Saturday, 21 June 2014

World Refugee Day Concert, Glasgow 2014.

Young Fathers, Skipinnish and Balkanarama.

Live concert review. Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow. June 2014.

Refugee Week in June is a festival across the UK of educational, cultural and arts events to encourage understanding between communities and celebrate the contribution of refugees to life in the UK. In Scotland this is co-ordinated by the Scottish Refugee Council and the British Red Cross, who both had stalls at the event tonight. The Scottish Refugee Council have for 30 years been campaigning for and supporting refugees in our country. Particularly in the year when Glasgow is welcoming visitors from around the world to the Commonwealth Games, the aim of the events was to show the variety and vibrancy of different cultures and people living in Scotland. The full programme for the week is available online here.

For the third year in a row they hosted on UN World Refugee Day a concert in the Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow. If they were trying to demonstrate the eclectic musical voices in Scotland, I think that they managed.

First up was Balkanarama, an occasional Glasgow and Edinburgh club night. They played pre-recorded Balkan flavoured tunes before a live performance by a Klezmer band gave us some Eastern European Jewish dancing music, and people were dancing.

Scottish Gaelic and Ceildh music band Skipinnish then tried to keep everyone dancing. With a mixture of "Gay Gordons" and "Strip the Willow" dances filling the hall at the Fruitmarket and Gaelic and Scottish songs they succeeded. The crowd at the concert was as eclectic as the music with people from all corners of the globe giving the dancing a go, reflecting the increasingly diverse make-up of Glasgow's population these days. They also introduced one song with a reference to the Highland Clearances 200 years ago, when Scots fled their country as their homes were burned down behind them.

Young Fathers at The Fruitmarket, Glasgow

Finally, Edinburgh based hip-hop trio Young Fathers were up. This was who I had come to see after not being able to attend their recent album launch in Stereo. Their latest album, Dead, released on the Los Angeles based Anticon label, has been earning rave reviews and they neatly encapsulate the idea behind Refugee Day. Of the three of them, Alloysious Massaquoi was born in Liberia, arriving in Edinburgh aged 4. Born in Edinburgh to Nigerian parents, Kayus Bankole, has also lived in Nigeria and Maryland before returning to Scotland. Alongside them is Graham 'G' Hastings from Drylaw in Edinburgh. This mish-mash of backgrounds comes out in their sound which has echoes of Massive Attack, Shabazz Palaces and Roots Manuva going on. With the three of them out front singing, rapping and flailing about they were a charismatic force, accompanied by an energetic drummer and backing music. Their songs have great stories going on, fractured families and intriguing images eg "Got me feeling Presbyterian but inside I'm still Liberian/ Never find Peace, the war is too pretty". That combined with their dancing, a cross between Ian Curtis and Wile E Coyote-style arms flapping as he falls off a cliff, makes them worth seeing live. Not once did they mention that the night before they had just been awarded the prize for Scotland's Album of The Year. Well deserved, but I'd have been crowing about that. They were happy to say that they were honoured to be at this refugee event instead.

Modest hip hop performers? Now that gives away their Scottish origins.

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