I am a songwriter and composer based in North London, where I have been involved in the music scene of this global city since my days at the African and South American arts centre Jenako Arts in the early 80s. That was where I introduced London to Capoeira music by bringing over a master from Brazil, and promoted interest in the Kora by bringing Sanjali Jobarteh here from Senegal. We also provided some of the acts for the first Womad festivals, the Nimes festival of Street Music and other events. If you were in London in the 80s you will remember all the free music festivals that used to happen in parks around London. Jenako Arts brought Arrow (Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot) to the UK, as well as Ruben Blades, Yemaya and others. It was also where I worked closely with the Goan jazz guitarist Amancio D'Silva and the leader of Orchestra Jazira, Folo Graff - a collaboration that lasted many years.
After Jenako Arts I studied at the music department at Hackney College. This was where I collaborated with the virtuoso jazz pianist and music educationalist Chris Wilson. Sadly, this department has now closed. Since that time I have been organizing and giving final arrangements to a back catalogue of some 300 pieces in a wide range of styles: Jazz, Latin, Folk, early music, minimalist, Indian... Basically, I have spent a lot of time making stuff up - often sitting in front of test match cricket on TV - and perhaps not enough time getting the music 'out there'. I now have various projects on the go: as well as selling my Latin Jazz CD ‘Shelter’, I am seeking an up-and-coming jazz singer and ensemble to perform another set of more commercial jazz songs and a wind quintet to record a suite of early/folk pieces.
My main influences, then, are Afro-Latin jazz, African music and jazz as it has returned to Africa in the hands of people like Fela Kuti, Manu Dibango and Dollar Brand. When it comes to African music (and most other kinds of music) I’m really into things from the 70s and early 80s: Rochereau, Orchestra Baobab, The Mahotella Queens, S.E. Rogie… I don’t know if it was due to some natural maturing point in modern music, or just because I was a kid at the time, but it seems like wherever you care to go, song-writing was at its best from about the mid-60s through the 70s. I hope that my songs draw on the skills of song crafting that were so abundant those days.