Issue 252
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Riding the crest of a jazz-shaped wave of his own making, MOBO-winning, Mercury-nominated, new school saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings is in Birmingham with his big, confident, buzzy breed of music. As part of Black History Month and THSH's Jazzlines programme, find the almost-Brummie, and his band, Sons of Kemet, at the city's music HQ, the Hare & Hounds.
You've moved around a lot, do you think of yourself as more Brit or Bajan or Brummie?
That's a complicated question and the answer depends on who I'm addressing. I was born in London, then moved to Birmingham but also lived in Barbados for ten years. But where am I really from? I don't feel like I'm from anywhere. My links to Barbados are strained and mainly musical, constructed along my artistic journey. I could say I'm from London but I don't feel like anyone really is — there's so many people drifting around that city. Birmingham feels like home because my Mum's here, and that's where I'll be sleeping tonight — in Great Barr. I haven't answered your question have I?
Sort of. What 's the significance of Black History Month to you?
I don't know how I feel about it. In some ways the concept of having a black history month is a problem of itself, because it suggests there's a gulf between one set of histories and another. It is a good thing for people to be made aware of aspects of history they're not familiar with, but black history is not actually a distinct thing — it's the history that centred in blackness at a certain point, but ultimately it's still regular history. It just depends how far you're prepared to look back.

"I don't know where my MOBO is.
Probably in a box somewhere."

You've played all around the world, do you think audiences are changing?
Absolutely — they're shifting thanks to the power of the Internet. People are told one type of music is for them and another type isn't, but now they can just make up their own minds because it's all online. There's a greater diversity and age demographic, especially in the major cities. And the Brits aren't the reserved crowd they get made out to be —  I can pretty much guarantee a massive rave-up at our bigger gigs.
When did you realise you could make a living out of music?
I had a very comfortable job teaching — £25 an hour, seven hours, two days a week: I could always make my rent. And there was a moment when I decided to see if I could survive without it — to play my music. And my Mum was like "no don't quit". It was tough for about a year. But I realised I could survive. And that was at least five years ago, so I guess it all worked out.
What's a saxophonist's worst fear?
That something breaks. It happens to me all the time because I sweat so much — I sweat all over the sax — the springs rust and then suddenly snap! You play a note and nothing comes out. People have waited six months to see you, you're half way through a song, you press a key and just sound really bad — and there's nothing you can do.
Yeah your gigs look very physical.
Gigs last for two hours, so it's all about muscular strength. If you take a couple of weeks off playing you can really feel it, when you do. But you see I've got these muscles around my mouth? C'mon touch them — this is what my teacher did to me years ago. I've got these two muscles literally just from playing — without them, there'd be nothing to keep the saxophone in my mouth.
What should people drink when they're listening to your music?
Not traditional things like whisky. Maybe coffee. No! Lucozade — something to keep you up and raving for the whole gig.
How many saxophones have you got?
I've got five and I'll hopefully get a sixth one. And two bass clarinets.
If people have never heard of Sons of Kemet, where should they start?
A good entry point is probably the second track on our new album — My Queen is Marnie Phipps Clark — good for the general listener who maybe knows some dubstep and jungle and wants to see a link between that and jazz.
You don't have a vocalist. Who does the audience concentrate on at gigs?
Me — I'm the leader. Sometimes I even take my top off — to make that even more explicit.
And finally, where do you keep your MOBO?
I'm a pretty irreverent guy when it comes to awards. I don't know where my MOBO is — probably in a box somewhere.
Sons of Kemet's gig at the Hare & Hounds on Friday 26 October is sold out but we've got a pair of tickets to give away right here.
Check out the full programme for Black History Month here. Our picks:
Grammy-winning saxophonist Jean Toussaint is bringing his quintet to Birmingham Conservatoire tomorrow at 7.15pm (Friday). Tickets are £13.
Dub poetry peeps Roger Robinson and Nick Makoha have got poetry and musicalness for you at The Rep on Oct 10. Tickets are £8.
Catch chortle-makers Judi Love, Jason Patterson and Deano Mac at Upfront Comedy on October 6 (this Saturday night). Tickets are £13.
Falling just after BHM but worthy of your attention, keyboardist, DJ, and producer Kamaal Williams is at The Crossing on Nov 8. Tickets are £18.

Venue: Tap & Tandoor, 568 Warwick road B91 3DX; website
Choice: Chicken palak (£7.50) Chooser: Owner

Everything is terrible with the world, so here’s a baby lion cub learning to roar. Good, right? And if that hasn't cheered you up how about some beer and curry? Beer and curry fixes everything, even Brexit if someone bothered to ask it. And perhaps the best venue in Birmingham to combine the two isn't even in Birmingham. High street chain-dominated Solihull has found stunning solace in the shape of indie-owned Tap & Tandoor. On tap they have a dozen or so meticulously selected and regularly changing beers, the pick of which, (and we say this begrudgingly) is Manchester brewery Alphabet's brilliantly named Juice Springsteen. The notes of tropical fruit link up and play merrily with the tandoor's spicy heat like Shearer and Sutton in the 94/95 season. Speaking of food, the prices are outstanding. At £7.50 the chicken palak is a metaphorical steal. Which is good because it's probably very difficult and potentially messy to literally steal. This is one of those curries that claims to be healthy, probably isn't, but is so jam-packed with spinach and flavour and goodness that you walk away from it feeling floaty and light and not, you know, hippo-ish. Chest bumps also go out to the lamb chops — the meat from which distanced itself from the bone like Boris from Chequers — and the zingy, doggybaggably good aloo tikki chaat. This place is an absolute gem. Menu


Well folks, get yourself down to William Hill, because if this doesn’t win the Best Picture Oscar, there’s a serious glitch in the Matrix. An epic-yet-intimate weepie of the kind we’re told They Don’t Make Any More, this is the crowd-pleaser of the autumn – and happens to be actually good, to boot. Bradley Cooper stars and directs as a good ol’ boy musician who falls in love with Lady Gaga’s bar singer, and the rest of the story is largely familiar from the three previous versions. What’s new is how this Hollywood megamovie starring two of the most famous people on the planet, half the time, feels like an improvised indie: Cooper and Gaga are genuinely superb together, and there’s not a false note as their love winds its way through fame, drugs and booze. Bring some hankies. Times & trailer


Turning on your TV or radio and not hearing Zoe Lyons is a pretty sizeable challenge these days — think Mock the Week, Celebrity: Masterchef or Just a Minute if you're our Mum. But at 8pm on November 8 we can guarantee Lyons won't be recording, because she'll be standing-up at Glee with her new show Entry Level Human — a catch all phrase Lyons will deploy to destroy boorish behaviour in many forms. Win a pair of tickets to the show plus your choice of Prosecco or a beer bucket to wash it down right here.


Birmingham Lit Fest starts today, and — almost like they planned it — The Book of Birmingham has been published. Ramo-ed full of short fictions which peel back the layers of the people and events that have shaped the city, the newbie includes writers who could teach us a lot, like our former Poet Laureate, Sibyl Ruth, and Handsworth-born Bobby Nayyar, a past winner of a Word Masala Award. From Malcolm X’s visit to Smethwick in ’65, right up to today, get it for £8.75, which is large glass of wine territory in cost and guaranteed to be better for you.


A nineties boyband once said, "We’re going deep, baby. Deep, deep down". And they were right, despite being 26 years too early. Be prepared for nothing short of stuntastical scenery as Ocean Film Festival surfaces at Birmingham’s Crescent Theatre on October 22. Most remarkably, One Breath (pictured) follows a pair of free-divers as they attempt to break the world record in their discipline, which is currently set at a breath-defying, ear-bursting 214 metres — that's a distance of well over the length of two football pitches, in one breath, THEN BACK AGAIN! The whole collection of shorts is filmed from the perspective of the oceanographers, sailors and surfers who live and breathe the sea. From swimming with sharks to getting locked in a wave, this is closest to the sublime sub-aquatic as you'll get without, y'know, jumping in. Tickets are £14.50.

Harbornites rejoice! You can get Patty Freaks, Loki Wine and all sorts of indie traders without leaving your hallowed Harbs. The Night Market will be residing at The Green Man tomorrow evening from 4pm.
Ted Baker's having a warehouse sale at the Custard Factory, from 8am on Friday across the weekend. Entry is £1 and we're hearing absolutely no reports that Ted'll be there.
He's performed for four US Presidents, two Popes, and maybe you can get added to that list. Andrea Bocelli's in town on October 19, 2019. Tickets go on sale at 10am tomorrow.

Entries to VELO Birmingham open at 9am. So if you're up for a 100 mile closed road bike ride May 11 next year, get on it — they sold out quick sharpish last year.

In news of a different kind, Burger Fest is THIS Saturday at The Bond. And that's all you need to know about that.

"How inappropriate to call this planet Earth
when it is clearly Ocean."

Arthur C. Clarke

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WORDS: Katy DrohanTom Cullen; Robb SheppardAndrew Lowry
PICTURES: Pierrick Guidou (Shabaka Hutchings & Sons of Kemet)

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