Stonebwoy – Tuff Seed

Brand new single from one of Ghana’s top artists. This is the kind of uplifting Dancehall and Afrobeats fusion that makes me super excited ror his show at Boomtown this year. He’ll be performing as part of the Tropical Tea Party takeover in the Paradise Ballroom (Paradise Heights), as will I.

Advertisements
Posted in festivals, music | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Focus Wales: Day Three

So I’m now on the train home, slightly bleary eyed after the last late night of a long few days but I can’t snooze until I’ve at least told those of you who have made it through my Day One and Day Two posts, a few highlights from the final day at Focus Wales. I’ll try and be brief as it is Sunday after all, but it would be wrong not to mention these guys…

I couldn’t see much of punky Mancunian pair Glove from the back of a packed-out pub, just snatches of their facepaint through people’s cameras mostly, but I could certainly feel the energy from both the band and the crowd. They were raw, passionate, honest and often amusing, not to mention thoroughly enjoyable. I look forwards to checking out more of their recorded material.

I am forever fascinated at the amount of musical talent in Bristol that I am constantly uncovering, and a little embarrassed that it took Emily Magpie approaching me all the way in Wrexham before I heard her stunning take on folktronica (for want of a better term). Confidently armed with a ukulele and a loop pedal, she did a great job of holding the mostly local crowd’s attention from the corner of a noisy pub.

Whilst watching Emily’s set I bumped in to my old friend Dan Lambert aka Johnny Cage who was performing with the next act Siobhan McCrudden. Although Siobhan’s softer vocals fared less well with the background noise and a largely absent sound man, her voice itself was beautiful and she’d printed out the lyrics to her songs, so at least the poetry of her fabulous folk noir songs could be properly appreciated. I was also happy that whilst rummaging through my emails to find her surname, I noticed she will be performing with the Naked Citizens at Big Love this year. I very much look forwards to that.

I think I’ll stop there but also honorary mentions to Cate Le Bon who put on an excellent headline show as always, Mart Avi from Estonia who’s awkwardness onstage somehow managed to make him even more endearing and Welsh chamber folk trio VRï , who were perhaps a little too traditional for my tastes but nevertheless played a great set.

I’ve grown rather fond of Wrexham and Focus Wales has proven a great conference for the past 3 years so hopefully I shall be back reporting from there again next year.

Posted in festivals, Films | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

FOCUS WALES 2019: DAY TWO

Before you jump straight into Day Two, it might be worth having a look at Day One if you haven’t already done so… or this post could be rather confusing.

Although feedback is great, I get slightly concerned after doing public talks or panels at just how many people come up afterwards and say “thanks, that was really honest”. It’s literally the main thing that gets said, and it makes me think I’ve been saying something I shouldn’t. Remember, what’s said at Focus Wales, stays at Focus Wales… or something like that.

Perhaps in future I shall divulge some of these potential secrets from the ‘Get Me On The Bill’ panel that I was on yesterday, but for now all you’re getting is music I’m afraid. There’s been some beauties here too.

At the risk of losing you too soon, I’m going to start off with my highlight, though it has to be said most of you will probably prefer the last act I mention (don’t skip).


I’d met Maija Kauhanen briefly on Thursday evening, she’d been highly recommended by Lisa Whytock from Celtic Connections (amongst other things), whose tastes I tend to trust, especially in the wider realms of Folk.

She performed solo using an assortment of instruments, but largely centred around the kantele, a traditional stringed instrument from her homeland of Finland. The particular one she played this time looked far from traditional though, with a clear body filled with decorative lights and sequined material. It added an intriguing extra touch to her performance, which in itself was absolutely hypnotising. Even though I have no grasp of Finnish I followed her stories avidly as she managed to translate the emotions through her powerful vocals and virtuoso instrumentalism. I’m not sure it comes across quite so well on video as live, and this is a stripped back version with far less percussion and an under-mic’d up kick drum, but here’s a little taste that should be watched til the end.

Just before Maija began I’d bumped into Mr Phormula, a stalwart of the Welsh Hip-hop scene as both beat boxer and bilingual wordsmith. I briefly caught some of his set with rap savvy poet partner Martin Dawes last year but with an extended line up that included a keyboard player and a bassist / saxophonist, their show as BARDD this year had me dancing and singing along from the start til the very end. Conference crowds are often notoriously difficult to squeeze emotion from but I was certainly not the only one joining in and I honestly felt the general mood of the room raise a number of degrees til it reached the perfect level of warm and friendly across the diverse range of age groups present.

rptnb

Quodega gave me something of an almighty flashback as I recognised the central figure on stage as Tom Raybould, whose Fake Death EP under the alias Zwolf I released as an official Chrome Kids ‘Free-Release’ a decade ago next month. I’d actually forgotten about any of those releases up until that point and just found them again here.

This is a very different project although I can hear snippets of previous work within some of the grooves. It’s a lot more guitar heavy and the drumming is more intense and experimental, which if I’m right in reading that they are provided by Kliph Scurlock, makes a lot of sense. If you’re not familiar I write about him here last year. Although I really liked them, I don’t think I have enough musical references to do the band any descriptive justice, but they have been likened to Tom’s other alias as Fist Of First Man.

They were certainly a great warm up for Snapped Ankles, a tree themed post punk troupe, or ‘AGRROcultural PUNKTRONICA’ as they call themselves. They were perhaps the band I had recommended people most as I loved their Rough Trade show in Bristol previously. Looking like they’ve maybe stepped out of a Super Furry Animals cover probably stands them in good stead for a North Walian crowd, but these energetic electroclash ents also have some really great music to back it up and had the majority of a respectably busy room at UnDeGun jumping around last night.

Hopefully I can get at least a handful doing the same when I close that room tonight! The way I’m thinking, the music won’t be too dissimilar but that could all change in the next few hours.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FOCUS WALES 2019 – DAY ONE

It’s that time of the year once more where I find myself in the sunny (okay not so sunny today) North Walian border town of Wrexham for Focus Wales, a musical showcase and conference that happens annually and for which I have a regular panel spot offering advice on getting gigs (or permanently dashing people’s hopes of every playing Boomtown, depending on whichever way you look at it). I’m also back with my AAA Badboy DJ hat, playing at UnDegUn for their closing set on Saturday. This year I shall be following the wonderful Cate Le Bon so if you’re in town make sure you head down.

The reason you need to know all of this of course is because if you’re following my blog it’s almost certainly due to sharing at least some similar musical tastes and every year I pull out a few choice acts for those who either haven’t made it to the festival, or those who spent the whole day in meetings and the night blind drunk at one of the local bars singing karaoke.

rptnb

The first act I caught here was Hannah Willwood, a young singer from Snowdonia with a lovely soothing voice, who I booked for the Floating Lotus stage at this year’s Boomtown based on her solo performance at Focus Wales last year. She was back on a bigger stage, with a full band in tow that she’s picked up from studying at the Leeds College of Music, a conservatoire who’s alumni include the likes of Rusko and Ashley Henry, or various members of Gentleman’s Dub Club and Submotion Orchestra. The band perfectly compliment her singing which is a soulful fusion of jazz and folk, and honestly if you need a warm hug for your head after a heavy night at Boomtown you need to go and hunt them down (13:15 on Sunday).

Forgetting that she now has a band, I nearly gave Hannah a miss, simply because I’d seen her before and watching her left me little time to catch a Hip-hop artist from Neath called Luke RV, who has a couple of tunes I’ve been appreciating recently. In all honesty though, she was one of the few artists at the conference to get in touch and ask me to come and see the show so I made an extra effort. Seriously, the best advice I could give artists who perform at these showcases, is to go through the full list of delegates and invite anyone who might be helpful to you to your show (although if you have a clear idea on how they could be helpful and a strong pitch for afterwards, this is even better). I feel a few acts I know missed out on bookings this year due to not being on the ball that way.

Sadly the conference before Hannah ran over and so they were late getting started. Having spoken to the festival organisers, I know they do everything they can to try and make sure everything runs on time but bands, speakers and especially stage managers need to be fully aware that any deviation from the timetable at these events can mean artists really missing out. It meant me not making it to Luke’s set, though he did jump up with Murkage later on. Nope sadly not Dave or any of his Manchester crew, but a rapper from Newport who has some real nice tracks but who fell foul of his own weed heavy repertoire, and seemingly got too stoned before getting on stage.

ptroz

There were a number of rappers on the bill last night, but my favourite was a lady from Brooklyn called Miss Eaves, whose subject matter ranged from tinder fuck buddies to rogue pubes. Even though I only caught a few tunes it was definitely the most fun, albeit with some very real issues in the mix. In fact I think the bulk of my amusement came simply from watching the very mixed crowd reactions to some of her more sexually confident confessions.

My highlight of the night however was 9Bach, a band who I’ve been trying to catch live for years but somehow I’ve never quite managed it. I was rather glad of that fact last night because I couldn’t think of a more perfect venue to first see them than St Gilles, a large and beautiful medieval church with great acoustics that perfectly framed their melancholic interpretations of Welsh Folk songs, in a style not too dissimilar to classic Portishead but with added harp, which I believe last night was played by Sian James, a highly celebrated artist in her own right (forgive me if I have that wrong, I forgot to take any notes).

ptroz

Anyway, I hope you enjoy at least one of these bands I’ve mentioned, there will be more coming in the next couple of days. If you’re here at the festival, I shall be on the ‘Get Me On The Bill’ panel later and of course as I mentioned, DJing the closing set at UnDeGun on Saturday night. I’ll be repeating that as much as possible because someone didn’t take their own advice from earlier in the post.

Posted in festivals, music | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

TSHEGUE – M’Benga Bila

If you weren’t familiar with Tshegue’s previous output until now, this latest single could almost be aligned with fellow Pariasian resident MHD’s Afro-Trap sound, but this feels even grittier and raw, and way more punk. Perhaps as a nod to vocalist Faty’s hometown of Kinshasa, there’s also a ‘Congotronic’ vibe to this, though my relatively uncultured ear relates the rhythm to the more popular Congolese pop music, Ndombolo (or perhaps Coupé-Décalé from Ivory Coast).

Regardless of all these similarities I can hear, Tshegue are very much on their own vibe and it’s looking like their forthcoming EP ‘Telema’ which drops on June 19th will be an equally strong offering as their debut ‘Survivor’ from 2017, which still gets plenty of airtime from me.

Looking forward to catching these guys at WOMAD but I’m pretty sure they have plenty of other shows lined up.

Posted in music | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daddy Freddy & Sleepy Time Ghost feat. Action Fire & Blackout JA – Bun Dem Out

Daddy Freddy is probably the biggest catalyst for my love of Dancehall so it’s great to see him still putting out such strong tracks and even evolving his style, opting for a more subdued flow that somehow manages not to lose any of his trademark intensity. It works beautifully over STG’s production, a smooth jazzy guitar lick over a solid Dancehall beat, the type of instrumental that you could let run all day long whilst every vocalist does their thing. In this instance there are just 2 guests: Action Fire who I feel I haven’t heard from in some time; and Blackout JA – a firm favourite of the underground UK reggae scene. It’s a strong combo and this track is guaranteed to get a whole lot of play from me this summer.

You can catch Daddy Freddy and Unit 137 (which includes STG of course) at the Hidden Woods this Boomtown.

Posted in festivals, music | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

PARADISE HEIGHTS – BOOMTOWN CH11 (2019)

It’s time to continue our look through the Boomtown District releases and as I’m going in reverse order, after the Town Centre stage is our ‘gold-plated gated community of pleasure and leisure facilities and a playground to the rich and famous of Boomtown’ otherwise known as Paradise Heights. Of course if you’ve never been to Boomtown this description of such luxurious surroundings at the festival might be misleading, hell even those who have been get a little confused, but it is of course sheer theatre and more of a statement on the grotesqueness of society’s greed and excesses than an actual 5 star fancy area (sorry for those who rather liked the sound of it). One thing that is definitely high class there though is the music (obvs).

Paradise Heights evolved from a previous district called Mayfair, where the main music served up was Electro Swing, or perhaps ‘Vintage Remix’ would have been a better description. Times have moved on but there’s still a healthy following at the festival for the sound so it’s very much still being represented in the Paradise Ballroom (mostly at the Swing & Tingz Vs Swing & Bass Takeover on Saturday night). There’s also plenty of Funk, Soul and Hip-hop in the district but what I really wanted to focus on here was a few of the artists playing on the Tropical Tea Party takeover, which takes place at the Paradise Ballroom on the Thursday night and Friday. There’s bands and DJs from all over the world, but here’s a special focus on 4 of the African artists playing, they’re coming from across the continent and cover a number of different sounds and styles.

Stonebwoy

I’ve always hesitated when it comes to bringing Afrobeats into Boomtown as it’s a largely commercial leaning sound where lyrics often tend to favour a machismo, materialistic outlook which doesn’t fully sit right in the context of what we’re about, but at the same time it’s genuinely refreshing to see West African music have such a big influence globally and there really is some quality Afrobeats music coming out that I can’t help but love. I know many people at the festival feel the same, so it feels like the perfect introduction to test the waters with a more conscious artist such as Stonebwoy, whose sound is heavily influenced by Reggae and Dancehall. In fact, he’s probably better known as a Reggae artist and last year’s ‘Epistles Of Mama’ album featured Kabaka Pyramid (who is playing on the Lion’s Den this year), Pressure Buss Pipe, Agent Sasco and I-Octane, as well as soca star Fay Ann Lyons, Nigerian singer Burna Boy and fellow Ghanaian chart toppers like Sarkodie and King Promise. He also had a single out with Sean Paul around the same time. He’s one of the most exciting artists from Ghana right now so I’d highly recommend catching him and if you’re feeling the Afrobeats then also check out UK artist Silvastone earlier in the day and on the same stage.

Faith Mussa

It was another of the acts on the Tropical Tea Party line up that schooled us on this Malawian singer and multi instrumentalist. The guys behind the incredible Beating Heart project, who this year are playing under their DJ and production alias Saronde (check their latest single complete with Jimpster remix here) are putting out an EP from him later this year and it’s utterly stunning.

For those who don’t know, Beating Heart have been getting a broad range of exciting electronic artists to remix 1950’s field recordings from across Africa. The likes of Rudimental and My Nu Leng to The Busy Twist and Clap! Clap! have all been involved and although the Faith Mussa EP steps away from their general modus operandi, it’s still a refreshing mix of traditional African sounds with a more club friendly approach to the production, which is so bloody good, not to mention uplifting, that it would be criminal if it didn’t reach a wider audience when it drops in July.

Last year one of my highlights was Gasper Nali in the Hidden Woods and just like his fellow countryman Faith will be operating as a one man band for the show. I’m looking forwards to hearing how he brings his songs to life that way, and although I’ve not yet seen it, I can guarantee you there will be plenty of smiling and dancing when he plays. So if that’s your vibe then 3pm on Friday afternoon (Paradise Ballroom) is a must for you.

Muzi

As well as being the first artist on Beating Heart’s South African project, Muzi has been making a name for himself as one of South Africa’s most exciting young electronic producers. Now based in Berlin I believe, Muzi’s sound is an eclectic blend of club sounds, stretching across the globe and pulling in influences such as Grime, Kwaito, Techno and Trap. He has been working with an equally eclectic list of collaborators, from fellow South African experimentalist Okmalumkoolkat to Chris Martin, producing a collaboration between the Coldplay frontman and Sho Madjozi (which I’m pretty sure hasn’t been released yet), to the Super Furry Animals singer Gruff Rhys for whom he remixed ‘Bae Bae Bae’. The pair also feature together on the latest EP from Damon Albarn’s Africa Express project (alongside BCUC who I shall be covering when we get to Copper County). Muzi also showed Stormzy around South Africa for a short Noisey documentary, which you can watch here.

DJ Lag

Gqom is another style of music that I love but have hesitated to cover at Boomtown. I originally thought it might be a little too niche and moody for a festival field, but I think we’re ready for it!

If you’re unfamiliar with Gqom, I highly recommend this BBC World Service documentary from Emily Dust who will also be playing on the Friday night. In fact I’m pretty sure she’s played some Gqom at Boomtown previously, but DJ Lag is the Godfather of the scene which comes from Durban in South Africa, but has managed to become a major influence across Africa and Europe. Even Major Lazer kicked off their ‘Afrobeats’ mix with a few Gqom tracks and included “Gqom Queen” Babes Wodumo on their Africa Is The Future EP.

Although Durban acts such as Rudeboyz and Distruction Boyz have started to take the music around the globe, DJ Lag is the number one ambassador, having recorded mixes for The Wire, Mixmag, Noisey, The Fader and even an Essential Mix which you can hear below.

Paradise Heights is also where you’ll catch me DJing this year. I’ll be going B2B with Count Bassy as part of the Tropical Tea Party takeover in Paradise Ballroom and also joining my Super Soca Show crew for an all night Soca session in Hotel Paradiso on Saturday.

Posted in festivals, music | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment