October was Black History Month and this year Contact aimed to celebrate the cultural effect of black influence in spoken-word poetry, contemporary dance & electronic music with four events over one weekend. Always one-to-watch for interesting leftfield events, the good people at Contact present the Black Sound Series
On September 30 there was an evening of performance poetry featuring Jason Yarde, Kate Tempest, El Crisis, OneNess & the Inna Voice Ensemble. Giving voice to the often-otherwise unheard poets & celebrating the sounds of a vibrant, multicultural, amorphous language
On the very same evening Contact launched Black Styles UK: "An exploration of the immeasurable impact of black subculture on all aspects of British life", a selection of iconic images from PYMCA (Photographic Youth Culture Music Archive), which also acts as a unifying theme to weekend events and in context of Black History Month
On Friday 1 October Black Sound Series #2 was billed as UKG vs D'n'B vs Future Sounds, and the evening began with DJ Dialog & Ranen Ekubia from Murkage Cartel pulling out UK-Garage classics alongside more recent UK-Funky favourites. Felt old though when tunes I recognised but barely remember were greeted with bellows of “OLD SCHOOL!” from geezers nearly half my age!!
Salford old-boy Zed Bias was unfortunately too ill to attend on the night so stepping into his vacated shoes last minute was Photo-Machine. Event host & man-on-tha-mic Fallacy worked the crowd like a real pro' and helped build a good party atmosphere, with lovely ladies getting groovy first while geezers mooched quietly in the background, but when Photo-Machine dropped 'Gaza' by MC Trigga & Chimpo, (a big grimey tune from two local talents), the whole place went off! Konny Kon (Broke’n’English) rushed the stage to demand an immediate pull-up, eventually receiving 3 rewinds!! Lots of good-natured shoving, hollering, ruff-neck dancing & broken glass! All good Mancunian fun!!
Finally, the night lurched into its final phase with the boys from Soul:ution, Marcus Intalex & DRS, MCRs finest monthly D'n'B club-night from the deeper, more melodic end of the drum'n'bass spectrum. There was a definite switch from bar to dance-floor & dance-floor to bar! Even time for a small Spellbound reunion (of sorts) when I got DJ Pale, founder Inki and Virus Syndicate's Goldfinger posed for my camera! Great night, good exhibition, great music, good company. I left with the sounds of Soul:ution still playing on but I already had things to do tomorrow...
(...Salford Un-Convention: A Talk by Kevin Cummins (legend!) followed by yours-truly on a panel of my contemporaries, showing examples of our music-industry-related work & fielding questions from the floor. A quick pint & chat in a Salford pub, then back to Contact for...)
Saturday 2 October Black Sound Series #3 was Mixed Movements: Digital Duets, hosted by Baba Israel. There were performances first from African dancer Lati Saka and Contact’s own Shock Out group. On-stage alongside the featured dancers were a DJ, guitarist & double bass player providing a funky live soundtrack. Mixed Movements founder Dawn Crandell spoke to us via a live internet link from Culturehub NYC where they had a similar set-up. This was projected onto a stage-wide screen & monitor so that dancers could interact with each other, responding in real-time and virtual space. It was very interesting to watch; but it was not easy to photograph!
Technically it is quite difficult to set an exposure where you can see both dancers clearly. One is a streamed on-screen projection, the other is here, live-on-stage & under stage-lighting. Using flash could ruin either of these lighting-conditions! It is difficult enough following, focussing & composing photographs of live performers: To try to capture a mood or moment: Add to that the unpredictable nature of contemporary dance improvisation. Finally, the fact that one half of the Digital Duet was on the other side of the world in New York was merely the cherry on the icing on the cake!! But I do like a challenge, and I’m really happy with the results
Black Sound Series #4 Remember Kela immediately followed on downstairs, a night celebrating the musical influence of legendary African musician Kela Futi. Hosted by UK rapper Ty and featuring Afronaught (Bugz in the Attic), Zepherin Saint (Tribe Records), and event-organiser Irfan (Rainy City) playing all kinds of Afro-Beat dance rhythms. I spoke to Ty about Digital Duets, how happy he is with his new LP “Special Kind Of Fool”, how he loves doing festivals but almost-always dislikes remixes (-I championed the remix CD attached to the Skitz LP “Sticksman”-) and the state of UK-Hip-Hop music in general, before I had to cut things short, leave the lovely environment of Contact swirling with warm West African guitar licks, and head off down a blustery Oxford Road to a nasty old-school Jungle night in a sparse basement club! Thank You Contact and goodbye Black Sound Series!!
Black Styles UK (PYMCA exhibition) runs at Contact (Manchester) until January 2011