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Ruby Read

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Don’t Just Sit and Listen.

I had a phone conversation with my dad last Sunday, I was feeling very low, small and useless. Distressed by my lack of ability to change things and an overwhelming sense of powerlessness in the face of our shifting political landscape here in the UK. We spoke about music and how it made both of us feel, immersing ourselves in it as a distraction but also drawing on it as a source empowerment. His advice was to listen to my emotional response to music and immerse myself in it. Use it as a cushion against the decisions made by the political elite in this country, but also as a tool for expression.

We are almost constantly listening to music, it surrounds us, just take a minute can you hear any music right now? What is it? How does it make you feel?

 

Stop, listen, feel. 

 

It could become ubiquitous, but it hasn’t (well not all of it). We just need to be reminded of the deep emotional and physical reactions music can provoke. How it can be an uplifting or crushing force.

Myself I can find music incredibly freeing and distracting as I tend not to think too much (well too deeply) whilst listening. I like to be moved by music, whether emotionally or physically. What prompted our discussion was a gig at the Barbican, Martinho de Vila, and the proof that samba is good for the soul, well my soul at least.

 

“Do whatever you want, but move in your seat”

 

The Barbican could have been an ill fit for samba. Music that makes you want to move and groove. But it turned out to be incredibly liberating. It started slowly and tentatively, like good sex, with Martinho teasing the audience with naked vocals gradually building the texture as slowly ‘the kitchen’ joined him on stage. Rapidly my gentle swaying became more erratic and enthusiastic taking over my entire body in my seat. Restricted, seated, but dancing. As Martinho belted out the old favourites his audience became more enthusiastic, couples leaving their seats to dance together, others swinging their limbs wildly. We erupted out of our seats.

It was my first experience of Martinho’s music and honestly I don’t want to stop listening. I might have to have him as a constant soundtrack to stop myself slipping into deeper blue water than I already have over the state of Britain and the decision to leave the EU. Samba can save me! Samba can save us all.

I would place a hefty bet that I was one of a smattering of non-Portuguese speakers. So I was almost completely lost during the in-between song chatter, relying entirely on my Brazilian friend Carla. But my lacking language skills did not prove a barrier to enjoyment and understanding of Martinho’s music. Music is a language unto itself. Carla reminded me that we listen to music with our whole bodies, not just our ears.

 

Listen with your body, not just your ears.

 

Music taps into your emotional intelligence, through the intonation and tonal quality of vocals, the timbre of instruments or the underlying beat and even in its silences. At risk of sounding a little bonkers, in this way music is truly tactile.

At the end of the set Carla revealed she knew one of the producers of the gig and we could go back stage and meet Martinho and ‘the kitchen’, if I wanted to. Of course I did. This was a first for me at a venue like the Barbican, I had a little explore of the area, which seemed like it hadn’t really left the early noughties. Meeting Martinho was like meeting a family member, one that strikingly reminds you of a small, reliable, well-loved teddy that’s slowly loosing fluff around the edges with a raspy but soft voice.  And his daughter, the pianist, had the most fantastic raspberry-red tights on and the biggest smile I think I have ever seen. I felt welcomed even though I had no idea who anyone was, but I guess the free beers helped.

My one recommendation to you. If you are feeling a bit down in the mouth pop on some Martinho de Vila and you will be grooving and beaming in no time!

 

Website is a little dated but the music is brill! – http://www.martinhodavila.com.br/

Check it out – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1RQWPJxWXE&list=PLm9qhWgG3f9J4tSpVCV41r3hu96EUXD0e

Visibly Invisible 

She had perfected the art of being visibly invisible. It takes practice, many not having the knack only succeed in becoming invisible. Those around her were thoroughly engaged with one another, paying her no obvious attention. But she could feel their furtive glances weighted with questions. Who is she? Why is she here? What is her name?

Anonymity of this kind is comfortable at first but gradually becomes tiresome as not one person breaks the silence around her. An alien feeling begins to grow, surging up and bubbling over. Suddenly she realises she has positioned herself poorly for a subtle escape. Clutching at strings and trying to enter and hold on to any conversation and ultimately fails with doors slamming shut in her face. This is and will continue to be an utterly fruitless exercise. Resigning herself to an embarrassing and loud exit through the chairs and bodies, hot faced she squeaks goodbye and leaves.

The cool night, welcoming, offers her ambiguity. She dives into it. Head first.

The Coach House Company – Fiddling at the Forge.

The musicians gradually join their instruments on stage. Marianne Schofield – double bass, Maya Amin-Smith – violin, mandolin and guitar, Colin Danskin – trumpet, Patrick Milne – guitar and Héloïse Werner – cello. Formed in 2010 whilst studying at university this young group are quickly making a name for themselves on the British folk scene.

A seventeenth century tune about trees, a metaphor for human life, fills the hall. The mother in the song sings of her son – “death put an end to his growing”. As well as playing three instruments – mandolin, guitar and violin –Maya sings in wavering alto and despite her apparent youth brings maturity to the lyrics. Though the trees will long outgrow us.

A collected song – The Maid of Culmore – sinks you slowly into the depths of the sea. Rising with the chorus of voices you find yourself gasping for air, emotionally manipulated by the music. The Maid of Whitby washes this low mood away. The tale of a father and daughter deftly tricking sailors out of their money lifts the spirit, with the trumpet adding a perfect cheeky edge.

Searching the Cecil Sharp House archives they have stumbled across two songs. Erin’s Lovely Home in the Clive Kerry Collection and Blackbird, a Romani folk song. Sam Lee recently released a version of blackbird on his second album but this is different, almost right down to the lyrics. The cello mimics the flight of the blackbird and with a humming and crawling base give the song a sinister edge.

The Coach House Company take you on a journey reminding you of your mortality but keeping your head above the water.

The Omnibus provided an intimate space for this gig, close quarters in comfy chairs, listening to jazz. The perfect Sunday evening. Close enough to see the musicians flirt and communicate with one another, the wear on the double bass and the chinks on the piano keys.
 Tom Green along with Scott Chapman – drums, Misha Mullov-Abbado – double bass and Sam James – piano, slide effortlessly into their set. There is no clear beginning or end to this music, it just flows. Closing my eyes I can see a skyline changing as the music moves, conjuring scenes from dawn through to dusk. The members of the quartet are all in the septet and their new album Skyline is top of the ‘new jazz’ pile for me.
Green’s beautiful compositions from his Septet’s new album Skyline, that have been refined to work with just four musicians, do not lose their artistry. This is music that you won’t get tired of listening to. You are always able to find new facets and quirks.
The audience at the Omnibus were lucky, such intimacy is seldom achievable elsewhere. I will certainly be returning.
Check out Tom Green and Skyline for yourself here.
And if you fancy some music at the Omnibus.

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