Music: Sabrina Altan

There are rumblings afoot in the bars of Brighton that one of their best-kept secrets is about to explode all over everyone’s face whether they like it or not. Sabrina Altan is a singer songwriter with an impressive voice that gives vent to frustration and heartache without beating you over the head with it. She’s got a fresh clutch of songs available to listen to on her new website, and I think they’re pretty goshdarn good.

Originally from the glamorous climes of Loughton, Essex, Sabrina bid a not-too tearful farewell and developed her own unique sound through constantly writing, recording and performing in her adoptive home.

It could be said that Sabrina has her fingers in musical pies of many flavours. Recently she has been touring with Karl Phillips and the Midnight Ramblers providing some soaring dance vocals for their track ‘Dangerous’ on sold-out gigs around the UK, playing the odd solo jazz gig and performing with her new all-girl group. Her own style is a mixture of jazz and soul with a bits of Pixies-ish edge thrown in for good measure. Oh yes.

Before the launch of her site we had a brief natter:

How would you describe the sound of your new tracks?
The ‘sound’ of them? Like a pissed off Turkish essex girl. Who loves R&B/Soul and everything in between.

What would you say your main influences are?
Well I learnt how to sing to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and The Writing’s On The Wall by Destiny’s Child so I’d say they were the biggies. What inspires me to write is annoyance and a need to express it. I like creating something pleasurable to listen to and I feel like I’ve done that with these recordings.

How has it been touring with Karl Phillips and co..?
Uhhhhhhhh. Interesting. Between the incessant banter, swearing on air, stage ceiling destroying, and endless boozy nights it’s been cool! I love those boys and playing with them is a blast. I get to party whilst they play then perform to an electrified audience; best of both worlds really.

And lastly, what are your hopes for your career?
My hopes for the future are to spread my groovy rage far and wide. There’s so much dance music around at the moment, and don’t get me wrong I love a good boogie but sometimes I just feel like we need to chill out!

Music: Bonjay

Bonjay is vocalist Alanna Stuart and producer Ian "Pho" Swain

Canadians are so nice.

That was our resounding impression of meeting Canadian leftfield dancehall duo Bonjay. Even when they kept us waiting hours (not their fault, some cheeky journo grabbed them during our slot), it was certainly the best interview we’ve ever done sitting on a park bench…

Vocalist Alanna Stuart and producer Ian “Pho” Swain dragged us to a spot out back of their Canadian Blast show at Relentless Garage to talk Lady Saw, fake patois and mid-2000s parties:

OhDearism: How does the name ‘Bonjay’ (meaning ‘Bon Dieu’/’Good God’ in Grenadian patois) express your music?

Alanna: In Grenada, whenever something unexpected or exciting would happen my mum and my aunt would be like “bonjay, watch de gyal!” – that’s what we want people to feel when they hear our music.

OD: You just got back from SXSW? How was it?

A: Great! It was our second year there. A highlight was performing on the street corner for CBC [Canada’s answer to the BBC], with a little speaker for a sound system.

Pho: It was like an acoustic set, which is what the opposite of what we usually do.

A: Yeah we were like “Fuck it!” We didn’t even have the drummer and the crowd kept building and building. It was a sea of cameras. There was this one old guy with white ankle socks dancing like crazy! We were like “Hey Grandpa!”

OD: You started out as a club act in Ottowa in an Italian restaurant. Tell us about the famed Disorganised parties.

P: I started it with a couple of buddies who’ve now gone on to become a techno duo called Jokers of the Scene, and the guy who ran the local record store in Ottowa in the mid-2000s. The era is so over now, but it was what we dreamed of when we were 16. Friends inviting friends. There were people literally falling out of the windows, and all these cute girls…It was like a beer commercial. But it was hard to keep the energy going. People start looking for fresh sounds.

A: I miss that mix-up party style. Different people bringing their own sounds from different scenes.

OD: Stumble is an ode to the mid-2000s party scene. What music do you hear when you think back to that era?

A: I hear The Rapture House of Jealous Lovers, Decepticon by Le Tigre. That’s one stream of those parties.

P: I remember the first time I heard Temperature by Sean Paul. He’s the best guy, he’s fucking hardcore! He was a big influence, I started running the hand claps from that song through my sets and that’s where dancehall started to come in.

OD: How did you two meet?

A: I was at one of the first parties and I rudely interrupted his mixing because I was so excited by what he was playing. I was like “I’m a singer…” and he totally brushed me off with “here’s my card.” But then we bumped into each other again and we decided to do something together. I introduced the dancehall riddims but also some indie stuff, and Bonjay was born.

OD: What part does dancehall play in your music?

P: It’s still the core of the direction we’re going in. But we’re kind of finding a new sound. Alanna does not have that standard dancehall swagger. The Bonjay sound is a mix of me being all about the beats and Alanna about vocalists like St Vincent and Kate Bush. Dancehall is our common thread.

A: It’s the dancehall attitude and openness to anything. The kick-drum and the bass.

P: If we ever meet again you have to see Alanna’s impression of a dancehall diva!

OD: Alanna, The Guardian has been calling you the new Lady Saw. What do you think of the comparison? It’s pretty lazy if you ask us.

A: I can’t do a Lady Saw chat! If people see the live show they’ll see me wining and think my stage presence comes from the dancehall but it comes more from my experience as a gospel singer, where it’s raw emotion. When I was singing in the church, sometimes I would be so overcome by the music I would black out. That’s where the attitude comes from. But I write from a vocalist perspective. I am way more concerned about how I sound than how I look. I can wine in between verses! I’m not a Lady Saw.

OD: You two once put together a collection of fake patois accents…

P: Yes! It was for a video we were making for Fraudulent. This guy we know at our local leftfield video store helped us collect all these movies where American actors do really bad West Indian accents. There’s a Steven Seagal movie called Marked for Death where the bad guys are this gang of yardies…

OD: Have you had a chance to pick up any London slang while you’ve been here?

P: Blud? Teach us some!

OD: I’m 25, not 16! Er…peng? Moving on…Would you like to collaborate with more artists?

A: I’d love to work with more female vocalists. Or Simon from The Black Ghosts [Simon William Lord, formally in Simian]. But mainly I love the idea of females collaborating. It’s frustrating that the dance music genre is such a boys’ club. We shouldn’t have to wait for a male DJ to champion us, we should work with each other.

P: We don’t really fit with any scene. We just want to work with people whose music we’re into. But I want to finish our full-length album first.

OD: Will it be out this year?

P: Early 2012, hopefully!

OD: Thanks guys! We loved the show

P: I wish we’d done this interview before the show. It was so energetic! Is this the first interview you’ve done sitting on the ground in a park?

OD: The first of many, hopefully!

Feature image by Rosie Cowling for OhDearism

Music: Saadiq’s soul food at Shepherd’s Bush

“I see you sexy…”

That’s what Raphael Saadiq said pointing into the Shepherd’s Bush Empire’s crowd. Five or so girls in his eye-line veritably swooned, hoping he was talking to them – and only to them.

Sex appeal? The man has got it in bucketloads. Style? Oh yes. Soul? Indeed. So much so that OhDearism’s Rosie and I both agreed that his was one of the best gigs we’d been to in a very long time. It wasn’t trying to be something it wasn’t. It wasn’t moody. It was pure playful rhythm.

It was good, clean, infectious, joyful and oh-so-danceable fun! The gig drew a mixed crowd, black and white, young and old. An unlikely looking lot that, once he got started, moved as one hip-swinging, finger-clicking, hand-clapping group.

Haven’t heard of him? You’ve probably heard of Tony! Toni! Tone!, the group he co-founded back in the late 1980s, who sang that it never rained in southern California.

Still don’t know? He then went on to form Lucy Pearl with Dawn Robinson of En Vogue and Ali Shaheed Muhammad from A Tribe Called Quest. They had a top-20 hit with ‘Don’t Mess With My Man’ in 2000.

His solo career kicked off with ‘Instant Vintage’ in 2003 – and five Grammy nominations to boot. He has collaborated with some of the big guns in the music industry, like Jay Z, Mary J Blige, John Legend and more. Now in his mid-40s, he still exudes a boyish charm that belies his age and ensures his appeal to old fans and new.

On Thursday night he played solid soul straight through and had the venue on its feet. Heart attack, Go To Hell and new single Stone Rollin’ starred from the new album of the same name, and had that unmistakeable Motown sound, that you just couldn’t help singing and smiling along to.

Saadiq’s songs are full of new nostalgia, a modern-day throwback to music-makers of the past, a nod to the now via the 1960s. It feels like music you’ve grown up to, that you’ve always known, but that is still fresh and exciting. They are pure “forgotten classics”.

Saadiq has labelled his music ‘Gospeldelic’, describing its fusion of samples, soul, gospel and R&B. Speaking to VH1, Saadiq says “Gospeldelic [is] truth of expression, meaning some of it’s true, some of it’s fun, some of it’s serious. That’s what gospel is. Gospel is true statements. The ‘delic’ is from my funkadelic, psychedelic era. I wanted to throw that in there so I can be a little wild.”

Saadiq’s music feels authentic, honest and genuine. It’s soul music, but it’s also music for the soul, and as we floated down Shepherd’s Bush Green singing “you’re givin’ me a heart attack!”, I felt my soul lifted.

Raphael Saadiq played Shepherd’s Bush Empire on 28 May. His new album Stone Rollin’ is out now.

[Image from The Guardian]