Subswara are a leftfield Asian electronica crew straight outta NYC. They seriously rock - check out their LP, Coup D'Yah, heavyweight dub-izzle.
From yesterday's Daily Note, the Redbull Music Academy's newspaper.
AFRICA EXPRESS: RAHUL VERMA GOES OUTERNATIONAL CLUBBING IN INNER LONDON WITH SOME AFRICAN RAVING
Although nothing bugs me more than sounding like Dubya by referring to a vast continent like it’s a country – how many European or North American clubnights- have you heard of? – that’s a battle for the anti-colonialists.
In recent years, African artists have enjoyed unparalleled success: The Very Best’s (duo Radioclit and Malawian singer Esau) cheery debut The Warm Heart was a fixture in many critics’ Top Ten of 2009. Hipster director Spike Jonze has made a short film on MIA-anointed SE London rapper Afrikan Boy, thundering Angolan-Portuguese crew Buraka Som Sistema’s debut LP came via the Fabric imprint and the swinging bleep-house of Township Funk by South Africa’s Mujava was the anthem of late 2008.
The music of Africa is infiltrating cool, cliquey dancefloors like never before. Even snotty fashion houses are cashing in on Africa’s cool cache – the Double Club, a Kinshasa-inspired pop-up club in Angel, conceived by Prada and artist Carsten Holler, was the talk of the town.
You’re unlikely to hear any of the above in the burgeoning bijous scene frequented by second-generation Brit-Africans (mainly Nigerian and Ghanaian with Caribbean mates in tow), which seems to be growing in line with the visibly increasing success of the African diaspora.
These dazzling raves take place in venues across Kensington, Mayfair (No.5), West End (Penthouse) and the City, and the soundtrack features US mainstream bangers (favourite son Akon, Lil Wayne, 50 Cent), slow jamz (Jeremiah’s Birthday Sex), hip-life (hip hop meets hi-life – check Ghana’s Batman or Nigeria’s D’Banj, the obligatory Michael “Jesus juice” Jackson medley, and UK funky, which shares its DNA with afro-beat.
It seems strange that second-generation Brit- Africans such as Sway, Kano and Dizzee aren’t fixtures, but perhaps less so when you consider that the biggest contemporary cultural influence in Mama Africa has been Uncle Sam. There are plenty of under-25s skanking the night away who won’t know who Fela Kuti is – a fact that is just plain perturbing.
You’ll find middle-aged Nigerians and Ghanaians, aka “uncles”, dressed ostentatiously (shades, cuff links and Ed Hardy) showering cash on young Brit-African girls impressing with flesh in what looks like a Nollywood Entourage. The Uncle probably bought their arm candy’s weave (a few hundred quid a pop), as well as a table in a high-end Mayfair club strewn with bottles of Grey Goose.
Like most other cultures – boozy Brits excluded – a night out for Brit-Africans often includes eating. Comedy’s high on the agenda too, with pearly-toothed Congolese comedian and presenter Eddie Kadi supplanting the frequently misogynist Kojo as current funnyman of choice. Kadi’s even opened a restaurant and music venture, Black Grape in Tottenham, which has had Tim Westwood drooling over yam. If it’s good enough for the big dawg, it’s good enough for us.
Then there’s the earnest club scene, where you’ll find Rasta-coloured headgear, wraps and beads galore, NGO workers and a stall selling conspiracy theory DVDs and literature (9/11, HIV, slavery). These are intellectuals whose minds are free from the tyranny of imperialism and capitalism, who sigh in despair at their weak brothers and sisters flashing blood diamonds, poor sorry victims of nefarious plots to subjugate the motherland. It certainly makes for the kind of interesting chat you don’t get on your average night out – apart from when you’re putting the world to rights as the sun comes up – and the music kicks arse, whether it’s French/North African crew Watcha Clan’s tear-out electro, dub and drum’n’bass, or the mighty Ethiopian soundsystem Dub Colossus, or Senegalese hip hop trio Daara J, reclaiming rap as griot music.
This is in today's Metro. Seriously I've not been this excited by a grime MC in eons.
ONE TO WATCH
Dagenham’s Devlin (20) is primed to make his mainstream mark in 2010: the tall, lean MC, who’s been in the grime game since he was 15, was one of 15 artists featured in the BBC’s Sound of 2010 and his 2009 tracks London City (1.67m Youtube views) and Community Outcast, demonstrate why.
London City sees Devlin deftly recount the anticipation, thrill and minutiae of a night out ‘up west’. Community Outcast, meanwhile, is dedicated to the people society has forgotten (jobless young men struggling to provide for their families, single mums, the homeless and isolated elderly) with remarkable eloquence and clarity.
There’s something of Mike Skinner in Devlin’s poetic eye for detail but what really stands out – aside from his silver fox hair [‘I got my greys than my dad’s got’] – is he’s a powerful yet accessible lyricist with a social conscience. Devlin’s currently is on the verge of signing on the dotted line with a major then the countdown begins to his much-anticipated debut LP, Bud, Sweat & Beers.
A tongue in cheek column looking at various ethnic club scenes in the capital for the Red Bull Music Academy newspaper, which is being distributed for the duration of the Redbull Music Academy's stint in London. Here's the first, in its full glory. No offence intended. You can download the paper here, every day.
The World Is Your Oystercard
When a Londoner speaks to a non-London-ite these clichés always surface: ‘London’s a melting pot… You can find every nationality of the world in one place… It’s the most cosmopolitan city in the world…’
The fact is clichés are often true and LDN is all of the above- if you’re a foodie this means over a weekend you can grab a Colombian desayuno (breakfast) in Brixton, get stuck into Pakistani kebabs in Whitechapel (just don’t ask for chilli sauce or garlic mayonnaise) or rip apart an Anatolian Pide (aromatic Turkish pizza but better) in Green Lanes.
Similarly if you’re into music you can access sounds from the farthest reaches of the global village, quicker than calculating a carbon footprint. Over the coming weeks this column will arm you with enough crass stereotypes and crude generalisations to get you a slap if you utter them out aloud as you devour music from all over the world, armed only with your environmentally friendly Oyster Card.
BHANGRA + BACARDI = MOLOTOV COCKTAIL
The Asian (or ‘Desi’ meaning from the Indian subcontinent) club scene has a longer history in LDN than rave: I can remember my sis wandering off to school with a bag fall of clothes (including a T-shirt with the slogan ‘Pakis Do It Better’ playing on Frankie Goes To Hollywood slogan T shirts of the mid-1980s), for the daytime bhangra raves at the Hippodrome in Leicester Square.
Twenty-five years on and most Asian kids have more freedom so don’t have bunk off school to go raving, but bhangra nights are very much intact. But what is bhangra? It’s primal folk music celebrating harvest time in Punjab, the bread-basket of India, and is built around what resembles a breakbeat – or the sharp thwack of the dhol (drum). Hard working, burly farmers would wile out to bhangra and generally party-sharty like it’s 1999.
In 21st century London, Punjabis (like myself) like to respect our traditions particularly the hard drinking bit – and at every bhangra rave you will find groups of tanked up ‘Bacardi boys’ hitting the dancefloor: arms flail, legs are hooked and boys spin round, shoulders are mounted and perspiration drips before boy (s) either fall over or career into another group of lads. Cue the inevitable fighting between packs of drunken lads (is it comforting that such belligerence is not restricted to kebab/chicken shop in town centres across the nation each weekend?).
Desi-Licious takes place on March 4th at Ministry Of Sound
Most Desi kids like to think they’re refined and above loutish-ness, and move onto the stush hip hop/R&b with a dash of bhangra nights which take over city bars/boat parties and the Gherkin.
This is where Jay Sean (before he was ‘Down’with Lil Wayne), Juggy D and Ms Scandalous (check Hai Hai it’s a banger) would perform and you would also hear any US hip hop/R&B with an Asian vibe (Missy’s Get Your Freak On, Timbaland’s Indian Flute, the Jay Z refix of Panjabi MC’s Mundian Te Bach Ke), and MIA’s Paper Planes (only since it got the Slumdog Millionaire seal of approval until then she was waaaaaay to alternative for this straight-jacketed scene).
Chiselled goatees, private school educated middle class boys styled on rudeboys and well-heeled, snotty Indian princesses – think brown skinned equivalent of wannabe Wags with impossibly straight hair (what did you do iron it?), Jimmy Choo heels, Prada purses, dripping with diamonds, gold and white platinum, and wearing too much black.
These are nights are about looking fly, holding it down and keeping up appearances so you won’t see any sweaty gurners but some Bacardi Boys might sneak in. Outside there’ll be a fleet of tricked out BMWs and Mercedes because Asian princesses DO NOT do the tube, and certainly not grubby night-buses.
Instead their date will pick them up in mum and dad’s Beemer or Merc, stay sober and ply the Princess with bubbles in the hope of a quick knee trembler on the back seat on the way home, coz they certainly ain’t getting jiggy at his/her parents’ home.
Desi Disco takes place every Friday in West Kengsington and Indulgence takes place on Feb 27th in the city, tickets here
Bollywood club nights are a riot of glamour, fun and silliness as people take themselves less seriously: how moody and uptight can you be as you re-enact chasing a girl round a tree while thrusting your hips and rotating your hands?? This is where you’ll find frisky Indian Indians (as in young men born and raised in India working in London in IT), who – understandably - don’t get the urban Asian thing; these guys have a geeky charm with spectacles, side parting, pressed shirt, trousers and polished shoes. At the other extreme are camp, buff boys with slick Bryl-creamed hair in tight jeans and lairy shirt undone to reveal hairy chest and gold chain, in homage to their beefy Bollywood heroes.
Smiling, coy Desi girls dazzle in saris, langhas, salwar kameezes, kurtas (short shirts), while Brit Bollywood-philes (and there are enough of them) wear jeans and twinkling tops rounded off with bindis and bunches of Technicolor bangles.
Kuch Kuch is on February 27th at The Livery EC2V, with a one off at the Whitechapel Gallery on March 5th
COOL LIKE BHANG LASSI
Last but not least there’s the cooler than thou Asian music scene, which yes you’ve guessed it mainly takes place in that few square miles of the capital where everyone takes themselves too seriously, East LDN (Shoreditch, Hackney, Dalston). Funky tattoos (of ohms, swawstikas, Ganesh or Shiva) grace the biceps and hip bones of gurning guys and girls, as they work up a sweat to fierce Asian-influenced dance music (usually floating a Indian vocal over drum & bass, or dubstep – how original).
In these East LDN warehouses, bars or spaces you’ll find a healthy smattering of hippy shippy Brit-girls who’ve spent a gap year in India connecting with their spiritual selves while not speaking for two weeks and cleaning toilets in exorbitant gora (white person)-only ashrams.
They’ll be reaching a higher state of consciousness through meow (mephadrome) or MDMA and looking to ‘spice up their life’ and reconnect with their ‘amazing time in India’ through the medium of shagging an exotic brown boy. Ker-ching! Guess where you’ll find me?
The Shiva Soundsystem begins a residency at the T Bar on March 25th
The UK Asian Music Awards are on March 11th, and I'm a judge innit so it won't be crap.
So SBTV is the video channel of 19 year old Jamaal Edwards and has thus far been focused on showcasing grime MCs spitting. Jamaal's come up with some brilliant themes such as F64, where any MC - whether Chipmunk or Ghetto - spits 64 original, fresh bars.
I had a chat with Jamaal last week about his channel, and he mentioned Talib Kweli had contacted him to do F64, which I thought was perhaps bluster. Five days later, here it is, one of hip hop's finest, conscious lyrics, dropping 64 vital bars covering Bush, Blair, Manchester United and more. BIG. Real talk
ONE TO WATCH
East Londoner Mumzy (aka Mumzy Stranger) is the protégé of Rishi Rich, the gifted producer who spotted Jay Sean and set him on his path to super-stardom with Lil Wayne’s Cash Money label.
Mumzy, 26, who started out with local garage/grime collective Nasty Crew (Kano) ten years ago, is versatile: 2009 single Showgirl swaggers from hooky R&B through East London rap-chat via brisk dancheall patter, and he’s got pretty nifty footwork too.
Mumzy’s multi-faceted repertoire has led to collaborations with R&B band Fundamental, dancehall/reggae artist Gappy Ranks and vocalist Kyla and producer Paleface of UK funky/urban pop crew Crazi Cousinz, and he’s released with bhangra legend Malkit Singh.
His debut LP is due in April and he’s sure to clean up at March’s UK Asian Music Awards: at this rate Mumzy won’t be a stranger much longer, and he might just be the man to bring the British Asian and urban music scenes closer together.
This is the spectacularly good front cover to LIVE 34 - London's finest youth publication. If you don't know LIVE is a magazine for young people by young people aged 13 to 22 and every element of magazine (every word, photo and all the design) is done by young people with help from mentors such as myself, Emma Warren, Hayley Joyes, Zena Alkayat, Steve Yats and Camelia Muldermans.
In all my years of working on LIVE - four and counting - this front cover is the strongest, it's got such a fresh, light spring-like feel so massive props to Charlene Nakamusa for organising and executing the photoshoot with such panache and professionalism.
If you want more infor on LIVE, or LIVE EAST - the sister title based in Whitechapel - drop me a line.
In this issue of LIVE you will find interviews with Tinie Tempah, beautiful cover star Mpho, T2, Estelle's younger sis H Boogie, Mercury prize winner Speech Debelle and hard hitting features on binge drinking and the reality of life behind bars.
Big pat on the back to TEAM LIVE