Sofa Sessions #7: Belfast Music Week
I can’t quite believe it, but this is now the 7th Soul Ambition Sofa Session. The first was held in my living room in south Belfast back in January 2010, where they were held until I moved out and the Ulster Hall invited me to bring the cabaret to their intimate, relaxed group space for their 150th festival. It was such a success I was invited back to host a mini-special for a stellar night on the Belfast calendar – Culture Night. Now we’re back in the group space for Belfast Music Week, and I’ve pulled together another line-up of very talented performers from Belfast and further afield, including music, stand-up, film and live painting.
If you’ve not been to one before, you can expect a laid-back night of entertainment across many genres and art forms, with relaxed chat with performers between sets – and no headliners or hierarchy of any sort. It’s all about the collaboration – I usually end with a jam and an invite for an audience member to get up and join in. I want you to feel like you could be in the comfort of your living room enjoying a smorgasbord of cultural entertainment! In no particular order – because there’s no headline – here’s who’ll be performing for you at Lucky Number 7 – including a very special (to me) result of the April Sofa Sessions:
Formed in Belfast several years ago, Magwere is fronted by Zimbabwean born singer & pecussionist Wilson Magwere, a truly gentle and lovely soul who I first met through working with the inspirational cultural/educational outfit Beyond Skin. Since they formed they have been performing everywhere from civic events to international music festivals.
“Their music is primarily influenced by Zimbabwean rebel music, but there are elements of funk, reggae & trance also present in the mix. The result is comparable to Indian music (or even early Stooges) where hypnotic beats and basslines revolve around a single chordal centre and form the foundation for a vertical colour of sound generated by guitar, keyboard and flashes of djembe. Wilson’s voice weaves a path through and around this, his voice sometimes soaring & celebratory, sometimes low and guttural, but always with the sole purpose of achieving a communion with the audience.”
*Late line-up change* Unfortunately, Stace Gill of OCHO is unwell and has had to pull out; lots of love and get-well vibes to her and I hope to have them perform up in Belfast at another event soon. Stepping up at the last minute, I have two great electronica acts who’re going to do actual laps on the lap off – ForThree and attackingbats. (ForThree Chris is a massive OCHO fan so thought it would be cool to have him play in their place; John of attackingbats has played guitar in the end-of-night jams in many previous Sofa Sessions and I’m really loving the debut album.)
Gavin Ferris played at one of the early Sofa Sessions back in the living-room days and blew people away so much it seems only fair to let him impress the pants off a bigger crowd.
“Gavin’s music life started at the age of 16 with traditional Irish and folk on tenor banjo and guitar. In 2007, after being inspired by other guitar players such as Antoine Dufour, Andy McKee, Tommy Emmanuel and Thomas Leeb, Gavin took on a more percussive style of playing incorporating other forms of music such as rock, metal, flamenco, jazz and blues while still trying to hold on to his traditional roots. Fresh from his recent travels and his performance at the renowned Ards Guitar Festival he has been focused on making more of a name for himself at home and is quickly becoming recognised as one of Belfast’s top instrumental performers.”
And last on the musical bill – and my heart’s racing a little typing this – You, Me & the Sea! After the first Sofa Sessions to be held in the Ulster Hall, back in April for their 150th Festival, I got a message from Conor Scullion who’d performed at it, and who I first knew of as a talented solo artist. He was asking Suitcase Suzy and I to start a song-writing collaboration with him over the summer. Suzy had just recently asked me to perform with her at a couple of gigs, which I jumped at, having been a massive fan of her incredible voice for years. For the first few weeks, Conor insisted that we weren’t a band, and indeed didn’t want us shouting about it (I called us Fight Club in the early days) – but we wore him down. And it took on a beautiful life of its own, and now I am delighted (and a little terrified) to launch our band (my first!), You, Me & the Sea. Expect 3-part harmonies, guitars, keys, strings and maybe a tiny bit of percussion (not just the thumping heart).
Comedy (with a smattering of music)
At the recent CultureTech fest in Derry, I was invited to speak about ‘Digital Love’ for Bright Club, where I shared a bill with, among others, some kind of nostalgic twin, Adam Laughlin. From Bane impressions to high-speed rants about Bill & Ted, interspersed with a bit of ukulele playing, he had my brain at ‘Mnnhello, Batman’. And so he’s on the bill.
“Adam Laughlin has been a favourite of the Northern Ireland scene for some years now. He performs with a frenetic pace and unending energy that fuels the unerringly hilarious mental crucible that creates the surreal from the mundane.”
Back by popular demand, Whitehead-based artist Jamie Harper has regularly delighted attendees of previous Sofa Sessions with his live paintings of both the performers and the spellbound audience members. Capturing the atmosphere of the event in pen and ink, his stealthy portraits will be available to buy as souvenirs at the end of the event.
To introduce something new to the mix, there’ll be short films by local-but-internationally-
Tickets a mere £5 – Ulster Hall gigs are kept affordable for all (hear hear)!