Strings and Piano Eclectica: a night of improv  

What if you take a classical trio and put it with John Lennon? The last Eclectica was a sublime mix of the mainstream and the mysterious. I did a few songs ranging from Kate Bush to originals, including a poem set to piano. Sylvia & I followed with their incredible haunting music of violin and trumpet improv which everyone described as mesmerising and finally the Archaos Trio played their set. 


Improv is a special kind of music and I was delighted to see an artist from the audience improvise an art piece to reflect the show. 

We are taking a break for March but back in April with an dance beats driven electro for Dance Eclectica! 


Ethereal Eclectica  

Does a night of witchery sound like January to you? I didn't mean to be so witchy. It came to me through the songs that forever I leaned to for a sense of sisterhood. The list is growing and moving into contemporary music more and more but... they are all the same in the end. 

Kate Bush's Wuthering Heights 

Stevie Nicks Rhiannon & Sisters of the Moon 

And then my whole debut EP, which is almost entirely about the Jung's Shadow Aspect. 

17th Jan, 7.30-10pm 

Gonzo's Two Room, London Street. 




Not Black Enough for Blues   

It's Black History Month!

Celebrating the rights, history and legacy of that so poignant a phrase - "black" people. I love how the word references so much and so nothing. Human progress has got us so far as to colour code human categorisation, like blue jays are blue so they're blue jays not red robins. 

But there is actually something supremely excellent about Black History Month which I found out today and yesterday. OK two things: 

- It was started by a wonderful gay rights activist and feminist called Linda Bellos, elected to Lambeth Council in the 1980s, who is in fact MIXED race: "white" Polish and "black" Nigerian, so that's African Polish for those of us still confused about colour coding. Read more about her here.  

- And secondly, that though the Army came under fire recently for including "Asians" into the mix for "Black History Month", Linda and supporters of Black History Month sided with the Army. So much of the work and legacy of the Afro-Caribbeans in building modern Britain was shared by their Asian counterparts. They are not "black black" like the colour "black" but “politically black”. Ian Thomas, spokesman for the body that facilitates Black History Month says: “The contribution of Sikh, Hindu and Muslim communities can’t be ignored. If they consider themselves politically black, then they are”. So not "black-colour-black" just "black-politics-black".  

So much clearer no?

Not that I don't like colours, I mean, of an overflowing wardrobe I have one black dress. The rest covers the rainbow. And for the record, I'm also mixed race, Indian-Canadian-British but I was born in Holland then spent 20 years travelling around until I went colour blind. Norfolk is relatively new and I'm still getting used to the ginger thing, affectionately known as "ranga" from "orangutan". If that isn't racist, then maybe that I mistake all ginger people for Ed Sheeran is. Orange hair? Actually orange?  

As it happens I wrote a song about all this, and the producer happens to be ginger, nicknamed "Ranga" at school.

Here's Not Black Enough for Blues": celebrating the pointlessness of colour coding in human beings, but with a nod of immense gratitude to everything that the blues did for music. 

The Power of Original Music  

The way things are going in the music industry, originals artists have all the best and all the worst options ahead of them. Record labels expect bands and artists to have sold out shows and touring / recording before they will invest because the risks are higher than ever. The investment is takes to get to that point is already immeasurable. This presents a challenge and an opportunity: we have to do it alone; and we can do it alone. 

I had a rough time on my first record with fees so high that I ended up in hospital with stress. It's no easy road. But there are roads that can work and some of the involved support from other artists. 

I've just been asked to host a night at Norwich's Gonzo's once a month, singing some Jazz and Originals and putting on any of the Originals acts I want to. Ah, now there's an idea: any local originals artists that I think are worth showcasing at a night that I will be hosting. Now what a superb way to support the artistic community of Norwich. A platform like that speaks of the spirit of the city and gives the real talent out there a place to showcase that isn't diluted by less well developed counterparts. 

What. could. it. become. 

Good question... Kick of Sept 14th. Gonzo's middle floor "tworoom" at 8pm! Pay what you can! 

Murky Waters - the backstory  

How does one describe innate fear? 

I wrote the song Murky Waters as a co-write, lyrics only, and left the rest to my songwriter partner on the track Will Fergusson. He and I have shared a conflictual relationship. We... fight. Every rehearsal. We agree on nothing except food. But through music we have spent much time together.

He always took me to water sources - river, lake, sea. His favourite river is the one that he grew up with, the River Deben in Woodbridge. He lives by the Toaist mantra "be like water". He has much water about him generally. The trips to the sea and lakes and rivers were pleasant on the whole... except that each time, I'd begin to feel afraid. It is true that I almost drowned when I was six and have become a committed swimmer ever since. Maybe one day I will beat the waves. But I don't think it was that. It was a fear of something I couldn't name. An omnipotent element and the limitlessness of a musical genius I had not seen before? I don't know.  

The lyrics came in a matter of minutes; I didn't edit them despite their flaws. And of the 12 sets of song lyrics I gave to Will, he chose only Murky Waters. There is no other instrumentation on the track, just piano and vocals. 

This is a song that was born spontaneously and one that has a life of its own. I don't want to tamper with Murky too much.  

Some things you can't explain. 

Click the pic for the song


Finding your voice  

A friend recently told me that she'd gone to see a vocal therapist because she was unhappy that her voice lacked stature. In certain social contexts, it would rise and turn to a squeak. She was nervous - and her voice showed it. 


If your voice reflects your emotions, then what does that say about the nature of voice? Is it a vehicle for emotional communication? Or is it, itself, an emotion? 

Some people think speech is a left-brain thing, while singing is right brain; it's why people like Carly Simon can sing fine, but stutters when she talks. 

I find this topic so interesting because a long time ago, I lost my singing voice because of an emotional problem. From a potentially professional singer - to silent, overnight. It was like being cut from the root. It took me ten years to connect and heal.

Ten years without a note.

The best word for it was agony. You'll hear a lot of artists use that word when they are separated from their art. It was agony. 

Luckily, I healed, but I wonder what it was about voice that meant that of all the things I lost, the vocal loss was so final. Not a note for ten years. Hmmm. 


Love Through the Ages  

The most disturbing experience of love I ever had was opening a book of Disney's Beauty and the Beast when I was at the dentists about to get my teeth cleaned, and feeling like I had returned to source: love was an idea that had first been shown to me as a frothing yellow dress. Omg: love was Disney. No. Life was Disney.


I realised in that moment that we are so bombarded with love as some primal form of salvation that we don't think a meaningful life is possible without it.  Meaning, did Paleolithic man value love above... building a massive shrine out of bark and cawing at it? If we don't marry and fall in love, is life just a blank meaninglessness? If life were less commercial, would we even have it? 

Love isn't really working for me. If it comes, I kill it. And besides, the best times I've had recently are enjoying the things that tell about the human experience, but not love. I saw this incredible cellist called Gyda Valtysdotir at the Arts Centre on a Tuesday evening. I was blown away by this haunting birdlike woman tapping into another world. The whole room was captivated. I've also just finished reading Sapiens. The best bit was thinking relatively about human happiness and whether ancient civilisations measured happiness in terms of material comforts like we do. I love that idea. I'd honestly not thought of that before. The worst bit was learning that man has and always will destroy everything in his path, first with fire, then greed. So humanitarianism isn't actually human. Hmm. That's awkward but fact. 

Love didn't really come into it. And what's more, nothing really ever makes me happier than singing a song or better, writing one that is beautiful. I've a way to go before I reach my musical pinnacle, but the journey is the joy of this lifetime. Am I missing something? 

Maybe it is that good. Or maybe we are all just bored. 

Either way, now that we have supermarkets we can devote all our best hours to love. And nothing is truer evidence of that fact than a quick scan of the number of love songs in existence since we deified love over an actual deity.

More stories like this, and a walk through time, at my next gig at Bermuda Bob's this Valentine's Day. Playing with the incredible Will Fergusson on keys, it's a night of love songs through the ages, from Classical, Musical Theatre, Jazz, Pop and some originals. Timberhill, Norwich, 8pm onwards!


How to find your own voice: the dangers of belting  

It's a complex beast, finding the different vocal technique that suits you as a singer. The difficulty is that singing coaches will observe popular singers and work out mechanically the techniques they use to achieve certain effects, maybe belting for impressive diva-esque renditions of our favourite ballads or shrieking top notes in rock anthems. 

But your instrument is unique to you. So how do you find a technique that serves you?  

My biggest issue in singing was to embrace my own voice rather than feeling that I needed to belt to be a 'good' singer. Belting, hurts me, a lot. Two songs in and my voice is fried. I trained classically because my voice likes classical singing. Doesn't mean I sound like a pointy-titted opera singer, but my voice wants to sing in a head-mix register. It's happy there. So it's my job to appropriate that technique to the style I like, rather than twisting my natural voice into a shape to which it doesn't want to conform. 

How to find that out?

I've found the best thing you can do for your voice, is sing well written songs. Well-written does not necessarily mean popular: most often, it's those that do not meet modern standards of effective songwriting. Better, are songs whose melodies move around, and require a controlled vocal treatment; say some of the old Jazz standards. Most of these songs follow the tradition of older styles of songwriting, that originated from blues or folk or opera or some combination of those, but their melodies tell a story on their own, while the note sequences and intervals force you to control and navigate your breath control in ways that contemporary pop doesn't. 

Take 'Somewhere over the Rainbow'. In the second note, you have an octaval leap, eight notes. In Adele's Hello, you have one, "He-llo". Though she does reach a high belt at the chorus of the song, this is a power note that requires a vital push, a force of thrust to deliver on the emotion. Not my favourite style, but it has its merits. I just worry that all these songs are really inherited from the soul tradition, that is a wonderful, but only a singular tradition in our very varied musical landscape. The lift in the song is generally, power rather than the quiet or pause. If I forced myself to mimic Aretha Franklin, I'd get nowhere. 

But human emotion can be more subtle. It can twist and contradict. It can fall and rise in the same breath. It can whimper rather than scream. It can be silent. It can be an echo. All this can come out in a more nuanced melody, but more importantly, one that demands muscular control of the breath and support of the note that expresses complex emotions subtly. 

If you want to learn how to sing, sing the first two phrases of Somewhere Over the Rainbow in one breath. Sing it loudly. Sing it quietly. Vary it. But control every note and do it until you are in full control. Record yourself, work out which is best. Thereafter, your singing muscles will grow. This is yoga of the voice. And you will be on your way to finding what works, for YOU. 


Probably the only song that has or ever will start with the word Wittgenstein 


Not a word you hear very often in a song, not a love song. But his words rule my mind more than mine, and more than love.

If you think on a word long enough, you'll find yourself in oblivion. And I've thought on you so long, I'm lost.

No words, no words for you. 


So goes my next song, the first from my next EP 'The Dark Hand of Love'. A magical, philosophical, more serious bunch of tracks that challenge the instruction I was given on vocal technique, song structure and style. I was told not to discuss themes that a wide audience wouldn't understand. I could think of no better way to start my first song than with the word Wittgenstein. 

Wittgenstein doesn't have an obvious place in musical territory given that he was an analytic philosopher of Maths and Logic; except that Brahms was a regular at his home in Austria; he would listen to music with the same fury he puzzled over Logic; and he was a mystic. Suddenly, we are not so dissimilar. 

I came across him at school, around the same time that I lost my singing voice. Maybe because I was suddenly not able to communicate any longer through my natural voice, I found conversations about meaning and language poignant. His theory developed from book to book, but generally the journey is: a) the world is the totality of facts so words have meaning so long as we can picture them in our minds; b) then later that pictures aren't as important as how words are used in language games, so meaning is determined by use; c) and finally at the end of his life, he went on to distinguish between absolute certainty and absolute knowledge as being categorically distinct, thereby evading most of the problems that philosophers like him grapple with. 

Blah blah. 

Philosophy had its place in my life at one time: I used it to find my voice again; but that is a bigger story for another time. I don't need Wittgenstein anymore; but when I find myself lost, his words come to me.

Like during a recent romance when I found myself unable to understand someone and even more unable to express why. Some people can't be defined. Some emotions can't be defined. Sometimes - there are simply, 'No Words'. 

Watch the song here:


Where and what is home?  

As we fast approach the Soup Kitchen Boogie on May 13th, the theme on everyone's mind seems to be "home". 

In fact, I went to a fabulous contemporary dance show at the Norwich Arts Centre last week called Home Solo. Hayley Matthews and Hej Jones combined lights, music, dance and the spoken word to explore the notion of what it feels like to be at home in one's own skin. It was mesmerising to watch her. That's Hayley below. She's in London and NYC in the coming months- don't miss it! Learn more here

Home is the subject of my next single. Or at least, the search for home. It's a word that describes a place; a feeling; an entitlement and a practice.

And one that I have never understood: 

My mum is Indian and my dad British-Canadian. I was born in Holland. I lived with my mum until I was 11 - we moved from Maastricht, to Calcutta and then to Toronto - until I left her to live with my dad who had moved from Norway to Oxfordshire. His wife is Italian. He sent me to boarding school in Edinburgh but I did my A-levels in Oxford. In total, I went to eight schools and when I'd finished, he moved to Italy. The next Christmas I had at "home" was ten years later. 

Where do I come from? 

Mixed race nomad. Rootless cosmopolitan. No clue, basically. 

I'm not alone. Third Culture kids are a function of modern life. We have a wikipedia entry now. Do read; it's a brand new category of life. 

It's quite interesting as a story for people to hear; it's quite interesting to live it; but not having a home can be terribly lonely. I would say, it's unnatural not to have a nest. I'm grateful for the colours of my journey, but I probably wouldn't raise kids this way. Strong roots over epileptic branches. 

Stories make for good songs though. My next release is called Sceptre, and it's is the story of my search for home. Ironically, it's the song that is guiding me to my musical home - harps, soft guitars and tribal beats see a more organic sound. Even my vocal register is more true to me.

Amazing how the arts have all the answers. 

Next month release. Enjoy. Please do pledge to support the homeless, they need it. Facebook fundraiser here