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February 2019 – upcoming London eclectic/multicultural gigs at Poplar Union – Grand Union Orchestra (22nd February); Mishti Dance (23rd February) with Conspirators of Pleasure, The Tuts, Kapil Seshasayee and Soundar Ananda

15 Feb

I don’t go down to Poplar that often, but despite its more confusing aspects – the hurtling convergence of the eastern motorway routes out of London; that strange dislocated/disassociated/dispossessed neighbour’s relationship which it has with the glittering towers of Docklands to the south – the place has always felt welcoming; from the wry hardiness of its shopkeepers to the gentle courtesy of the djellaba-clad pair of Muslim brothers (one twentysomething lad, one eight-year-old kid) who spotted me wandering (a lost, bald, bearded middle-aged white bloke) all nonplussed by the Limehouse Cut, and were kind enough to redirect me to Poplar Union.

PU still feels like a beacon for the area’s future – enthusiastically aspirational in its bright, clean, modern bookishness but also happily embedded in the area’s colourful swirl of cultures; decidedly unshabby but also entirely inclusive. Here are another couple of gigs coming up there this coming week.

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Grand Union Orchestra, 22nd February 2019

Sporting a thirty-plus roster of musicians from all across the world, Grand Union Orchestra have spent two decades playing and personifying an ethic of joyous multicultural cooperation onstage. With a tradition of creative diasporan work, and with an additional set of roots in left-wing community theatre, they’re a living rebuttal to British insularity. Usually there’s about eighteen of them on stage, drawn from a flexible roster of around thirty top-flight musicians from a variety of cultures and generations. You’ll see Bangladeshi, Chinese, English, Turkish, Caribbean, Roma, Bulgarian, Mozambiquian people and more, from striplings to grandmothers, all playing together, long accustomed to assembling rolling caravans of sound into which assorted musics – Carnatic and Bangladeshi classical, salsa, jazz – can be folded.



 
You can pick out the various components (even a quick dip will turn up players like Jazz Warriors trumpet veteran Claude Deppa, Carnatic violin virtuoso Claude Deppa, Roma accordionist Ionel Mandache, guzheng star Zhu Xiao Meng and a poly-hued battery of singers with backgrounds including fado, jazz, opera and Bengali classical) but you’re better off just enjoying the sweeping palette. Just looking at their gig flyers reminds me of the happy, souped-up neighbourly multiculture festivals in and around my primary school. It makes me want to bare my teeth against the chilly white monocultural wind that’s blowing from the future, from Brexit and from the surly side of Englishness; or – if I can’t do anything else – to at least turn up my collar, turn my angry back against the freeze and head for the lights, the warmth and the rhythms.

GUO’s current, workshop-driven project – ‘Bengal, Bhangra and the Blues’ – is helmed by tabla ace Yousuf Ali Khan: it leans back towards the music of the Asian sub-continent with classical ragas, Bengali songs and the aforementioned bhangra at the heart of it. Various young participants, having already enjoyed the previous week’s free instrumental youth workshops incorporated into the project programme, will be joining the main band for the concert.

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Mishti Dance featuring Conspirators of Pleasure + The Tuts + Kapil Seshasayee + Soundar Ananda, 23rd February 2019

I know Grand Union Orchestra, but I’m less familiar with PU’s Mishti Dance evenings and their Asian club/dance initiative. The idea strikes a fond chord of memories stemming from the Talvin Singh Anokha nights I’d occasionally attend in the mid-‘90s, in which all of the sounds I’d been vaguely aware of during an upbringing in multicultural Haringey suddenly seemed to grow up and stream together. Anokha, though, had its road laid down for it by the bhangra grooves and post-rave dance culture of the times, and while you could skulk up to the chillout room to listen to Shakti if you wanted to, it was predominantly about immersing yourself in sub-bass, remix chops and tabla frenzy.

Mishi, however, looks like a much looser bag: admittedly hung on the same British Asian peg but more tenuously, with room for just about anything and anyone with a Asian connection and in particular those who are following their own path out of the immediate cultural confines and bringing their innate cultural qualities to question, alter and enrich other spaces. The closest Anokha-type dance exemplar in this month’s gig looks as if it’s DJ Soundar Ananda of Indigenous Resistance, a French-Asian “conscious beats” deliverer, promoter and compilation curator working with “cutting-edge, futuristic, nu-skool, Eastern electronic music influenced by dub, dubstep, d’n’b, breakbeat, jungle, reggae.”

 
The Tuts, on the other hand, are a long way from Anohka beat culture, although I think Talvin and co would have appreciated their ethic. A fiesty, witty, self-propelled female throw-forward from the all-too-brief days of ’70s post-punk inclusivity, they’re a young DIY pop-punk trio of “proud Caribbean, English and Indian/Pakistani origin” and an immediate, salty working-class attitude of immediate self-assertion and street wit. Full of chop-and-change musical sharpness and girl-group zest (they’ve happily covered Wannabe, though there’s as much Fuzzbox or Slits to their vigour as there is Spice Girlhood), they’ll be inspiring girl moshers and wallflowers alike from Wolverhampton to Leicester, with little for old white gits like me to do but gently get out of the way, smiling as we do so. Bluntly inspirational.



 
The remaining two acts take us into delightfully eclectic and weird experimental pop and noise terrain. Bringing the majority of the weird noises are headliners Conspirators Of Pleasure: multi-media artists Poulomi Desai (who’s been in here before a few times over the year, toting her polydisciplinary stage shows and their festoonings of gizmos and collated contradictory content) and onetime Pop Group/Pigbag post-punk/funk/dub bassist Simon Underwood (once compared by Dennis Bovell to a white Robbie Shakespeare). Their adventures together have included helping to set Joyce’s ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ to music, and touring with Stewart Lee and other restless upsetters in the ‘Usurp Chance Tour’. Using repurposed tools of the cultural trade (Poulumi’s context-yanked sitar played with everything from an axe to a massage vibrator, Simon’s prepared bass guitar) plus assorted noisemakers, drone-sources, toys, stylophones and radios and a battery of makeshift audio-visual, they’ll spend their time onstage forking over textures and flotsam, touching on the industrial, on dance culture, on noisy improvised chaos and on the voices and ideas which emerge from this conflation.


 
Glaswegian-Asian singer-songwriter Kapil Seshasayee has parked himself on a junction where a variety of different ideas and approaches are coerced into meeting. He takes his beats from hardcore machine punk and Arca-ian experimental electropop; his guitar choices from a superimposition of Carnatic traditions and skinny-wire Hendrixian note-bending, crashes and hammer-on blues; his song structures from the kind of improvisational bardic rock which itself is drawing from griots or the ecstatic traditions which bubble away in various cultures despite having been vainly tarmac-ed over by Western rationalism.

His voice… well, I’m not entirely sure where that comes from. A beautiful Western/Indian rock clarion with hints of boy angel, Quwalli pronouncer and open-ended Beefheartian abstractioneer, it barrels up out of a position of assured strength only to lyrically splatter itself across parts of the landscape you’d not even noticed before. I could wave in Tim Buckley, Thom Yorke, Nick Harper and Van Morrison as whiter comparisons; I could point to some of the fiery ecstastic pitches and timbres of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, or toward youthful bluesmen with an axe to sharpen; but I still wouldn’t get it across to you or do it the right kind of justice.

Bald and impressively bearded (beating me on both counts, in fact), Kalil additionally decorates his wrenched-cable music with electronic fizz and spookings plus the eldritch acoustic wails he can scratch out of a waterphone. As for his songs, whether they’re upended experimental blues or club-leaning avant-pop abstractions (and often they’re both), they sound like distracted revelations in train marshalling yards, Kapil as a spasming, pointing Blakean figure continually spotting and sweeping the hidden numinous into his narratives and fracturing them into cracked landscapes. Somewhere inside Kalil there’s a bloke who wants to sing straightforward young-man songs about love gone wrong. Fortunately, his own brain continually waylays him in between impulse and expression.



 
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Dates:

Grand Union Orchestra: Bengal, Bhangra and the Blues
Poplar Union, 2 Cotall Street, Poplar, London, E14 6TL, England
Friday 22nd February 2019, 7.30pm
– information here and here

Mishti Dance presents:
Conspirators of Pleasure + The Tuts + Kapil Seshasayee + Soundar Ananda
Poplar Union, 2 Cotall Street, Poplar, London, E14 6TL, England
Saturday 23rd February 2019, 7.00pm
– information here and here
 

June 2016 – upcoming London gigs – Horsefight, Godzilla Black and HVMAN in New Cross (23rd); Victoria Park Singers, Kemper Norton, Settembre and Paul Reynolds take Daylight Music (25th); Copperhead Lucy and Boy And A Balloon play MAP Studio Cafe (26th)

20 Jun

Quick snapshots of three more shows for the week – a spiky south London rock gig, a warm/eclectic Daylight event, and an Americana/art-busk evening at MAP…

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Horsefight/Godzilla Black/HVMAN @ New Cross Inn, 23rd June 2016

New Cross Inn presents:
Horsefight + Godzilla Black + HVMAN
New Cross Inn, 323 New Cross Road, New Cross, London, SE14 6AS, England
Thursday 23rd June 2016, 7.00pm
information

Tight as fuck, gonzoid and with Berlin, Brisbane and London in their veins, Horsefight let their glam-prog/psychobilly/New Wave songs pogo about on giant spidery legs. They sound like a superimposition of The Fall, King Crimson and The Cramps, call themselves “obnoxious bounce music” and deliver songs on the verge of seizure, twitching over the Fall from Eden and going into near-hysterics about Derren Brown. A band up for hurling themselves into the heat of any given moment, they’ll eyeball it for a second and wet their lips before assembling a rapid strategy. They exist somewhere between spontaneity, rapid brainwork and the magnesium flare which upsets it all.



 

Still establishing themselves as one of the capital’s sharpest and wittiest propositions, Godzilla Black bring their snappy blare to New Cross, sounding like a horns-and-swagger big band that’s been carved up in a Peckinpah shootout and come out of it both crazed and leaner. Part sharp-dressed schizoid men, part lysergic spy movie cocktail, with an edging of amplifier hiss and flesh frenzy: the neurotic beast in the impeccable suit.



 
Up against these guys, and promising “big brash pop tunes with a sharp-edged alternative rock aftertaste”, HVMAN used to write glam-punk songs about beautiful people and E-numbers, full of blipping synths, dry songspiel asides and strutting guitar. They’ve now stirred in a deeper, rougher, and more yearning tone, some hurt-child dramatics, and the odd garnishing of bluesy resonator guitar. They’ve also added a new singer, Kane, who fits in with this sudden injection of classic-rock melodrama: although exactly how he bounces off the insouciant detachment of the band’s other singer, Louise, remains to be seen. For now, HVMAN (while citing Imagine Dragons, YYYs, Hurts and Talking Heads) suggest a clash of Ultrasound and The Flying Lizards over a few Eddie Vedder daydreams.


 

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On the other side of the fuzz pedal, Daylight Music are striving even harder than usual this week to merge community music, pop experimentation, and wood/string/space acoustica. Since this is the third or fourth time this season that they’ve put a scratch-choir singing pop hits on the bill (and the first time they’ve had one as the headliner), I was about to complain about a Daylight cosiness epidemic. Having had a look further down the list of the weekend’s acts I’d rather applaud them for their guile, their stealth and their soft-power persuasiveness. I shouldn’t have doubted them.

Daylight Music 229, 25th June 2016

Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 229 – Midsummer Madness: Victoria Park Singers, Kemper Norton + Settembre + Paul Reynolds
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 25th June 2016, 12.00pm
free event (suggested donation: £5.00) – information

“Obviously Daylight Music should hail the solstice; it’s the most Daylight possible!

The Victoria Park Singers are a big community choir, singing a special selection of summer melodies, including songs by Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan and Marvin Gaye.

“The ‘coastal slurtronic folk’ of Cornishman-turned-Brightonian Kemper Norton uses digital and analogue hardware and software, acoustic instruments , field recordings and traditional song to explore neglected or original areas of landscape and folklore. His most recent album, ‘Loor’, was inspired by real and imagined cities from childhood, bathed in traditional folk, found sounds and community chants, celebrations and invocations. ‘Loor’ (which is Cornish for moon) represents the next ambitious transmission in the expanding audio landscape that Kemper Norton is creating. The songs on the album are a loose trilogy of nocturnal encounters, searches and awakenings, often with Kemper Norton revisiting old foes from previous albums and encouraging new treacherous encounters. Today he also performs his solstice inspired songs.


Settembre is a duo formed in 2015 by London-based Italian musicians Angela Cicchetti (vocals) and Ivan Imperiali (guitar). They take the essence of Italy’s songwriting tradition, and reshape it with elements from the great Brazilian, Spanish and Portuguese schools, creating a delightful combination of delicate singing and classical guitar informed by cantautori, fado, bossa and choro forms amongst others.

“Also this week, Paul Reynolds (usually to be found as the guitarist of Vespers) will be at the piano, weaving his chilled improvisations and atmospheric melodies through Daylight’s Summer celebration.”


 
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Copperhead Lucy + Boy And A Balloon @ MAP Studio Cafe, 26th June 2016Copperhead Lucy + Boy And A Balloon
MAP Studio Café, 46 Grafton Road, Kentish Town, London, NW5 3DU, England
Sunday 26th June 2016, 8.00pm
information

Further north in Camden, Map Studio Cafe continues the live sessions from local bands with a show by Americana quartet Copperhead Lucy. As they describe themselves, Copperhead Lucy were “formed after a chance encounter in a cello shop in Camden and based around the delicate voice and songs of Abigail Newis… (their) songs describe lives sometimes tragic, sometimes humorous, often morbid, set to a backdrop of junkyard drums, double bass and smoking hot guitar lines. Taking inspiration from the likes of Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Portishead and PJ Harvey, the songs run from ethereal whispers to raucous, tantrumic shouts.”

Here are a couple of videos, the second being a recording of the band’s first gig, back at Kentish Town’s Abbey in 2011 (a short, drunken stagger away from Map).



 
In support is Adam Hall, otherwise known as Boy And A Balloon (who played a Daylight Music show earlier in the month). Bringing his experience both as street musician and soul/pop session man to bear on a growing aesthetic of spontaneous roughness, Adam plays his own deliberately simple songs through a battered three-quarters-scale nylon-string guitar and a scratchy-toned broken-signalled busker’s amp, pursuing a philosophy of “songwriting will shine through roughness”, drawing on his own thirty-year span choice of pop music (from the ’40s to the ’70s) and musing on “the innocent and inevitable loss of something human, precious and innocent – so apparent in today’s fast paced and overwhelming technological world.”


 

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