BACK STAGE AT PEPPERMINT IGUANA HQ: Gigs, Festivals, Parties, CDs, Books, Protests, travels, photography and Cardiff City FC

Friday, April 23, 2010


Every now and again I hear something that grabs me by the scruff of the neck and I gets me gagging to hear more. It could be background music on the telly, something a DJ is playing in a club, something on the stereo in a shop, grooves belting out of a passing car, or something that pops up in the middle of a mix tape. Sometimes it drives me insane and it takes weeks, months, even years to find out what it is.

Sometimes it is easy. The radio is probably easiest because usually - though not always - someone tells you what it is when it has finished. I have lost count the number of times I have sat in the car long after I have reached my destination just to hear the DJ tell me what I have been listening to. In a club it could be easy, but going up to ask the DJ is just not cool; although there have been occasions when cool has gone out the window and I have been compelled to ask.

The interweb has made things easier; if it is a movie soundtrack you can Google it and if there are lyrics you can punch random bits of lyric you remember into a search engine. Obviously the latter does not work with dub, techno, foreign language stuff - or eighty percent of punk rock.

Sometimes it just leads to disappointment. For instance, Chaiyya Chaiyya Bollywood Joint was recently tracked down via the internet after watching the film Inside Man. I had hoped this awesome track was going to lead me to similar stuff but it is totally unrepresentative of Terence Blanchards work - the trail ended there.

Then again, sometimes it can be the start of an amazing journey. When I first heard John Peel playing Zion Train’s A Passage to Indica I had no idea that it would lead to me interviewing the band, getting to be mates with them, going to see them live all over the country and them introducing me to a host of other contacts that I now consider to be close mates.

Another journey started off innocently. In the summer of 1990 a haunting sound seemed to follow me around every festival I went to. It was a simple sound, just an acoustic guitar and a didgeridoo (this was before every man and his dog on a string got into didges). It seemed to be playing in cafes and on PAs everywhere. Then, walking though a field in Bala at a travellers free festival I heard it coming out of a ghetto blaster so walked over to the campfire and asked what it was. Thus I discovered Outback and fell in love.

Sadly the love affair was doomed to fail, Outback split in 1991 after releasing just two albums.

Graham Wiggins, the Oxford born solid-state-physics lecturer who had been responsible for Outback's antipodean vibe, went on to form Dr Didg and released seven albums under that guise before going back to teaching in Boston.

Meanwhile guitarist Martin Craddick and his partner Su Hart, inspired by a TV documentary, visited the Baka tribal people of the Cameroon forests. So inspired were they by the magical rhythms and melodies of the Baka people, that they recorded an album "Spirit of the Forest" under the name Baka Beyond. This was closely followed by “Heart of the Forest” an album featuring the music of the Baka Pygmies themselves, recorded by Martin on a Sony Discman pro.

Baka Beyond did not just take inspiration from the Baka, profits from the CDs were used to help the tribes people back in Cameroon. This in itself was a pretty unusual, but it did not stop there. The band became a permanent set up playing festivals and gigs all over the world and eleven albums on they are still feeding the profits back into Cameroon.

Originally made up of British musicians the band soon expanded to take in musicians from Brittany, Cameroon, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Ghana, creating what is truly an ‘Afro-Celt’ sound.

Since that first visit in 1993, Martin and Su have been back to the jungle many times and have become part of the community. They have helped with many projects, including building a music house, putting on a UK tour for the Baka themselves, and organising a festival, Under The Volcano, to coincide with the end of a rally by the Adventurists.

Now they are back in the UK and touring. With band members spread all over the world getting the full band together can be expensive, so they now have several line ups. Tonight, in Pontardawe, we have a five piece line up including Molara - ex Zion Train – small world ! (although I would not like to paint it).

Molara was actually good enough to set us up with Martin for an interview before the gig. Interviews can be awkward on times, often we find ourselves hanging around for ages whilst sound checks are done, beers are drunk, old acquaintances renewed, noses picked and eventually, hopefully, an interview will happen. Tonight there is no such messing about; we land, Molara hands us a beer out of the ice bucket and we wander out into what is left of the sun and chat with Martin for half an hour. We hang on every word, fascinated by tales of music, forests and travel. We might have had an interesting journey since first discovering Outback in a sunny field in Bala, but Martin has been on a journey that we could only dream about.

Oh, and then there was a gig ….. review to follow.

Expect the interview to appear on the Iguana website soon. For Peppermint Iguana's Molara Interview click here

Baka Beyond website
Baka Beyond on YouTube
Global Music Exchange - charity set up to support the Baka tribe

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home