The grande finale!

No jostling crowds, no muddy fields and cold showers, no mile-long queues and no hefty prices for food and drink! Just a small intimate affair at the iconic, victorian bandstand on Clevedon seafront where you can listen to top-quality music, relax and spend time with friends. The latest concert organised by the Clevedon Live Music team marks the end of the Clevedon Literary Festival More Than Words on June 11th, and the quality of the musicians performing reflects the calibre of the individuals presenting at the Literary Festival. If you haven’t yet heard about the fabulous line-up at this year’s festival, check out their very comprehensive website for all the details and booking information.

First on at 5.00 p.m. is Jonah Hitchens and his five-piece band. If you were lucky enough to see Jonah at the Riff Corner at the start of the month, then I’m sure you’ll be really looking forward to seeing him again. If you haven’t heard of the Riff Corner, Clevedon’s latest and very popular music venue then let me introduce you:

Jonah is a talented guitarist and singer-songwriter who attended South West Music School.  He went on to Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London, where he graduated with a Jazz Performance degree. Former students at Trinity Laban include Fela Kuti, Joe Armon-Jones and Moses Boyd.

Jonah thrived in such a dynamic musical milieu which inspired him to become a better player and gave him a broader perspective on many aspects of music, which he enjoyed exploring. His time in London also offered him a wealth of opportunities to watch and play a great range of music.

Whilst studying, Jonah formed his band, who have been together now for over ten years. With Jonah on lead vocals and guitar, other members are Chris Tilke on drums, Ollie Harris on electric guitar, Frazer Kerslake on bass, and Ozzie Parker on keys.  Together, they released Sugarcoated Sugarcane (2015), A Little Dedication (2015), The Feeling (2016), Floating (2018) and A Drive to Devon (2020).

A Happening Next review of Jonah and the band  describes them as:

………….blending soul, funk, psychedelia and jazz into a single exhilarating mash-up. If Curtis Mayfield jammed with Jimi Hendrix, this is what it might sound like.”

In the same interview, they cite his influences as diverse as Bill Withers, Curtis Mayfield, Parliament, Gil Scott Heron, Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix.

Jonah released a new album in September 2022 ‘Sunset Circus’ described as being “full of retro sounds and influences”. I’m hoping he will treat us to songs from the album – check out my favourites:

Why Can’t The World Just Keep It Funky is a reminder to put love before anything else. If everyone just kept it funky, the world would be a better place. So please remember to keep it funky at all times!  

Followed by “All You Need” This track reminds us to put friends and family before anything else in life. For that truly is ‘All You Need’.

Jonah is followed by the exceptionally talented Benjin at 6.00 p.m. Benjin is a multi-instrumentalist who has toured across Europe with a number of experimental ensembles over the last fifteen years. He takes inspiration from the UK’s unique maritime heritage; his solo compositions use classical guitar, cello, harp, clarinet, vocals, nyckelharpa, field recordings and found sounds.

Benjin released his 9th full-length, solo album with Canigou Records in September 1922. Music for Cello and Nyckelharpa which is a musical conversation between the cello and its lesser-known cousin, the nyckelharpa. Over the last two centuries, the nyckelharpa has been primarily upheld as the national instrument of Sweden, where it is generally played in a variety of folk-dance music contexts. There is also evidence of the nyckelharpa in early modern Europe.

Translated into English as a keyed fiddle or literally a key harp, the nyckelharpa is a bowed instrument with three melody strings, one drone and twelve sympathetic strings which give it its unique ethereal sound. The left hand operates three (or four) separate rows of keys, which then press directly onto the strings and change the notes. I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing this magnificent-looking instrument in action.

The album Music for Cello and Nyckelharpa is made up of original compositions, a Bach violin sonata and free-form improvisations. There are also arrangements of the Swedish lament Vem Kan Segla Förutan Vind? (Who Can Sail Without the Wind?) alongside the Abbotts Bromley Horn Dance, a British folk song which can be traced back to the 1200s.

Take a listen to the first track on Music for Cello and Nyckelharpa, which is Angel of History.

Benjin’s very beautiful reworking of Bach’s Violin Sonata No. 1: Presto is the final track.

Aside from regular concert performances and art installations, Benjin’s music has been featured on BBC Radio 6 and Radio 3, at the TATE and Serpentine Galleries.

Last on at 7.00 p.m. is Sudanese singer, musician and songwriter RASHA with her five-piece band. Rasha has had a presence in the world music scene for over twenty-five years and comes to Clevedon through an exciting collaboration with the Clevedon Live Music team and The Successors of the Mandingue, a unique company in Wales that exists to promote and share West African culture and heritage through music and dance activities. Check them out here:

Rasha was born in Omdurman, Sudan, in 1971. Being such a culturally rich and diverse society meant Rasha was exposed to a wealth of musical traditions. She also comes from a musical family, she is one of twenty children, and all of her nineteen siblings are involved in the arts in some way.

Music was a constant feature of Rasha’s childhood, and her grandfather’s home was a well-known meeting place for the most renowned musicians in Sudan.

Later on, she worked closely with one of her sisters on radio, television and theatre productions, where she grew her knowledge of music and discovered her aptitude for composition and arrangement.

In an interview with Last FM, she explained that her dream was to introduce her music to a broader audience that reflected the dynamic music scene of Sudan, which she describes as:

“…..incredibly diverse and differs in many ways from all other ‘African’ music: it is not as distinctly rhythmic and danceable – even though it is full of complex rhythms – but puts more emphasis on melody. It is more melancholic; it sounds downright sad. And even though it is, at first glance, very similar to Arabic music, Sudanese music is different – a mixture of both, and yet unlike either of them.”

The civil war raging between Sudan’s Muslim population in the north and its Christian and animist population in the south forced Rasha to leave her country in order to realise this dream. And in 1991, she moved to Cairo and later to Spain. Her older brother Wafir was already in Spain playing with the Spanish cult band Radio Tarifa.

It was in Spain in 1997 that Rasha realised her dream and released her debut album, Sudaniyat, which the famous fRoots Magazine described as one of the ten best of 1997. In 2000, her second album, Let Me Be was praised in The Rough Guide to World Music.

A gifted singer and a gifted linguist, Rasha mainly sings in her mother tongue – Arabic but also performs in Spanish, English, Nubian and Creole. She has performed across Europe, Colombia, Brazil, Sudan, Senegal, Egypt and the USA.  She has collaborated on stage and on recordings with many internationally renowned artists, and she participated in the Refugee Voices festival in Geneva to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the UNHCR alongside great artists such as Youssou N’Dour, K’naan and Geoffrey Oryema.

I can’t wait to hear Rasha on June 11th, according to The Successors of the Mandingue, we can expect:

“………..a fascinating amalgamation of styles including the centuries-old musical traditions of the Nubian culture, rhythms of central Sudan, the tom-tom beats of the African Sahel, echoes and influences of North African, Arabic and Andalusian (flamenco) sounds, modern blues, jazz and reggae.”

Check out this track Azara alhai from Rasha’s album Sudaniyat. It has had over 600,000 downloads from Spotify.

Her second most popular song on Spotify is Aguis Mahasnik Biman from the same album.

June 11th promises to be a wonderful musical experience and a memorable end to the Clevedon Literary Festival – huge thanks once again to Maureen and her team.

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