Voices of the Revolution, Ronnie Scott’s, August 24.
Panel discussion led by In Place of War’s Director Ruth Daniel and including a selection of members from the international all-female collective, Voices of the Revolution, followed by a performance.
The Voices of the Revolution discussion and gig was to unveil the newest musical brainchild of the Manchester-based, creative network, In Place of War, humblingly working to “mobilise, empower & connect artists in sites of war, revolution & conflict”.
Wading, admittedly slightly apprehensively, through a crowd of atypical piercings, leftfield haircuts and colourful backpacks, I settle myself somewhere near the back for the panel discussion.
Voices of the Revolution is the first all-female line-up for the organisers and features a fifteen female strong, global super-group. After a series toe-curling, girl-power hell yeahs, we were introduced to a selection of the artists and given an insight into the creative process.
By this point, with chicks from Venezuela to Zimbabwe, no common tongue and a mishmash of styles from across the world, alarm bells were going, but then they started to play.
The night kicked off with a haunting, heart-melting Middle Eastern chant by Bangladeshi Sohini Alam over a scratchy, electro beat and coupled with the gravely M.I.A.-style electro vocals of sass-pot Lei Di Dai. I was captivated from the word go, on the edge of my seat, waiting for the next musical delicacy to savour and enjoy.
Unfailingly eclectic and fresh, like a mixed chocolate box, each song encapsulated a totally different sound, conjuring up magnificent, nostalgic fusions that transported you seamlessly, moment by moment; from the French Riviera to a smoky Latin bar to a Bedouin oasis.
Perhaps the most eagerly awaited performance was from the hilariously brazen Zimbabwean rapper, AWA (African Women Arise), who, coming from arguably the most male dominated genre, described how shocked male performers were when they came across her backstage.
When one, assuming she was lost, asked, “Can I help you?” She replied dryly, “No I have to perform now, but maybe you can help me later.”
Dressed in jeans with a long, yellow Zimbabwean printed shirt, white paint on her face and a nest of medusa-like braids bundled on top of her head, I had no idea what was going to come out of her mouth, but whatever I expected, it was light-years away from what I was blessed with hearing.
It was as if we’d just wandered out of Ronnie Scott’s and into a sticky, underground hip hop club in Atlanta, Georgia, AWA completely blew everyone out of the water with her badass, dirty south rap style.
Like the long lost triplet to the Ying Yang Twins duo who had seen the light and discovered the importance of using rap as a tool to address the problems of her world, rape, prostitution and aids, AWA was awesome.
The recipe for the concept seemed to be: take one empty rehearsal room, throw talent at it from hurting nations across the world, and hope for the best.
However, even the most awe-inspiring talents need structure so perhaps the most sincerest of congratulations must go to the musical director of the group, Belize-born Errollyn Warren MBE who is something of an inspiration herself as the first black female to have her work performed at The Proms.
Never was a truer word spoken when Warren reflected, “each song like a jewel, like stars in the sky, they appeared fully formed.”
The audience had no choice but to leap aboard this sensuous world tour with fifteen wholesome, glorious goddesses as our guides. From the first note we were hooked in and you could do nothing but enjoy the ride!
In Place of War presents Voices of the Revolution in a free gig at POP Brixton August, Wednesday 31 at 8PM.