11th Feb 2020
Gaika is the latest artist to recevie support from Serious' Giant Steps talent development programe; set up to work with creative musicians of any genre, and encouraging cross-disciplinary collaboration and the creation of large-scale work. Help Musicians UK has made a significant contribution to the realisation of the project through their
National Grants Programme. Serious Trust also contributes to the programme.
Our Jazz Programme and Talent Devlopement Manager, Rob Farhat, gives some background to this project in his own words:
Gaika is, in my humble opinion, one of the most visionary artists in British music right now. From Brixton and of Jamaican/Grenadian heritage, he was originally part of the Manchester-based rap/arts collective Murkage before going solo with his self-released mixtapes Machine and Security, eventually signing to Warp records who released his incredible debut album Basic Volume last year.
His music incorporates elements of dancehall, industrial electro, and grime to create a sound that is truly unique. But he's not just a musician, he's also a film and visual artist – making video installations in collaboration with his brother Kibwe Tavares,
which have been featured at the likes of Somerset House's recent Get Up, Stand Up Now exhibition, and Hyberdub's Ø night in Corsica Studios.
He's also an extremely eloquent and thought-provoking writer and is the editor-at-large of Dazed magazine, for which he wrote this piece called The Spectacular Empire – what he calls his "protopian vision" of a post-authoritarian future, the overarching theme of his music and art in general. This is where my "most visionary artists in music" sentiment comes from.
We first worked together when he was an addition to the guest artists at Anthony Joseph's Windrush Celebration (also a Giant Steps project), at which her performed two of his songs with that show's 10 piece jazz ensemble. This was his first time ever playing with more than one or two live instrumentalists, and I could tell that before he came to his first rehearsal he wasn't too sure what to expect. But once he started playing with the band his eyes totally lit up and he was super inspired by the whole thing.
After that rehearsal I said to him that we have this scheme that could enable him to do a whole project like this for himself, and he said "yes, definitely!". I thought that might have just been a spur of the moment reaction, but then the first thing he said to me on the day of the show in the Barbican was that he really wanted to make it happen. His appearance was definitely one of the highlights of the gig, and the next day he was texting me saying he wanted to get the ball rolling on planning something together straight away.
Fast forward to now, and Serious have put the gig together in collaboration with the Roundhouse – who he had already been planning on doing a big show with, so we essentially combined our ideas – while him and our old friend Jason Yarde have been working on arrangements of over an hour of his music (some new, some old) for a 10 piece jazz ensemble featuring members of Steam Down, Nerija, Kokoroko, and more – making for a one-of-a-kind collaboration that I don't think has ever really been done before.
It will also feature a complex visual/film element, which he has created in collaboration with young filmmakers from Roundhouse's Sight and Sound programme, as well as support slots from not one but SIX amazing collaborators of Gaika's. All put together, the show is called Phoenix Rising: Beyond The Spectacular Empire, and you can read a bit from Gaika about his thoughts behind the project in the image above
So as you can hopefully tell this is a very special artist and a fairly unique project. It's also quite a complex one, which maybe partly explains why it hasn't sold too well! But rehearsals so far are sounding incredible, and the show is going to be stellar.