Monday, 17 May 2010

Creole Choir of Cuba....

....To (almost) echo a previous post: Music. I really do love music. Tonight I think Kelly and I had the best Monday night we ever had. Like no other. It was courtesy of Wiltons Music Hall and the phenomenal Creole Choir of Cuba.

London can sometimes offer us wonderful opportunities, and it came in the form of free tickets on a first come, first served basis to see the choir perform their debut in England. Popularity for the choir has been picking up speed of late, following a first visit to the UK earlier in the year, then a string of dates in Edinburgh to much critical acclaim. They were performing at Wiltons on the eve of their debut performance on Jools Holland, (you should be able to see that on Tuesday 18th, BBC2), so we felt doubly privileged to see them first.

We had drinks on the walkway outside the entrance before going inside, where we basked in a warming evening sun, whilst prying on the eclectic mix of people that were here for the show.

Inside, the compere appeared on stage prior to the performance and talked about the members of the choir and how they formed. Their website describes the background more fully, but they are Cubans of Haitian ancestry, descendants of migrants who fled slavery in the 18th Century. As a result, their songs are heavily steeped in this history, but also of a much more contemporary history in the form of the Haiti earthquake earlier this year.

Kel and I kick back

When the choir gets underway, it unravels as a blend of Caribbean rhythm with harmonies that remind me of the fantastic Buena Vista Social Club. Sung in a mix of Creole from various Caribbean countries, I could not understand what they sang of, but was utterly blown away by their love for the music, their passion for dance, their perfection of a harmony and the resulting beauty of the songs that they perform.

Their opening track reduced me, I'm not ashamed to say, to a combination of chilling goose bumps and then tears. Kelly was not far behind. The slower, more harmonic songs were truly stunning, whilst the rhythm and dance vibe of the others got the audience on their feet, brought hugs for the choir and a general good feeling throughout the hall.

(audio only)

On stage for an hour, almost every song brought a standing ovation, until the last song brought the longest of all. As the choir left the stage, they did so by walking through the audience whilst singing beautifully in A Cappella.

We walked downstairs and decided to stay for another drink. Wiltons was still full, there was live jazz playing and people were still out on the path drinking alfresco. It seemed like anything other than a Monday night. And, boy, what a night it was.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Post Chile post....

....Richie, Anne and Clementine have returned from their first family holiday together after visiting Anne's sister, partner and newly born boy in Chile. (See Anne's Flickr for more).

Kelly and I joined them for a catch up lunch in the Geffrye Museum, where as ever, Clem got more food on her face, than in her mouth. Love her!

East London Line....

....Having lived in Goldman Close for nearly seven years, I have seen the immediate area of Bethnal Green, Brick Lane and Shoreditch transform radically. One of the proposals, way back when, was the revamping and extension of the East London Line. Well, now the building work is (mostly) complete and the line is open - to very little fan fare, (and very little use it seems).

When fully complete, the line will run from Highbury & Islington all the way to West Croydon. My local station is the newly built Shoreditch, situated on Bethnal Green road, facing Shoreditch House and the Tea Building. I haven't yet travelled on the trains themselves, but hope to do so very soon.

View of station looking up Bethnal Green Road

It is quite an imposing structure - grey concrete slabs, with a white cast iron arched bridge to span Shoreditch High Street. Personally, I love the brutalist architecture used here - I think it is brave, bold and will stand out, (for the right reasons), now and for years to come.

About five years ago, much inspired by Joel Sternfeld's, 'Walking the High Line', I decided to climb up on to the then disused and derelict former East London line.

Overgrown and forgotten about, I took photos with great excitement at the prospect of capturing a record of 'how it used to be'. I hadn't looked back at these photos for years, but dug them out recently and have fond memories. I'm really happy I clambered up there, tripod and Pentax in hand.

Heck, I even got paid once to take a photo from up there, using it as a vantage point to shoot a facing friend's design studio. It was subsequently printed in Grafik Magazine and became one of the only printed images I ever got.

Morgan Studio for Grafik Magazine by Roy Barker

I'm really looking forward to retracing my steps, this time by peering out of a carriage window, from the new vantage point of the East London Line.

Thursday, 13 May 2010


....Musicals. I really do love musicals. It obviously lies in my love for music itself - both melody and instrumentally, but also the power it can have. Over me, over an audience, to smile, cry, laugh, to stand hair on end. There, we're back to Hair. That is the musical that Kelly and I went to see last night - the controversial production first performed off-Broadway in 1967 and reaching Broadway a year later. The musical had been met with both admiration and protestation against the hippie, free-love, drug induced, naked frolicking that was portrayed on stage. But more now than ever, Hair is revered for it's risky nature, it's incredible songs and groundbreaking play writing. It also still seems current - perhaps as daring now, in a world where drugs, nudism, race, the military all remain taboo subjects, as they did over 30 years ago.

(Original Broadway poster)

Hair tells the story of a politically active, long-haired hippie 'tribe', living a bohemian life in New York City and fighting against conscription into the Vietnam War. The main character, Claude, must decide if he should enlist, to the approval of his '1947 generation' parents, or resist like his fellow tribe.

It is a powerful story and one in which this contemporary cast, (the entire Broadway cast brought to London), perform incredibly well. At once they engage with the audience - Berger, down in the front row of the stalls with his crotch in an audience member's face, whilst Hud literally crawls over the stalls, from front to back. We're there. We're in the moment.

I know musical theatre has a reputation for being camp, well, because it just is, isn't it?! But this production had less of that. The acting, to portray the drug induced fun they were all having was superb and I am continually amazed at the vocal ability that I see and hear in the West End. Dione prancing about with a Tina Turner-esque strut and better pipes than Beyonce, whilst Sheila was every bit the contemporary pop star.

And the message? Well, it's all positive. Sure, there is swearing and nudity, but the musical is out to promote being true to yourself, to being anti-war, to loving music and maintaining friendships in adversity. And as though to drill those points home, the finale is a thrilling, all engaging example of that. As the cast come on for the encore, the audience are invited on stage to dance and celebrate. And boy, do the audience oblige - there they are, there we are, together as one, smiling, dancing and with not a care in the world.

As the cast and audience took their bow up on stage, the front line, (as it were), spoke volumes for the multi-racial and religious diversity that Hair stands for. An old white Grandpa, a young Asian lady, an American mother hugging a young black Brit with over riding joy. And so it went on. It was hard not to get swept away with it all.

Let the sun shine indeed. Brilliant.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

One Night In Turin....

....Tonight I summoned some of the boys to rekindle the memory of 1990 all over again, as we went to the cinema for a one night screening of James Erskine's One Night In Turin. The film is adapted from the book written by Pete Davies at the time of the 1990 World Cup and records not just England's progress, (and ultimate elimination at the hands of West Germany), but also gave a clear picture of the civil unrest in Britain at that time under the Tory government.

Having just turned nine years old, this was the tournament that clarified and confirmed my raw love and passion for the game. For 5 weeks I was besotted, (for one night I was devastated). The England team were my heroes and I followed their every game, their every pass and recreated their every goal.

A TV intro and a song that I will never, ever forget

Whilst every other kid wanted to be Gazza - the comedic, unpredictable but undoubtedly gifted new superstar borne out of that tournament - I wanted to be David Platt. A sturdy midlander, no fuss, just did his job. But then he scored that goal. In the deepest minutes of extra time against Belgium, Platt swiveled on a six pence as the ball came over his shoulder and he connected the sweetest volley past the Belgian goalkeeper. The next day in the yard I must have recreated that 20 times at least. I loved football.

Tonight, this film was, for me and surely every other fan in the cinema, simply an exercise in nostalgia. For whilst the director tried to talk up the intentions of artistic merit and cinematography, there was in fact none. Poorly recreated scenes of players in pseudo 90s football boots, kicking the ball about in what was clearly a studio. Or intermittent shots of a glass shattering as it hit a wall or the floor when real footage of rioting fans were shown. There was no merit in that - all we wanted to see was the footage. The live footage. The archive tapes. Pull them out, heck show us it in full, we'd have sat and watched.

Some of the said footage I'd happily watch

Despite the failure of the recreated scenes, and there not being as much live action footage, (particularly a lack of replay of aforementioned Platt goal), the film triumphs simply because of the moment that it is describing. It is the best England have done in a World Cup since 1966, or in the 20 years since. Despite the loss, the infamous loss on penalties, as a Nation we treat the 1990 campaign as a triumph. And perhaps rightly so - it is where our national sport once again triumphed in the face of adversity, (the team were described as donkeys in the press), it took our minds (temporarily) off the protests and riots on the streets and united us again. It made us proud to be English. It made us re-love football, rebuild stadia, create a Premier League, and become a dominant force.

The 1990 line up.

And who was the man that triumphed most? Who was the man that stayed calm, kept his dignity and got on with his job? Who was the man that stole the hearts and admiration of a nation? Wor Bobby. Wor Bobby Robson. And I write that with a lump in my throat. One of the greatest men in football was perhaps one of the greatest men. And if this film does nothing else, it serves as an endearing and lasting reminder of the brilliance that was Bobby Robson.

Bobby becoming Sir.

A lasting image for me - not shown in the Italia 90 video that I had to remember England's campaign by - was Robson comforting a crying Gascoigne following the semi-final loss. For the first time, the inaudible words of confidence were subtitled across the screen. Ever selfless, Robson thought not of himself, the pain, the loss, the terrible abuse he'd suffered from the media throughout, but of Gazza, the Clown Prince. "Don't worry, you've been the best. You've been magnificent. You've your whole life ahead of you".

Bobby consoles Gazza

A true gent. A hero in a fitting story and a man now sadly missed. You can donate to his charity here, and anytime anyone wants to have a chat about Italia 90, you'll find me in the yard, with a tennis ball, trying to stick it between two bins and calling myself Platty. Oh to be nine years old again.

To be nine again indeed. Here I am during our last World Cup campaign, a proudly drunk England fan, but wearing my replica 1990 shirt with (sleepy) pride.

And this year, it is another year. One in four, a World Cup year. And with political uncertainty upon us again, (and with Cameron just named new PM in a Tory government), perhaps the England team can do us proud, unite us again, let us forget our troubles and.......and......well, lose on penalties of course!

Saturday, 8 May 2010

List my photo : update 3....

....More photos added to my arty farty photography blog. Click here to view.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Eureka! Yashica....

....I bought a camera off eBay the other day. It is one that I have been umming and arhhing over for a while - largely due to the high price at which it changes hands.

This is because, despite it's looks - a typical early 90s 'compact' film camera, black, plastic and cumbersome - the Yashica T series is a world famous, highly respected point-and-shoot camera owing to its Carl Zeiss lens. So, to snag one of the originals, (the camera is now in it's 5th and I believe final generation), for just £30 left me somewhat smugly smiling.

It brought back an excitement I've not felt since my college days - I immediately put in a film, (the same brand I shot my degree show on), and got snapping. To be honest, I kept catching myself searching for the image on the back panel, where an LCD screen would normally be, but ultimately I liked the fact that I didn't know the result of what I'd shot. And it also made me more considerate over the subjects i chose - after all, I only had 36 shots on the film.

I've put some of the photos taken on the camera in this post and I am really happy. The lens is incredibly sharp and picks up colours beautifully. It is a snappy camera like no other in terms of image quality.

I really can't wait to load another film and get snapping - the result of which will no doubt be adorning the pages of my list my photo blog in the very near future.

Lahore Kebab House....

....Before going to the Doves gig, (see post below), Toby, Nick, Liam and I ate here. The restaurant is over two floors and huge, but always packed to the rafters.


Waiters buzz around between tables and the chefs, (of which there must be twenty or so), who you can see through the glass in to the kitchen, are like an act of precise uncoordination. They look all at sea, but quite clearly, aren't.

Toby and Liam

The food here is exceptional, so we decided to go with a range of starters before our main courses. Lamb chops were spicy and tender, onion bhajia in light, crispy batter and the paneer tikka a wonderful creamy cheesy compliment to the spicier starters.

Lamb chops

Our mains could be considered rather pedestrian if in a run off the mill curry house, (tikka masala, korma and karahi gosht), but they were fantastic.

The most tender meat, well spiced sauces and light rice made it a winning, (and incredibly filling), dinner all round.

Everyone should take a visit and take you're own drinks - because you can. Bonus.

Doves; The Troxy....

....Toby, Nick, Liam and I went to see Doves at the Troxy last night. That meant for me, it was a double whammy of first-times - my first seeing Doves live and my first at the Troxy. Surely a collaboration that couldn't fail? This gig was part of what has been billed a Greatest Hits tour, but then, doesn't every band play their greatest hits when playing live?!

Either way, I was hugely excited about this, particularly as Jimi Goodwin's vocals make the hairs stand on end, the spine tingle and cause a lump in the throat. I don't know what it is, but the man has soul.

The stage set up

Opening with the slow building, but gloriously powerful 'firesuite', we were underway. But something was amiss. That something seemed to be the drummer, Andy Williams, who unbeknown to himself, was slightly out of sync with the rest of the band. Annoyingly the mic on the drums also seemed to be louder than the guitars, which made no sense to me.

There was another thing - the venue. From the outside and as it filled up, the Troxy didn't disappoint, (even if the crowded bar did!) The Grade II listed art deco building is a wonderful sight - one I had imagined would suit the Doves music perfectly. But the open space proved almost too big. As though we're outside - the sound of the Doves was not yet truly filling the air.

View of the balcony and art deco detail

Amazingly too, the lighting arrangement seemed hugely below par - stark white or purple lights, that could have been the experiment of a school kid. It only picked up when the band used projections of their music videos or specially made edits on the back wall behind them, helping to evoke much more from each song.

However, after a slow start, things began to change for the better. About three or four songs in, the Troxy was awash with swooshing guitars, London-based Mancs singing their hearts out and the drumming, thankfully, sync perfect. A trio of songs, '10.03', 'kingdom of rust' and 'caught by the river' really pushed the set, the gig and the lump in my throat, to a higher place. This was the Doves I had wanted to see.

On a high, they saluted the crowd, shouted 'fuck the Tories', (to a glorious cheer) and projected 'Save 6 Music' on to the stage wall as they walked off stage left. With the crowd so pumped up, there was no other likely option but an encore, which quickly picked up where they left off. We were eating out of the palm of their hand.

They played out with 'Pounding' and then the wonderful 'spaceface', a New Order and Hacienda-tinged Madchester track, originating from the band's first incarnation, Sub Sub.

It was a wonderful way to end the evening - one that progessively grew in stature, performance and enjoyment. I'm very glad I went.

Andreas Laszlo Konrath....

....Andreas was over from New York and at the opening of his Private View, So alone I keep the wolves at bay, at Exit Gallery.

It was a great turnout of old faces, and a warm act for Kelly and I before seeing and staying with Andreas in New York in a couple of weeks.

The turnout

Andreas displayed his images in a now customary fashion - monochrome xerox prints of varying sizes, attached to the wall with bulldog clips. This gave the exhibition a feeling very much in the same vein as the style of photography - real life, raw, photographs.

It's like social documentary in which the composition, but more importantly the subjects convey a huge sense of drama, power and, yet, isolation. The almost collage display of the prints throughout the stairwell also appear to tell their own story - where people in the photographs recur, the viewer seems at once to want to fill the gaps with reasoning as to why.

Frank (Gallows)

Andreas' work continues to go from strength to strength, but is still largely rooted in his own familiarities. Snaps of skaters, friends and musicians, but he is able to stretch the visual beyond the banal.


With so many people to talk to, we left Andreas to it, moving on for a few drinks and dinner at another favourite, Tokyo Diner.

Drinkie poos


Go and see Andreas' show whilst you can, and keep an eye out for the Chorleywood wonder.

Thursday, 6 May 2010


....This is just brilliant and a welcome light relief from Election-mania. Attack of the 8-bit pixel - like the biggest non-natural disaster that could happen. (If you consider being attacked by a gaming icon and subsequently becoming html a disaster).

Pixels is directed and conceived by Patrick Jean.




Just not

(Click each to enlarge)

Monday, 3 May 2010

Organic & Natural....

....I really enjoy popping over to Kelly's flat in Clapton. It is an area I hadn't really spent any time in before now, but it certainly belies it's underwhelming reputation, (infamous 'murder mile' is on the doorstep). There are in fact beautiful tree-lined roads with victorian period housing surrounding pretty Clapton Pond and now there are bars, cafes and shops springing up to suggest that nearby gentrified Stoke Newington, (and to some extent Hackney), is spreading further East to these parts. One such cafe is Organic & Natural on the Lower Clapton Road, facing the pond.

Kelly and I often pop here for bits and pieces, but the real pleasure is stopping off and stocking up on a huge salad plate, home made cake or strong dark coffee.

The Georgian owners are incredibly friendly and helpful, going at length to explain the food that is on display and how they have made it.

There is an outdoor decked area, perfect for the summer that is starting to bestow us, but on this, more blustery, occassion, Kelly and decided to sit inside.

I got my usual brownie and coffee. The former was warm and soft, but perhaps not big enough(!) and the latter was piping hot, strong and dark - perfect.

In reality the coffee and food is an added extra to what is largely an organic supermarket full of variants of freshly made breads, local veg and other great produce.

It's certainly worth a visit if you're in the area - an area that is impressing me more and more.