Alan Dearling goes along to this major indoor festival and shares some of the vibes!
London Remixed is housed in the friendly, labyrinthine, East London venue in Shoreditch that is Rich Mix. This ever-evolving, cutting-edge event is really rather special. Covid meant that London Remixed has had a year off, but it’s come back with a veritable bang. It is growing, especially in terms of the workshops and programme of creative training from the Festival Lab that precedes Friday’s Brass Off and Saturday’s Tropicarnival. It is an organic, living eco-system, teeming with talent, nurturing new and older performers, offering a magical-kaleidoscope of musical genres from the visiting performers and cultures. Many from within the UK and others visiting London as musical ambassadors.
As ever, at the creative helm, and flying around the stages, beaming bonhomie, was Chris Tofu from Continental Drifts. A total legend!
Chris, together with an amazing, dedicated team are based from a barge on the River Lea and provide performers and support for events and stages at London, national and international events including Shambala, Glastonbury Shangri-la, Boomtown and Latitude.
This is the organisers’ own description of the event:
“The festival is a celebration of the best emerging musical talent and genres and will offer creativity, fun and madness, complete with buzzing atmosphere & music… but without the mud, rain or hassle of camping.
Showcasing the best emerging artists sharing unique sounds from a wide range of cultures, we are kicking Global London into the future!
Friday – Celebrating 25 years of Continental Drifts with our famous Brass Off as well as the launch of a new stage curated by our group of producers from our new course of creatives: Festival Lab.
Saturday – 4 great stages showcasing a wide range of live acts, performers and DJs playing music from around the world meeting the 21st Century; from Future Arabic music, African, Latin remix all the way to new UK folk and very funky DJ’s.
Our famous Disco Lift was back in action for the 2 days!”
The Disco Lift is awesome. A tardis-like fantasy space of disco-dance and chaotic weirdness. But ‘tis a weeny space, so most of the time getting up and down between four floors of the London Remixed stages is a major undertaking, not entirely distanced from a mini-marathon.
To add a ‘Cautionary Note’ here regarding my ‘words’ about this two-day event: I did witness over nine hours of performances, but I missed a lot, especially the late night ones. So, I can only comment on some of the performers I did see! In reality, my main task was to take a selection of photos, so for much of the time I was only able to absorb a one-song snapshot of a particular performance. End of my rather vague-apology. On with the shows!
I love the sights and sounds that the Brass Off generates. But, I’m not a musician, let alone a brass expert. So, I invited a mate along to the Friday event who is definitely a full-time performing musician, but wanted to remain anonymous. I kind of see him as a human-version of Bahloo. Most of the following are Bahloo’s words about the three brass outfits who set the London Remixed stage alight on the Friday night.
New Car Smell: https://www.facebook.com/newcarsmell.brass/
Bahloo tells us:
I really enjoyed New Car Smell. They kind of stretch the definition of what a “brass band” is, but who cares about definitions? (Incidentally, later the London Brass All Stars had two saxes and two brass in the front line, although I wouldn’t quibble with their categorisation, and the Intergalactic Brasstronauts seemed more of a ska band with lots of brass rather than a brass band as such). NCS played a set straight through without pause, and negotiated the numerous changes in time and feel without so much as blinking.
They were extremely tight, the three of them locking in seamlessly on the many breaks. The star of the show was undoubtedly the drummer, who was as inventive and fluid in his solo breaks as he was rock solid on the group breaks. The tunes were simple, consisting mainly of repetitive looped phrases on the alto and straightforward bass lines, and the ebb and flow of the drum patterns and grooves was the main draw. The drummer looked like he was having an absolute blast, too.
Alan adds: It’s hard for any band to come on first during that time period when the audience is arriving. But NCS is a class act and I really enjoyed their sheer musicianship, coupled with plenty of charisma.
The London Brass All Stars: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MERjycxg_9k
I’m afraid I found this band rather dull, and too loud to boot. There was no subtlety of any sort to the arrangements, which were all played at full blast without any attempt at dynamics – and cranked up so loud I had to retreat to the back of the room to get out of the onslaught. The tunes were rather dull and simple; they were quickly disposed of, and then followed with either slightly stodgy slabs of groove (I found myself longing for the snap and pizzazz of NCS’s percussion), or slices of squonky solos which were entertaining enough at first but rapidly led nowhere. Still, the audience seemed to like it and were happily dancing, so that must count for something.
Alan adds: I loved their experimentation and general mayhem, so whilst I slightly bow to Bahloo’s critical musical judgement, I found the band lively, odd-ball, a bit psychedelic cum avant-garde, and generally strangely strange!
Intergalactic Brasstronauts: https://www.facebook.com/intergalacticbrasstronauts/
These came as a welcome relief after LBAS, with a much defter touch to their arrangements and a lot more light and shade, along with a pleasant line in skank. If I hadn’t encountered them as part of the brass-off I wouldn’t have thought of them as a brass band specifically (despite the presence of a sousaphone). The sousa was complemented with what I think might have been a contrabass clarinet – something deep in the woodwind dept, anyway, and the two worked together marvellously to give a bass sound unlike anything I’ve heard in this kind of context. They were rather jolly and enjoyable, if a bit lacking in distinctive tunes. A good party band.
Alan adds: This was far from a brass band, blessed with two lively singers and good showmanship. They are purveyors of lots of musical styles, especially reggae and two-tone. Good fun and experts at generating audience participation.
A few more pics from the Brass Off…………………………………………………………….
Saturday: Tropicarnival, the Beats Bazaar and the Folk Attic
A busy, bouncing Dance Party atmosphere. Very much a World Party. Music representing the rhythms, cultures and peoples from around the world. Traditional sounds and instruments, mixing, MC-ing, rapping, electronica, Afro and Islamic grooves. Experiments in sounds and visions. Positive vibes, kindness and hugs, all ideal for counteracting tricky times. The Remix Reeling dance session up in the Folk Attic caught this positivity and buzz just perfectly. A dance ‘caller’ organised the session – in a fun, very wild, lively fashion. Much abandon and almost cavalry charge speeds. At the end they formed one final human pagoda for a smiling participant in a wheel-chair to speed down the centre. Awesome stuff.
I’ve shared in this ‘collage’ more of my images from all the stages (from the entire festi), but I’ll only share a few written impressions of a couple of acts which I was able to spend more time watching on the Saturday. A few short opportunities to absorb a bit more detail. As I mentioned earlier, the physical activity of chasing around the various stages in the Re Mix building was a challenge, a fun one, but the result for me, is more images and less reportage/reviewing of the individual performers.
Out of Africa: Xylophone and vocal minstrelsy. This is a master musician who magics up vibes and an absolutely electric atmosphere.
He’s originally from Conakry in Guinea but has been based in Cardiff since 2019. I really enjoyed his spirited playing. He’s high on energy, he leaps about, lots of smiles radiating across the happy dancing punters in Tropicarnival. They in turn offered up oodles of ‘instant love’ for his balafon playing and griot singing. I’ve read that this is based on his “…modern interpretations of traditional West African Mandingue songs.” He’s been playing extensively with Gruff Rhys (of Super Furry Animals’ fame) on the Pang! album tour. Back in Guinea he was the founder of ‘Les Héritiers du Mandingue’, a traditional-modern group that toured extensively in West Africa.
I’ve checked on-line at Midnight Mango site, which informs us that: “N’famady released his first EP in July 2021, recorded in the legendary Rockfield Studios, with a full band line up, including guest appearances from Gruff Rhys (Super Furry Animals), Lisa Jên Brown (9Bach), and Kliph Scurlock (The Flaming Lips). The EP features mash-ups of traditional Guinean songs with new Welsh lyrics, modern & traditional instrumentation, played by a ten-piece band.”
He was absolutely splendid. Spliffing, in fact. A brightly coloured bird of musical paradise!
A recent show with his band at the Tramway in Glasgow: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRzoDVZIkMk
Live solo for Showcase Wales 2021: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=25pS6t0aFIQ
The Ajam Band
Traditional and modern blends of Iranian, soulful, spiritual and uplifting music. Heartfelt and sometimes gut-wrenching. The Ajam Band was founded back in 2010. First, some of their music, then a bit more about them.
“I’ve arrived from that place of wise warriors.”
This next video is a recent recording at the Niavaran Palace Complex of a current version of ‘Noroozkhani’, which was on the 10th anniversary of its original release.
Keep the video playing – it links into more of their music. Full of beats, chants, an infectious mix of the angry and the plaintive. It’s a strange and sometimes uncomfortable soundclash of the melodic with gritty harsh reality. ‘Ajam’ is the concept of a ‘people’s music’ and it was the brainchild conceived by Amin Mohammad Fouladi, aka Amin Ajami, the driving force behind the Ajam project.
It is Persian music, but it is also (to at least my ears) tribal music, reminiscent of the music from Turkey, Greece, and also of the Baltic states and even Morocco. Definitely hypnotic. It also blends the urban soundscape with the rural; the confrontations and confusions of modern and ancient traditions. Music that brings the cultures and peoples of the world into our lives and hearts – if you let it! Ajam are London-based, but have performed around the world.
More of the London Remixed vibes……