As you should be aware, I take pleasure in reporting the professional advance of fellow artists. I find it motivational and hugely encouraging to observe the ambition, tenacity and will of individuals pursuing their interests, developing their careers and moving closer to fulfilling their dreams. I take particular pleasure in witnessing the progress of my cousin Fae Simon as she moves forward, establishing her credentials as a singer-songwriter and painter.
Trained in opera and jazz, Fae revels in live performances. Drawing from all her musical influences, Fae has idiosyncratically fused hip-hop, jazz, rare groove, soul and dub in her song writing. Having toured the London unsigned scene, performing tracks from her debut album, “Mellowdrama” she has become a firm underground favourite. Her track entitled ‘New Londinium’ features on my video ‘Let’s Jam- A Painting in the Making.’
Gaining further performance experience from supporting N’Dambi at London’s Jazz Café and touring with Yarah Bravo & Trommel Tobi on her ‘Good Girls Rarely Make History’ tour, Fae has introduced Europe to a new facet of her style. After headlining ‘Got Soul’ at the Bohannon Jazz Club Berlin in November 2010, the next year brought two fresh releases. The first was ‘RoyalFlushLushSelf’ taken from the ‘Faerie in the Cloudz’ EP, an experimental collaborative EP reflecting a journey of the alter egos of Jonas McCloud aka CloudFistConceptz; and Fae Simon aka the AfroFaerie, available for download on the ‘Untold Songs’ compilation for Amnesty International. The second was ‘I See You’ a reggae/dub hit on the ‘Love The Music’ compilation released by Ryff Music in conjunction with the Caribbean Tourist Organization, featuring Singing Melody and Aloe Blacc. I take pleasure sharing a recent conversation with I had with her.
DEN: You’re a talented painter as well as a singer- songwriter so are you furthering your visual art career?
FAE: I have just successfully exhibited & sold my first pop art piece in Berlin, for the annual artshow and am working on 3 canvases for exhibiting at Yarah Bravo’s ‘Pop-Up’ store, which should be back in Brick Lane next month.
DEN: Since I can remember you’ve been singing but how did you get into it?
FAE: I attended the Weekend Arts College where I received voice & dance tuition from professionals. Julie Dexter was my singing teacher. I then started working on my own music by collaborating with producers I’d met or knew, the first being Jnr Sas from the Planets…and the rest is my autobiography…lol…
DEN: Who is your greatest inspiration within the industry?
FAE: That is a BIG question because I don’t really know! I’d say Lauryn Hill, because she can sing, act & is one of the best female rappers ever! She was iconic as a young dark-skinned, natural-haired woman in a crew with men. She showed me that I could do it all & do it well when I was young. Aim high!!
DEN: Of your contemporaries, who would you like to work with and why?
FAE: Ooooh, the hard questions keep coming!
DEN: Ok, I’ll let you think on that one. I loved the energy and eclectic sounds of your last album. What should we expect of your second?
FAE: Even more! I have more collaborations with featured artists, not just producers; such as John Robinson & Pugs Atomz, as well as some fully live tracks. You will even hear me rapping on it too! I’m really excited about it!
DEN: Many UK RnB female singers have their sights set on the US and overseas. I know you’ve toured Europe in recent years so what’s next on your agenda?
FAE: I’m not an RnB singer, but yes I hope to get out to the US asap!
One of my tracks ‘I See You’ was released on the ‘Love the Music’ compilation for the Caribbean Tourist Board but released by Ryff Music in Atlanta who are hopefully going release more tracks of mine that will get promoted in the US. The track & compilation are available on iTunes. For now, I’m on Jehst’s 2nd UK tour & feature on the remix album of ‘A Dragon of an Ordinary Family’
I wish her the best of luck with her career. For further information on Fae Simon please visit.
Over the last few years I’ve been privileged to meet a number of talented singer/songwriters. I’m glad to say I’m witnessing their deserved rise in success and recognition . One artist I advise you to look out for is friend Mark Vodery. Mark is about the perform as part of the National Jazz Appreciation Month in South Carolina on April 13th & 14th. We caught up in New York as he prepares for his big dates.
Q: How did you get into the industry?
Mark Vodery : I’ve always loved music. One day I was at my job looking around and decided, “this can’t be it.” I woke up thinking about music and went to sleep thinking about music. They say that’s the definition of your passion in life. So I secretly started taking singing lessons from an opera teacher in South Philadelphia. One night, at an event in a jazz club, a guitarist was playing and asked someone to come up and sing with him. We wound up doing two jazz standards. Someone I knew that managed some local artists was in the audience. We talked and it lead to performances inDelaware and Philly nightclubs. I eventually moved toHarlem and won on “It’s Showtime at the Apollo”. I’ve been grinding in NYC ever since!
Q: Which artists have been most influential on your career to date?
Mark Vodery : Jeffrey Osborne, Will Downing, Michael McDonald, James Ingram, Donny Hathaway, Stevie, Luther; I ‘m a huge fan of soulful strong voices.
Q: Which of your comtemporaries would you most like to work with and why?
Mark Vodery : I would love to work with Sade. She seems so comfortable in who she is as an artist. When you hear her, it’s undeniably her. The quality of her work speaks for itself and I feel our voices would compliment one another. India Irie is another. She is an incredible songwriter.
Q: The track ‘Everything Must Change ‘ illustrates that you’re a talented artist with a mature, distinctive style and strength to your voice. What demographic would you say your music caters for? Mark Vodery : I had someone describe my music as “grown and sexy”. I would never say that, but I liked the feel of it (Laughing). There is a demographic of people who are supporting the soulful artists of the 80’s and 90’s because there are limited outlets for this music. I wouldn’t want to put an age to that demographic. Those people that enjoy soulful vocals with meaningful lyrics, those are the people that I aspire to touch with my music.
Q: I like the video.When and where did you film it?
Mark Vodery: We filmed it in the Village late February. I was happy with the feel of the video. TheNew York City back drop complimented the song.
Q: Like every singer/songwriter, you aspire to be successful. Does this mean we’ll see further diversity in the type of music you’ll produce in order to increase your commercial appeal?
Mark Vodery : I’m a fan of such a diverse spectrum of music. My Ipod could be playing
Seal and the next song could be Tool. I’m always open to new opportunities to explore. That being said, it’s important to know who you are as an artist. If you just change your style in order to appeal commercially, then I feel that there is an integrity issue. Of course we’re here to make a living. Believe me, I get it. But I feel that purpose is essential to an artist.
Q: You’re about to perform at the Le Café Jazz in Columbia as part of the National Jazz Appreciation Month. Could you tell me more about it?
Mark Vodery: Yes, I’m excited about the opportunity to bring my music toColumbia,South Carolina for this event. I will do some Jazz Standards, but the foundation of my set will be original music mostly from my Soulful Sessions EP Available on I Tunes now(Laughing).
Q: So what else does the future hold for you?
Mark Vodery: I hope to exponentially increase my fan base and book internationally. I’m currently working on an album that is being independently funded. In other words, “my pocket” (Laughing). I’m also courting new management, in order to work on a more global scale and expand the amount of people that I can touch with my music. This is an amazing ride with ups and downs but I know that I’m blessed to be able to do it. So many people come out to escape their lives for an hour or two. If I can touch one person positively, inspiring them in any way, then I have done my job as an artist.
I am happy to see a number of friends progress with their solo careers as singer/songwriters. I look forward to what the future holds for them. This year, UK artist Bashiyra won the coveted Nina Simone Award in recognition of her contribution to jazz music. On the countdown to her next gig, I caught up with her for a chat about her career, the award and what’s next.
DEN: Congratulations on being awarded the ‘The Nina Simone Award 2011′ in recognition of your contribution to jazz music. In the early 1990’s you released ‘ I will Always Love You’. This was a reggae single via Jetstar. How easy has the transition from reggae been?
Thank you for acknowledging my recent acquisition of ’The Nina Simone Award 2011′, I am absolutely delighted to be the recipient. It is awarded to a female artist who is observed to have contributed to the wealth of jazz music. The award also recognises that this artist has significantly contributed, created, accessed and maintained all the necessary elements to be a successful independent artist in the ever changing scene of the music industry. It recognises that in spite of challenges and obstacles this individual’s flow is unstoppable, strengthened by an energy in the creating, making and releasing of real quality music. This artist has the ability to continually promote herself, build her network base, as well as demonstrate her fan-base growth. She is tenacious, indomitable and trained to a high level in her creative discipline whilst able to maintain a positive public profile and categorically impact lives through her music, resulting in increased sales and awareness of her brand.
I’m actively celebrating the experience of my newest award and its associated prizes inclusive of artist promotion, artist merchandising and a host of additional beneficial goodies, which further accentuates my wealthy feeling. The continued public recognition of my art-form is heart-warming and I extend a big thank you to all of my supporters. The process has not been easy, however I have maintained my probity and creative vision to inspire me to continue forward and with the support of a great team in both the UK and the USA, ‘It’s Working Out’ !
My transition from reggae music into soul music and my diverse musical exploration of jazz music as well as the creating and releasing of my extensive dance catalogue has not been a challenge. Each genre allows me the scope to deliver songs in line with its foundational vibration and I stay connected to the relevant sound principles to keep the authenticity and integrity of the style I am delivering. I am blessed to work with creative experts in each genre field, allowing the musical character the scope to elevate and make a lasting difference. I thoroughly enjoy working with a creative catalogue that is both eclectic and diverse whilst being purposeful in its gifting.
DEN: So how did you get into the music industry?
The simple answer to this question is I was born into music. I have a strong family background in this avenue and it was obvious to close family, friends and indeed myself, from a very early age, that I would pursue a professional career in music. It’s a part of my DNA and I’m simply loving it. I’m living my dream and I’m so appreciative of the tangible reality.
DEN: Can you tell me more about your organisation ITA and your involvement with Westminster Education Action Zone?
ITA (Intrinsic Tones of Aswud) is my creative arts organisation of which I chair and I am one of two original co-founders in relation to its concept and actualization. The organisation is set up to encourage children, young people and adults of all cultures the opportunity to access quality arts provisions on a local level in singing, song-writing, steel-pans, dance, rap, spoken word, photography and fashion, to name a few. My involvement with WEAZ (Westminster Education Action Zone) had two extensions, one of which was to deliver creative arts programmes to positively impact the literacy and numeracy attainment levels of secondary and primary school children and the second phase was to work with special needs children supporting their development with music and song as the vehicle.
DEN: Your career and portfolio of work to date is impressive. You’ve worked with such a number of heavyweight artists such as Patti Labelle, Diana Ross, Michael Bolton and Queen. Which artists to date have been most influential on your career?
There is no short answer to this question as my musical experience and what I would consider as influential upon my career is extensive. Some examples I would lead with would be inclusive of vibrant traditional music from the motherland by artists such as Youssou N’dor and Babba Maal, incorporating the beauty of the Kora. Contemporary voices such as Keisha Cole and Jazmine Sullivan. The pristine vocal talents of Rachelle Ferrell, Patti Labelle, George Benson, Chante Moore, The Emotions and my ‘vocal husband’ Maxwell and then of course there is the superabundant talents of Ella Fitzgerald, Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye and Nina Simone.
DEN: So you’ve broken into the US market and secured the recording deal with NuVybe Records. Congratulations on your success so far! I’m spending more time exploring a career in the US as are many UK based visual artists, musicians, and filmmakers. Award winning singers Caron Wheeler, Julie Dexter and Estelle are three of your contemporaries that come to mind when I think of British singers making waves stateside. One questions whether the UK and mainland Europe is mature enough, willing and able to support the careers of artists from the African diaspora that aren’t mainstream. Do you think only the US really provides fertile ground for you to develop your career?
Yes just over a year ago I signed my US deal with Independent label ‘NuVybe Records’ and I’ve got some awesome material to surface from 2012.
The USA geographically is a much larger territory base than the UK when it comes to expressing an interest and supporting the careers of artists from the African diaspora. In addition to this the individuals and groups with a vested affinity for the music of African diasporan artists do not wait for an opportunity to be handed to them, quite the contrary in fact, they go about the business of creating it. However this is also the case of some artists who themselves, like myself, take the lead initiative in designing their creative path. Ownership and attitude is key!
I actually had a private conversation with one of the UK artists you’ve cited and I asked her a similar question to the one you’re currently posing to me and her response was the following: “The USA is openly willing to accept me as I am, and to respect and nurture my artistry for what it is with no attempts at diluting my music. But the biggest difference is the willingness of the people in industry positions, who financially invest in my career. The reality is by gaining recognition state-side, my home country finally sees me, it shouldn’t be that way but it most definitely is. The UK do not ‘see’ you until the USA acknowledges you and there after the UK wants to shout loud and proud, she or he is from the UK”.
I don’t think I can say it any better than that right? So to deduce my answer I say this, the world is a big and beautiful place and music plays throughout it, in every facet. Fertile ground is abundant as is the opportunity to create and experience ones definition of success.
DEN: What’s your advice for young ambitious, talented and frustrated artists pursuing their artistic leanings?
My advice to any young or mature ambitious talented artist would be that they develop their art-form to a high level of discipline. To always be rehearsed and to maintain a clear vision of themselves and how they would like their art-form to represent them. Sometimes they’ll be the creator but not the facilitator of their works and it is important to overstand the difference and to act accordingly for ones higher good and personal development. Experience, wisdom and right reasoning with an intellectual interaction of persons, will help one decide how best to pursue their artistic learnings, desires and dreams. This coupled with tenacity and a pleasant indefatigable attitude I feel to be fundamental resources in ones pursuit.
In this fast paced way of westernised living frustrations seem inevitable in all encounters of ones life, but change is constant and so as frustrations come, they too will go if the individual makes a commitment to themselves to relinquish the disharmony and secure a more harmonious way of thinking and being. This requires consistent discipline and self awareness.
We always have a choice at how we respond to any given situation or person as opposed to reacting to them. The choice is up to the individual. The creative industry as a whole and its make-up of people can be a frustrating entity, so at times like this one would really need to have good inner self grounding, real friends to support your personal process and a current knowing and utilisation of the business, which is your business. To conclude my advice I would end by quoting the ancient mystics of whom say, ‘To Know Thy Self Is The First Step, After This All Else Will Follow’
DEN: So what’s next?
I’m concluding my sophomore album project with my USA label ‘NuVybe Records’ headed by Mr. Herb Middleton scheduled for release next year 2012, and ahead of the actual album will be the first single release. My new album will feature writing contributions between myself and Mr Richard Rudolph, the husband of the late great Minnie Ripperton, as well as production contributions from Mr Peter Moore (LA Reid) and of course Mr Herb Middleton.
The new range of my fashion line ‘House of Ba-Sawur Designs’ will go live in late 2012. Started in 2005, I initially designed my attire for live performances and engagements which gave rise to an increased interest and demand to commission select pieces for an international private clientèle.
I also have my new stage play production which is a musical comedy that I’ve co-written entitled ‘You Haven’t Seen Nothing Yet’ produced, co-written and directed by Mr Cosmo Morgan via our production company ‘B-Cos Productions’ which debuts in London at The Catford Theatre on April 21st and 22nd 2012, starring myself, Kane Brown, Tippa Irie, Wayne ‘Dibbi’ Rollins and Junior Giscombe.
There will also be some exclusive European features and international recording collaborations, where I will appear courtesy of my US label and of course in my schedule is a most generous sharing of live national and international performance dates. All this, with a sprinkling of well favored additional creative surprises ensures exciting and super productive times ahead.
DEN: Great! It sounds like I’ve got a few things to pencil in my diary for the foreseeable future!
Bashiyra will next perform an acoustic live set at the four year anniversary celebration of ‘The Supa Fine Sessions’ which will be held on Thursday 24th November 2011 at The Hideaway, 114 Junction Road, London N19, 8:00pm -11:45pm £5 OTD or £3 ADV – Food served: 6:00pm-10:30pm – Advance Ticket bookings email: email@example.com
Information on Bashiyra is available on the following links
In contrast to my last entry, I’m pleased to focus positively on the career progression of an individual I’ve grown to respect for her ambition and talent. It pleases me to see artist Fayola Timberlake working on her first EP. I caught up with her for a chat on the release of her track ‘Pull the Plug’
The first and obvious question to ask is when did you start singing?
I started singing from the little age of 5 years old. I went to a private dancing school from the age of 2 where I did dance theatre shows, competitions and exams all around England . I would also sing cabaret, jazz and musical theatre songs with dance. I was the first in my school at the age of 8 years old to get through to ‘The All England Finals’ dance competition with my song and dance singing Fire Fly. During my career, I would always meet music producers along the way and started experimenting in the studio. I was very shy ,it took a while before I overcame it and realised that I really wanted to go for it.
You’ve worked as a performance artist for a while, dancing and now more ambitiously singing; Did you ever have an interest in pursuing a different career?
No never. Dance and singing/songwriting has been my life; I could not imagine doing anything else. I love expressing myself creatively. It’s when I’m at my best. I must say I have a keen interest in people. So if I had to choose a different life and path I would be interested in psychology or anything humanitarian.
What has been a determining factor in your success so far?
I have a lot of self belief even though it can be hard at times with setbacks and challenges that come your way in life or with people letting you down. You have to bounce right back up and be consistent. So no matter what, you have to find the strength within to stay focused and positive, hold a picture of the outcome in your mind. I am also a risk taker and very much live in the moment and grab any opportunity that comes my way and just enjoy it. You have to enjoy the journey otherwise what’s the point. I also think having great family and friends who are so supportive and continuously believe in me and what I do really helps and is very comforting. Which artists have been most influential on your career to date and why?
Hmm very hard to pin point really. I think growing up being exposed to a vast amount of sounds and styles of music ranging from classical, jazz, 80’s, rock right through to pop and more, has reflected a lot on my songwriting and musical creativity to date. But I would say the one and only Michael Jackson has had the biggest influence of them all due to his innovative approach, to his style, music, pushing the boundaries and creativity with his videos and spectacular performances has been very inspiring. He has inspired me to experiment and try something different, fusing sounds whilst still maintaining a commercial edge. I’m happy I got to meet him. Madonna for pushing the boundaries and always reinventing herself with her image and going from one style to another and still here, has been very inspirational as it’s hard for me to stick to one style because I love to experiment but try to keep that link between all my music with my vocal style. I also love Prince for his originality and genius. Where do you get your motivation from and how in such a competitive environment do you keep a positive mental attitude?
I guess I have never been one to be threatened by anything or anyone and have always been competitive with myself. I have carried this attitude from very young throughout my dance career and has stayed with me ever since. I am naturally a positive, motivated person with a lot of energy and enjoy what I do. I have always believed that with determination and belief we can do anything we put our minds to. I also look at other people’s experiences and think well if they can do it then so can I.
You are talented and one of a number of gifted female artists I know. You also model so is being photogenic or deemed attractive fundamentally the prerequisite for success? Is this an attitude that will ever change to simply allow success to emerge purely on a person’s ability to sing particularly live?
Firstly thank you! No I don’t think it is at all. But unfortunately in today’s society where everything in the media is so focused on looks and image to sell a product it does play a part. But it also seems that for most people as soon as someone is in the public eye they seem more attractive to them anyway. But I do hope and I think it will change slightly because music is so accessible now and people just really want to hear a good tune regardless of someone’s looks. Which artists have you worked with so far and who would you love to collaborate with?
So far I have collaborated with Supafly Inc also known as (Supafly) which is a UK dance act composed of Panos Liassi (Mister P) and Andrew Tumi (One).
They are best known for their track ‘’ Lets Get Down’’ – which was a club hit around the world. I have also collaborated with a couple of UK rappers. Updates coming soon!!
I would love to collaborate with Bruno Mars because I love his voice and melodies. It would be great to write for him to. It would also be interesting to collaborate with someone like Example and crossover with our sounds. And would love to do something with a band like OneRepublic because they are so versatile and rock!!
What does the next year hold for you; what will we see you doing?
I will be releasing my first single ‘Pull the Plug’ which is finally now up on you tube and getting a great response so far. Release date to be confirmed. I am in the process of finishing my first EP which I’m very excited about with lots of gigs and festivals to come. As you know I am also a songwriter working on a couple of big projects at the moment so stay tuned!!!
I wish Fayola the greatest success with the track and her career!
In the early 1990s I often visited a friend of mine, an artist in Brixton, south London. Very often, arriving at her home, I would hear the sound of her eldest son beating his drums upstairs. He had a wealth of enthusiasm, drive and ambition. I’m glad to see Pharoah S Russell has matured his skill and is now a talented musician embarking on a music career with friends under the name of the Tristram Trio. The band will be performing next week at the Ritzy Brixton.
On the eve of their gig I managed to ask a few questions regarding their plans and progress to date:
Q: So who is the band and how was it formed?
Ian: The band is Ian Mikyska on acoustic guitar, Tomáš Mika on electric guitar and melodica and Pharoah S. Russell on drums. Tristram was something I was looking to do for nearly a year before it actually started – I had the tunes written and an approximate idea of what I wanted it to sound like, it was just a matter of waiting for the right musicians, which obviously happened with Tomáš and Pharoah.
Q: Your style of music has been described as Christian Rap. Is this a suitable description and why?
Tomas: It’s probably not very accurate to describe us as a Christian Rap band since we are not Christians nor do we rap. It came about as a joke, because we actually couldn’t work out what it is that we’re playing.
Q: Which artists have been most influential on your career to date?
Ian: In terms of the sound of a band, Esbjörn Svensson and Brad Mehldau were big influences. As far as guitar’s go, it was mostly both my teachers, Petr Zelenka and David Dorůžka, and compositionally I am more interested in classical music – Bartók, Stravinsky and Shostakovich are the most important in terms of actual compositional influence.
Pharoah: I think what makes the band sound interesting is the different influences we all have. My biggest ones are Radiohead, Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, Keith Jarrett among others.
Q: There are numerous bands out there, all aspiring to be commercially successful whilst retaining a grass foots following. How hard do you think this will be for a new band with your genre of music?
Ian: The only difficult part of this question is that I don’t even know what our genre of music is. It seems to be nice and poppy at times, but then I get people coming up to me after a gig saying it wasn’t melodic enough for them, so I’m never really sure to how many people we’re actually reaching out. It’s strange in how diverse it is, there are tunes that have a rock beat all the way through, pretty straight-ahead, and then there are dodecaphonic melodies in 7/8, so I guess that is our style. But regardless, becoming successful and/or having a following will be only as easy or hard as we are good or not so good, respectively.
Pharoah: To be honest with the jazz (which I would put our music in) category, It’s a little different from say the Pop world, mainly if you play great music, you will be known for it, but to be very big in jazz is very hard, as not only the music has to be to a high level, but the individual playing has to be more so in some cases. Image counts less compared to Pop like genres too. If we can create a healthy following and start to play jazz festivals around the world I will be content for now.
Q: Pharoah, you’ve now moved to Prague where the band is based. Is the Czech music scene very different to the UK and the rest of Europe?
Well I actually feel that I’m only just getting on the music scene here even though it’s been one year. I toured the Czech Republic last year with a Pop/Electro band and wasn’t doing much else in Prague music wise. But since meeting Ian and co, I feel I have mixed in more with the scene here. What I would say is that Czech is small, therefore there is not as many musicians and venues alike, so much harder to make a living here, there are some great musicians and some good music, but overall for music I must say London is a much better place, just the multi-cultural side makes it so. Different places in Europe have different scenes, Berlin has a good music scene and Paris amazing but I don’t know too much more other than that. But all in all I love Prague (smile)
Q: Could you tell me a little more about your immediate plans and where you aim to be in years time?
Ian: Because of the size of the Prague jazz scene (about the size of Hammersmith’s jazz scene), there is not many places for us to play, or at least not with the level of attention we would like (which really just means not talking too loud), so it was always our intention to tour around. By the time this interview comes out we’ll be in London, busking on the Southbank which will be an interesting experience for us, and then we hope to set out to Italy and Germany over the summer. Ideally, in a few years, touring Italy, Germany, and any other place that will have us will be what we do most of the year.