Cant wait for this little festival next weekend. Some brilliant bands, some brilliant mates a great way to round off the summer 🙂
Wow! So today I have been set a challenge to write about the three most important songs in my life and to explain what it they mean to me. Quite honestly I almost ignored the challenge. 3 songs, seriously. Just for a moment let me give a little context to the size of the task.
My CD collection is at a minimum 5000 discs. In addition to that I have cupboards full of vinyl and tapes that haven’t seen the light of day in over 20 years. I listen to music almost constantly, not a single day ever passes in my life when I don’t listen to music, not one, ever! I have boxes of discs that have never been listened to, I have 30k songs on my iPod and I am being asked to pick 3 songs. It is an impossible task, my favourites would change on a day to day, if not an hour to hour basis.
However, in the UK today we are seeing a political frenzy as we get ready for the people in Scotland to go to the polls in the referendum on Scottish independence. I am an Ulster Scot, a unionist by tradition and yet I am hoping that the Scots will vote for independence. There is no doubt that a yes vote will tear down the entire British political system and this is the real outcome that I want to see. Why? Because the whole political system in the UK is corrupt from the bottom to the top. So what has all this got to do with the 3 songs I am going to pick to complete my task? well I believe that music can be a power for good, that it can make people think, that it can challenge the establishment, that it can generate an interest in Politics.
So what songs have I picked?
1.) Alternative Ulster – Stiff Little Fingers
2.) Battle of the Beanfield – The Levellers
3.) Criminal Justice – Ferocious Dog
Alternative Ulster is a song from my youth and is the song that awakened my ability to question the status quo, to examine and to be sceptical about what we are told by the arms of state and politicians, to realise that vested interests are at play and that society at its heart is deeply unfair.
The battle of the Beanfield by the Levellers tells of how the Police and the state criminalised people in the UK simply for wanting to visit Stonehenge to celebrate the Summer Solstice. There was a an anti government movement in the UK at the time, a campaign of civil disobedience. This was primarily based around the introduction of the ‘Poll Tax’ a tax that was seen as deeply unfair as there was no means testing, The mega rich paid the same as the person on benefits. People in their thousands were being criminalised and sent to jail because they couldn’t pay. Thatchers Government used the Police to smash the resistance. The Police were accused of being heavy handed and of extraordinary levels of violence towards protesters.
The lead singer of Ferocious Dog worked until very recently as a miner in Nottinghamshire. The song Criminal Justice explains how the Police and arms of state were used to crush the miners during the strikes in the mid 1980’s. Thatchers Government were forcing UK mines to close whilst at the same time importing millions of tons of coal from Poland and elsewhere. Thatcher set out to crush the trade unions, to undermine workers rights, collective bargaining and to make it easier for employers to sack employees. She was ultimately successful. In the years sine we have seen poverty in the UK increase. In 2014 there are an estimated 2m people in the UK who are dependent on food banks, this at a time when taxes are being cut for the richest in our society. Once again the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.
So those are my three songs for today, politically charged songs for a politically charged atmosphere.
Before I start I realise that at times I am guilty of repeating the same point on a number of occasions. This time however I make no apologies for doing so. It is a simple truism that when you attend a music festival you will always find something that blows you away. At last weekends I found a number of artists and bands that I really liked several that I was extremely impressed with and one that I believe has every attribute required to go as far as she wishes in the music industry. That person is Kaia Viera, an acoustic folk singer from Wimborne in Dorset.
Kaia is young, just 17 but she has a real stage presence. She draws every eye to her and she looks like she enjoys every moment that she is on stage and she looks fantastic, a beautiful English Rose. If she is nervous she shows no sign of it as she launches into a beautiful set consisting mostly of her own songs. Where she does cover someone else’s songs she chooses them judiciously and puts her own mark on them. Her cover of John Martyn’s “May you Never” is simply stunning. I wouldn’t have expected one so young to have heard of John Martyn much less covered one of his songs.
Kaia is very much of the Nu-folk generation, her guitar playing focuses on a simple folk finger picking style, but she brings that style very much into the 21st Century. She makes very clever use of loop pedals to provide a depth to her performance. She records these live on stage and then uses the loop to provide a beautiful backing to her singing. Nowhere is this more evident than on “The fool” The version below will show you what I mean. The technique is very well done, not over used and adds to her beautiful singing. Make no mistake her voice is simply stunning, especially at the high end of her range, her phrasing and enunciation are perfect and she puts over a vulnerability in her singing that doesn’t seem possible in one so young. I was reminded of a young Sandy Denny, hunt out Sandy’s demo version of “who knows where the time goes” and compare it with the video below, you will see what I mean. I can pay Kaia no greater compliment than to say she bears comparison with the greatest ever British female singer songwriter.
I was too taken with Kaia’s performance to spend time writing down the names of her songs. I do remember that she played ‘flightless bird’ and ‘Safebound’ both of which can be heard on her sound cloud site. I just sat back, closed my eyes and listened to a beautiful, relaxing, soulful singer who wrapped me up in sound. A perfect sound for a lovely warm sunny September afternoon.
I believe that Kaia has all the attributes required to forge a very successful career in this, the most difficult of industries. She has the looks, the voice, the presence and the talent. We all know that in this day in age those attributes are all too often not enough. Hard work, constant gigging and a stroke of luck along the way are needed too. I am confident that with support and the right guidance she will make her own luck. I can’t wait to see her again and I hope she will get something out on disc sooner rather than later.