‘Jazz, Blues and other Festival Highlights’

by Sean Kenny

Music is my biggest passion. Be it listening, playing or discovering, there is nothing better than having music as part of your life. From buying my first album which I’ve always been proud of which was Red Hot Chilli Peppers – By The Way when I was 9 to delving into so many different genre’s growing up. Influences from my parents, grandparents, friends and then finding my own way through the music I loved. This has led me to having such a wide variety of music in my collection. When people use the term ‘World Music’ – that is what I have.

Another one of my earliest memories of music was buying The ‘Rough Guide’ to the music of Africa. Not what just any 1 year old boy would pick up when visiting HMV, but different sounds and different elements have always been a driving passion. In more recent music discoveries I seem to have delved deep into the original Blues masters of the 20s and 30s, really tapping into the roots of all modern music and being able to hear their influences in so many genre’s today. Having the first year of Festival of Voice happen during my time working at the Millennium Centre makes the festival all the sweeter and makes every working day an exciting one. Working on such a festival and bringing these world music elements together is a dream of mine and is what I’m driving to do with my career in the future.

Looking at FOV it’s not often you see a Hip Hop night in the same line up as an Opera, and Fado alongside House. But that’s exactly what the festival has to offer – a huge variety of genres which is set to bring a global sound to Cardiff this June. It might sound cliché but Festival of Voice genuinely has something for everyone. Something for every taste, every style and every mood. Just looking at the diversity of the line-up excites me – because finally, Cardiff can boast about having an International Arts festival that showcases an eclectic mix of genres from artists from across the globe. Considering this is the first year of the festival it’s already showing the potential it has to showcase so many artists on an international platform. When looking at the line-up for the inaugural Festival of Voice – there are stand out nights for me, simply because they are like nothing else that comes to Cardiff on a regular basis –

Hugh Masekela 7 June – New Theatre.

A South African born trumpeter – or more often seen with his Flugehorn, he links us to the wonders of Louis Armstrong and Miles Davies while bringing a whole other style to his playing with traditional elements of African music, making his work a cauldron of culture. At a bold 77 years of age, Masekela shows no sign of slowing down. By teaming up with New York pianist Larry Willis, the New Theatre is going to be treated to a night of faultless classic Jazz, with a twist of New York Blues. This fusion of musical elements from America and Africa means that no one in their right mind can pass up the opportunity to see these styles fused into something that will make the shyest of dancers come out of their shell. Tracks to look out for which will no doubt get jazz lovers, soul swingers or newbies to Masekela on their feet will be ‘Don’t go Loose it Baby’ which sounds like a Soul/Disco classic with elements of Earth Wind and Fire, and who can pass up that with a South African beat eh?

That along with ‘Afro Beat Blues’ are sure to be highlights of the set for me.

The Hot Sardines – 9th June – New Theatre 

What does the name ‘Hot Sardines’ say to you if you have never heard the name before. A tasty option to have on toast? A small snack that gets stuck in your teeth? In this instance, Hot Sardines means nothing more than ‘Cool’. If gypsy swing is your thing then you’ve got to get yourself down to catch these swinging cats, you can hear elements of Django Reindhart and Billy Holiday, and not to mention a live tap dancer. If are not tempted you should be. With Louis Prima esque trumpet, a rhythm section that will not let you stay still, and a voice which will transport you back to a smoky Parisian bar in the 1920’s, The Hot Sardines personify everything to love about the swing era. Speaking of a Louis Prima style, keep an ear out for a great cover of ‘I Wanna Be Like You’, the classic from the Jungle Book, written by the Jazz and early R’n’B great.

– With this sort of band there is only one way to listen to them and that is live! Just check out the full Festival line-up if you haven’t done already, you may see names that are unfamiliar – but that’s the beauty of festivals – broadening your horizons. A few other top tips of mine include –

Keaton Henson – 10 June – New Theatre 
Playing his only live show of the Summer, this is definitely a performance you don’t want to miss. It’s a rare occasion to see this man live – you may even be treated to some poetry. Poetry and live music – hipsters paradise!

Femi Kuti and Mbongwana Star – 9 June – St Davids Hall 
These two are also another rare find, but likely to be one of the liveliest and best nights of the festival.

Mariza – 8 June – Wales Millennium Centre
Teleport yourself to the tiny streets of Alfama in Lisbon and catch the undisputed Queen of Fado and the recently voted ‘Best Artist’ at the Songline music awards 2016.

Slowly Rolling Camera – 9 June – Chapter ‘nu soul’ and ‘electric groove’ – Need I say more…..I think not…. Head on over to  https://blueswales.wordpress.com to catch my latest blogs about the music world that I love.

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