Janelle Monae, Brixton Academy

I’m still not really sure what the word swagger means, but if pressed to define it, I’d say Janelle Monae sums it up. This little lady has more soul, rhythm and flair than any other modern musician. It is rare to see a singer-songwriter with such mesmerising moves and infectious energy. By the final song she had the whole floor bouncing.

Hailing from Kansas, Monae or the Electric Lady as she’s commonly known, has wowed British crowds for a few years now, popping up previously at summer festivals. I have seen her once before at Latitude Festival, when her cheeky talent was equally impressive. With her second album out, she is currently touring the UK spreading the joy of her music to every major city.

I joined a boisterous crowd at Brixton Academy for her, as always, monochrome show. Wearing a sharp tailored black outfit, she showcased her oeuvre – her set combined songs from the first and second albums, the singles particularly exciting the crowd.

Tightrope, her most celebrated track, was electrifying. I was oblivious to my surroundings as I screamed the lyrics with her and danced about madly in appreciation. Electric Lady was a blast too; as her voice soared on the melodic runs, the crowd joined in enthusiastically, not as tuneful as the star on stage but equally happy. I also really enjoyed her rendition of ABC made famous by the Jackson 5 which carried all the same youthful spirit as the original.

The crowd left elated, truly inspired by a musician who genuinely possesses a unique talent, Janelle Monae I salute you.

More information about Janelle Monae here.

Bishi, The Print Room

I wasn’t intending to review the Bishi show I saw last week, but was so affected by her performance that I feel compelled to mention her on my website.

An independent musician, artist and performer based in London, Bishi has a reputation for individual and ambitious work. Described as the doyenne of hybrid music, she combines ancient folk, left field pop and Asian instrumentation with fluency, charm and lyrical melody. The new album ‘Albion Voice’ is a work of vision and musical courage – at the core is a desire to make inspirational music with fearless conviction.

Recent explorations into online broadcast, immersive projection and interactive technology has seen the project move further into art practice with presentations in galleries and cinemas as often as traditional music venues. New works in ceramics, textiles and hand made couture enable a deeper exploration of the influences and processes involved with the project as a whole. With an established international career, Bishi performs and exhibits across Europe, Asia and the US. She was recently announced as ‘The New British Diva’ on the cover of The New York Times and could be compared to the eccentric Lady Gaga.

Bishi is a larger than life character and her personality totally consumed the intimate Print Room audience. Dressed in an impressive structural outfit with head piece and veil, she is a striking performer. She sung through her new album while dancing and playing the sitar in front of spectacular video installations, majestic and magnificent – it was an absolute pleasure watching this Indian beauty perform.

Bishi has a range of prints, ceramics and artworks from recent exhibitions available for purchase, I especially love my pop-arty Bishi tea towel. Her new CD, Albion Voice will be available for purchase soon.


PREVIEW: Southbank Centre’s Meltdown Festival

Antony’s Meltdown

1-12 August 2012

Each year Southbank Centre’s Meltdown Festival opens up the world of one mercurial artist. In August 2012, audiences get the chance to encounter the musicians, performers and thinkers who have helped shape the life and art of Antony, lead singer with Mercury Award-winning Antony and the Johnsons and one of the world’s most idiosyncratic performers. Antony’s Meltdown is part of Southbank Centre’s Festival of the World with MasterCard, which runs from 1 June to 9 September 2012. More artists and a series of talks and lectures will be announced soon.

Meltdown is renowned for delivering unmissable events that have gone down in history, from the New York Dolls reforming for Morrissey’s Meltdown to Jeff Buckley’s last-ever UK performance at Elvis Costello’s. Antony’s Meltdown will see an incredibly rare live performance by the much-loved and hugely missed singer Elizabeth Fraser (6/7 August, Royal Festival Hall). While the Scottish singer has lent her stunning voice to projects with Massive Attack, Craig Armstrong and Peter Gabriel in recent years, these will be her first full shows since she left the Cocteau Twins in 1998. Other iconic artists performing at Antony’s Meltdown include Lou Reed, Marc Almond, Diamanda Galas and Turkish singer Selda.

It is perhaps no surprise that a significant part of Meltdown reads like a who’s who of the New York underground scene, where Antony forged his identity as a performer and an artist in the 1990s. On 2 August Meltdown sees a performance by one of New York’s most totemic musical icons Laurie Anderson, who herself was a Meltdown curator in 1997.  She performs Dirtday, a collection of songs and stories on evolution, families, history and animals set against a lush and hallucinatory sonic landscape. The festival will also feature performances by Joey Arias, Kembra Pfahler and her band the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, Joan as Policewoman.  Video artist Charles Atlas will present the UK premiere of the film Turning, which was a collaboration with Antony and the Johnsons.

Following his wonderfully anarchic Disney tribute at Jarvis’ Meltdown in 2007, Meltdown veteran and maverick producer Hal Willner returns to the stage of the Royal Festival Hall on Sunday 12 August with his usual, surprising and eclectic array of musicians, actors and other artists – established, emerging, famous and infamous – to perform songs that inspired and illuminated the Civil Rights Movement. Artists confirmed so far include Martin and Eliza Carthy, Billy Bragg and Shoreshank Redemption actor Tim Robbins.

Visit the website here for more information and to book.