Friday, May 21, 2010

The Festival of Africa in Cork this weekend!

estival of African cultures which takes place in a host of different venues. As I always mention here, music is one of the best means of communication and personally I feel it has been a great way of understanding different cultures and the people behind them. The millions of Irish who have headed abroad over the last few centuries have made a fantastic impression culturally on other countries and it is great to see the amazing music of Africa now on our doorstep in Cork.

It all kicks off tomorrow with a free conference discussing the political, economic and social changes and developments in Africa in the 21st Century. This takes place in the Millennium Hall and is free from 11.30am. The Official Festival Opening Ceremony takes place at 1pm at the Cork City Library and this will feature loads of Cork school students displaying their West African drumming skills while Cork City African School Children demonstrate their Irish language skills.

Later that evening The Wailing Souls visit Cork for the first time and DJ Bellyman will be in support. These guys are quite simply one of the finest vocal harmony groups from Jamaica and their original line-up will be taking to the stage in the Pavilion from 9pm. The Africa Brasil boys will be hosting the official after party immediately after the show downstairs in the bar until the early hours of the morning.

One of the most interesting events happens on Saturday from 1pm on Camden Quay at the Camden Palace Hotel and again it’s free. Everyone is welcome to come along and sample free food from 7 different African nations, marvel at the fashion parade showcasing African designs and join in the African dance workshops with Cynthia. A number of African acts including the Lace, Koko Tanjah, Cork City African Gospel Choir, Sudanese cultural group and the South African dancers will all be performing. Zimbabwean artist and Sculptor Blessing Sanyanga will be exhibiting his work at the venue aswell.

Later that evening the fun continues around the corner at the Sin E with Koko Tanjah and Eamonn Cagney while a Sunday Service follows the following mourning before the Franciscan Well starts a daytime Garden party at 1pm. Acoustic music is the order of the day before the nightfall welcomes a wonderful Afrobeat workshop at the Pav with Allen-Taylor Adeniyi at 6pm. All musicians are welcome to this free event which will be followed by a free movie about the Life and music of Afrobeat godfather Fela Kuti. This leads nicely on to the finale of the weekend which is a free concert from Adeniyi’s group, the Oleku Band, bringing Nigerian Afrobeat and highlife to the closing party! In Dublin the Dun Laoghaire Festival of World Cultures is celebrating it’s 10th birthday this summer and personally I see no reason why our own Festival of African cultures can’t get bigger and bigger every year. As with many of these things, many of the people who would love to go and check them out don’t even know it is on so here ya go, you have no excuse, go out and enjoy it!

More details here

Monday, May 17, 2010

A homage to Chic!

As previously mentioned here in Downtown this summer in Cork brings us an amazing amount of soul and r&b gigs with many of the biggest names in music performing here. Already we had a cracking gig from Candi Staton last weekend and with Al Green, Michael McDonald, Booker T and Martha Reeves all in store, it’s fair to say anticipation levels are very high. This week I’m gonna preview a show in late May from one of my favourite acts of all time, Chic, who play live at the Savoy!

Chic are quite simply one of the most influential groups of all time. I would have said till quite recently they were one of the most under-rated groups but I have noticed that their status and indeed recognition level has increased in the last few years. In this country they stole the show at last years Electric Picnic at a show which seemed to be full of more Cork people than anyone else, and their arrival here later this month is sure to attract a lot of interest. It’s always with slight trepidation that I go and see one of my favourite bands, especially one which peaked so long ago, but I have to say, Chic were better than ever.

Bernard Edwards is now sadly departed but Nile Rodgers has assembled a superb band and with himself being one of the best guitarists and indeed producers of the last 30 plus years, you know you are in good hands. One of the reasons why Chic have received a lot of recent interest is because the amount of sampling that has taken place with their music and in the live show they played excerpts from hits such as “Love like this” and “Lady”, which used distinctive hooks from Chic hits such as “Chic Cheer” and “Soup for One”. In truth, modern dance and hip-hop would be a lot different without Chic and back in the day the first ever global hip-hop hit “Rappers delight” was itself a replayed version of their “Good Times”.

Nile Rodgers was of course a massively successful producer for other artists aswell and David Bowie, Madonna, Diana Ross, Carly Simon, Duran Duran and Debbie Harry were just a few who benefitted from Chic’s magic touch, with Sister Sledge basically becoming almost a Chic mark 2 for their most prolific era. Rodgers himself remains an infectious character an his forthcoming autobiography is one of the most anticipated music books of all time. He knows practically everyone in the music business and despite one or two setbacks he remains as enthusiastic as ever on stage and in the studio. Previously, a book called “Everybody Dance, the Politics of Disco”, has put Chic at the heart of an important changing landscape in music in the late 70’s, with some very significant analysis of some of the racial and homophobic obstacles that artists of the disco era faced. Thankfully, we live in more enlightened times now, and Chic are bigger than ever. Here is my tribute to the legendary Chic download here

i've decided to mix up some of my favourite tracks from Nile Rodgers, Bernard Edwards and co. I kept it mainly to their classic era even though I rate plenty of the work they did afterwards too, but you can only do so much in little over an hour! This music is the soundtrack to my life and I hold all of these tunes dear, as in nearly 20 years of djing i've been spinning the hell out of them. I urge you to go and buy all of their albums, if you haven't already. in the meantime, enjoy the some of the greatest music of all time!

Saturday Norma Jean Wright
Spacer Shelia B Devotion
Everybody Dance Chic
Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah) Chic
Got To Love Somebody Sister Sledge
We Are Family Sister Sledge
I Want Your Edit Chic
Soup For One Chic
Let´s Dance David Bowie
my old piano Diana Ross
You Fooled Around Sister Sledge
My Feet Keep Dancing Chic
High Society Norma Jean
Chic Cheer Chic
Strike Up The Band Chic
Le Freak Chic
Lost In Music Sister Sledge
He's The Greatest Dancer Sister Sledge
I'm Coming Out Diana Ross
Upside Down Diana Ross
Good times Chic
My Forbidden Lover Chic
Open Up Chic
One More Time Sister Sledge
Pretty Baby Sister Sledge
Thinking Of You Sister Sledge
Reach You Peak Sister Sledge
What About Me Chic
Why edit Carly Simon
Easier To Love Sister Sledge
Will You Cry (When You Hear This Song) Chic

And here's some more classics!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

A rare view of Spike Island!

Spike Island, a small island opposite Cobh and just off Ringaskiddy, is famous here in Cork for being a prison first and foremost. Ironically, most people in Cork don't even know where it is, and have certainly not visited there as it has till only recently remained a prison, but all that may be about to change as the Island is being officially handed over to the people of Cork on July 11th this year. With the Cork County Council developing it as a tourist attraction and potential venue of major cultural, artistic, sociological, geographical and historical importance, I was offered a rare insight into the Island itself this morning as myself and a number of other people involved in Cork's music scene were invited down for a visit. To say the potential of the Island for Cork is immense would be a major understatement. A steering group is already busy developing ideas and I'd like to thank Ken and Val plus the Coastal and Maritime Resource Centre, all at the Naval base and the Council themselves for enabling myself and the others to make the short trip over by boat this morning. The Islands history is rich and I'll leave my friend Wiki explain a brief synopsis.

"It was significant in the French intervention following the Glorious Revolution, and was later purchased by the British government in 1779 – becoming the site of Fort Westmoreland. Later a prison and convict depot, it was used to house "convicts" prior to penal transportation. It remained in use as a garrison and prison through the Irish War of Independence, when IRA prisoners were held there. Richard Barrett was among those detained there, but escaped during the truce of 1921. Following the Anglo-Irish Treaty, the island remained as one of the Treaty Ports, and was only handed back to the Free State in 1938. Upon its handover to the Irish state, the island's installations were renamed Fort Mitchel (after John Mitchel, nationalist activist and political journalist). The island remained the site of a prison and military base (for both the regular Irish Army and the FCÁ) for some time. Most recently it was used as a correctional facility for youth, when in 1985 it became mildly notorious when the inmates mutinied and briefly controlled the area; one of the accommodation blocks caught on fire and is known as the Burnt Block. This facility closed in 2004."

Thankfully Spike Island is going to be used a tourist attraction from now on and on July 11th it will be officially handed back to us, the people of Cork. Access remains the big problem and there is certainly work to be done, but in the coming months the potential of Spike Island is exciting and I know myself and all the other visitors today were inspired by what is a so far untapped destination only minutes from a port which has hundreds of Cruise liners and ships passing through it every year. I took a few random photos on my i Phone which i've posted below; I really should have brought my proper camera but you get the drift.

Obviously, I was fooling around in a few but what struck us all was that there is already an impressive infrastructure down there with the prison only being vacated relatively recently. We saw the prisoners quarters, some of the cells, the yards, recreation areas such as the gym, and even some of the older aspects of the military base, with an incredible canon being aimed out on Cork harbour at unwelcome visitors! I couldn't help but remember back to my days on pirate radio on Radio Friendly in the late 90's, when in-mates from Spike Island used ring in and contact me on my radio show every Sunday! It was poignant and eye-opening actually visiting the place where so many prisoners, convicts and soliders spent so many years; I'm looking forward to hearing lots more about the history of a Island that tells so many stories.

I'm delighted that the people of Cork will soon be able to experience Spike Island for themselves, though in the short term access is going to be a bit of a problem. The long term potential benefits for Cork are infinite though and you will be hearing lots more about Spike Island in the coming weeks and years!

PS-some links to a documentary on Cork prisons by Kieran Hurley and Catriona Chambers can be found here

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    I'm a DJ from Cork in Ireland. I work with RedFM, presenting Red Drive, The Hitlist and my specialist show, Black on Red. I'm probably best known for being one of the main hip-hop/soul DJ's in Cork and Ireland. I've been DJing in Cork since the early 90's in legendary clubnights such as Sweat in Sir Henrys, Mor Disco, Free La Funk, Yo Latino and also Jam and Jam Junior at the Savoy and the Pavilion. I've also held down long term residencies at clubs around Ireland such as Brown Sugar at the Kitchen in Dublin, U-Turn at Ri Ra in Dublin, Jazz Juice at the GPO in Galway, Thompson Garage in Belfast, the Soul Clinic, Dee-Bop, Meltdown and Mo Bounce in Limerick and i've played abroad in the United States and the U.K. on numerous occasions. I also write a music column for the Evening Echo and i'm a regular contributor to the U.K.'s Blues and Soul, the longest running black music magazine in the world. These days i run the Pavilion, a music venue in Cork, which hosts my Jam night every few Fridays also you can catch me at