We recently performed a preview of our new show ‘Songs of Immigrants and Experience’ at Rich Mix, generously supported by development funding from Southbank Centre and Arts Council England. Here’s a little trailer we’ve cut together from the show.
Although a massive team contributed to our recent Rich Mix performance, the stars of the show were the musicians on stage. Arthur Lea and Camilo Menjura, two excellent musicians and long-time collaborators provided the musical backing for two amazing singers to flex their mad skills. Catch a snippet of Junior Williams and Fola Philip dueting on a track called ‘Inbetween’ here. I’m so proud of this track – I adore the fact that I can now compose lyrics and melodies, and then give the whole tune over to professionals who can take it to the next level.
I really like the lyrics to this tune:
She set a course
and climbed aboard
She rigged the sail
and sailed abroad
And then a storm -
call it a gift -
It set her flimsy boat adrift
Directionless and rudderless
And now she’s got no anchor. Bless!
And though its hard to drift without
A mast to pin her tattered sighs
And though she feels bereft; alone
In endless, unforgiving skies
She understands we all climb rocks
In search of lies we’ll label home
She’s living more courageously
Than most of us have ever known
At our recent London preview of our new show, we gave out a free pamphlet. Designed by Kevin Foakes, long-time visionary and graphic designer at my old stable mate’s record label Ninja Tune, the pamphlet allowed me to explore my intentions to publish the project as a graphic novel. The images featured Tanzila Ishrath and Mariam Shokeye, two women I met through doing participatory workshops with the excellent charity You Make It.
Click on the image to get a closer peek at Kev’s design skills. You can read the text from the image below.
EXTRACT FROM BATTLE HYMN OF THE TIGER MOTHER
Cher Khan’s motherly love towards her daughter emerged like the flash of a fish’s tail. She inflicted harsh forms of discipline on her child; Her parenting style often involved some tried and tested techniques, for she’d been shaped, in her turn by her dad’s heart beats. Luna took refuge in her best friend Ruksana, who lived on the block. Ruksana was Silheti Bangladeshi. They’d giggle and laugh on Ruksana’s bed whilst surfing on the interweb, a portal into other worlds, where all of life slowly unfurled before the eyes of these two girls.
Whilst Luna often found herself eating alone in her unhappy home, at Ruksana’s, every meal was eaten together; eight, ten people, young and old, scooping up rice with hands whilst the tv blared in the background. Perhaps it was no surprise, then, that Luna decided to wear the veil that Ruksana wore; it made her feel as though she always carried a part of that laughing family with her; like she belonged to something bigger than herself. ma’ashallah, inshallah, al ham du lillah; simple phrases, which rolled off the tongue, and made her feel like she belonged. But the look of horror on her parent’s face, when she returned home wearing hijab!
Luna’s life changed the day she found a wounded bird on her balcony. She nursed it back to health. The day it flew from her hands and took flight, she knew that she too wanted to fly away. From that day on, she paid attention to the birds; murmurs of starlings which swirled around her like clouds echoed the crowds of people who danced below her balcony; kaleidoscopic maelstroms, born of tired and troubled masses, who rotated round the centrifugal forces of the pound, amidst those deals and acquisitions of the moneyed and ambitious who, propelled by motivation, helped to turn that city round.
Ruksana, fluent in the Silheti language of her family, laughed at her lack of Urdu (her father’s mother tongue), or Hindi (her mother’s). Luna snorted, and retorted, “The only language I want to learn how to speak is birdsong.”
EXTRACT FROM THE RUBY YACHT OF AMIRA KHAYYAM
Forests are remarkable places. In the dark of the night, darkness screams loudly; but Luna, who slept soundly, woke to her very first dawn chorus. It was a glorious morning. Like fluffed chollah bread, cloudy cream clots dotted across the sky’s tabletop. A truly glorious spread! All traces of the fear which had gripped her throat that previous night dissipated in dawn’s first light, transposed with wonder; wide-eyed awe at all she saw, and all she heard; birds! As sunlight ruffled its dappled fingers through scruffy crowns of mottled leaves, hundreds of birds, singing at the top of their voices. Such a glorious symphony, for one whose heart birdsong had set free! And through the bottle necks of ancient trees, she saw something she had never seen before; a blue-green and expansive sea…
Luna started when behind her, she heard a melodious voice singing. Behind her sat a sight for sore eyes; a raggle-taggle gypsy, dressed in a sari, holding a skull. “The funny thing about death is that we fear it so,” said Amira Khayyam, shaman, temptress, queen of the dance. “But all of us gotsta go.”
“Who are you?” stammered Luna.
“Oh, I’ve been called many names over the years. But you can call me Amira Khayyam.”