anything goes," and with their latest single Put It Out already exciting tastemakers and inflicting mayhem onto dance floors all over the globe they look set to leave their mark on the musical map with style, grace and high quality musicianship.

Read the interview here.

Monday, January 7, 2008

FAITH Strobelight Honey

Today an envelope with all the issues of Faith Strobelight Honey arrived. For those of you who don't know, it's an extremely well-written and well-designed fanzine run by London-based, Terry Farley, Jimmy Piercey and Raoul Galloway which features nothing more or less than HOUSE, HOUSE and MORE FUCKING HOUSE. It's all in here - features on your favourite DJs and producers such as Omar S, Luciano, Murk, Lindstrom, Joe 'I love EQs' Claussell, Derrick Carter, Dixon etc., features on legendary clubs such as The Sound Factory, The Saint, Amnesia etc., and other bits such as Rockin'/Shockin' and DJ Charts and much more. The best bit is that it won't cost you a penny. That's right it's gratis. They could easily get away with charging a couple of quid for it but in true acid house style they do it for the love of house music and not for any financial gain. Viva Faith and long many the 'zine continue.

Sorry these pictures are landscape instead of portrait but I can't be bothered to put them right side up. Sorry.

Here are some .pdfs of previous articles for you to look at.

Tengalia's Groovejet
Frankie Knuckles
Derrick Carter
Sound Factory
Larry Levan
Ron Hardy

To give you some background information FAITH started off in 1999 as a joint party venture between London's Soulsonic night with Stuart Patterson, Leo Elstob (now of A Mountain of One fame), Terry Farley of JBO, journalist and party runner/dj Bill Brewster and Dave Jarvis. A series of great parties that included opening parties at Fabric, london's Pacha and Turnmills helped create a communial spirit that led to the UK's only fanzine dedicated to house as mentioned above.

Check this feature on Boys Own from God knows when, but it looks like the early 90s.

Faith currently are Dave Jarvis who with Diesel also runs the infamous Heavy Disco parties and the Moton Inc. record label, Terry Farley and Stuart Patterson who also dj around the world in their jacking no nonsense style...keeping the faith.

We were privileged to have booked Diesel, Terry Farley and Stuart Patterson for various Kumo nights in 2006 and each of them brought their considerable knowledge, tunes and charm to the tables at the various venues that we put them on at. We have recordings of Diesel and Terry's sets and if I get their permission I'll post them up at a later stage.

Diesel and Paul Hughes

Stuart Patterson and myself from when we played at Sankeys. I'd regale the story of our taxi ride home that night but that's a story best told in person, was funny as.

Check these line-ups out for pure quality.

They've also collaborated with Stussy to produce t-shirts every year and below is their latest one, which was worn with pride on my many a night out. Although just a word of warning, don't wear one to a Faith night as (1) you won't be the only one (2) you'll end up meeting the Faith firm and you'll end up stumbling out into the London daylight in a right state many hours later. Actually that sounds more like a reason to wear you were.

This is the t-shirt they produced for their Innervisions gig at Plastic People in London, and it has since gone on to be the shirt to wear if you're out for a night of quality hypnotic/jackin'/minimal house grooves plus it gets the old ladies in a right tither when you're walking about in it. It's available to buy from Innervisons' webshop.

They also have a forum on their website but be forewarned, it's a place where you'll be cut down in an instant if you try and give it large as many new posters have found out much to my amusement.

Check this video of Stuart playing the classic 'Let No Man Put Asunder' at the Faith Boat Party, which inccidently came back to port an hour later than scheduled and with everyone gagging for more in proper Faith style.

Faith is HOUSE. Keep The Faith.

Oh, and as an added bonus check Big Joe working the EQs in pure comedy style. He's the God of comedy EQing and I bow down to the master.

Now if you'll excuse me I have some reading to catch up on.