Past the ( shouting 3
Alastair Mabbott takes
Joan Armatrading aside
for a little chat about ,' music, women and more music. k
there’s ‘lf Women Ruled The World’, which seems to propose a world free ofwars and strife ifonly we could be bitten by the matriarchy bug. Is this, one wonders. an accurate reﬂection of her feelings on the subject. or the Devil’s Advocate at play?
Nobody wants to read any guff about comebacks by people who genuinely were never away in the first place: but that’s the way her record company, A&M, seem to be feeling about Joan Armatrading these days. Although recent albums like The Shouting Stage and Hearts And Flowers were artistically and ‘I just wonder whether,’ she commercially respectable, her new replies. ‘if women ruled the world. long-player, Square The Circle, was i we‘d have less wars. I don’t think we greeted with a froth ofexcitemcnt i wouldn’t have any wars at all. Men when she delivered it to the label, are very confrontational — you have and talk ofhit singles began to fill the ' to own up to that — women will want air. j to talk more. In Serbia. we’ve got a Songs like ‘True Love‘ and : ceasefire every ten minutes, and I
‘Wrapped Around Her‘ stand up i think that ifwomen were in charge
well in comparison with the best of the ceasefircs would last much her back catalogue. which means longer.’ that they’re fine indeed. And then Perhaps Joan Armatradtng is more
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qualified than most to sound offon the subject, since her blows for women have been far from insignificant. It‘s no mean feat for a British-based, West Indian-born woman, now 41, to build a career in music and sustain it for almost two decades without falling back on established feminine stereotypes.
‘I wasn’t conscious ofcreating my own style,’ she continues, remarking on her lack of role models, ‘but I know that’s how it is. I think the reason I started to write wasn‘t because ofanybody. I started to write because my mother bought a piano and put it in the front room. I didn’t buy my first record until I was nineteen. It was Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks. But I didn’t learn the guitar by playing along with other people. Ijust played the guitar. I think this is why my style is my style. I had no - well, there weren’t really any women anyway. There wasn’t a black woman. Sol was just sort of doing it, without thinking, really.‘
She states that her songs never stray into political matters, but what is ‘IfWomen Ruled The World’ if not political? In the broadest sense. ofcourse, with a small ‘p’, but a statement none the less. Perhaps she’s just edgy about getting dragged into party politics, and recent months have given her good reason. She says that she still hasn’t a clue how her name cropped up on a list of Tory Party supporters issued by Conservative Central Office before the Election — she angrily demanded it was taken off— and seems to worry that identification with any party could devalue her songs and the relationship with her audience.
‘The thing that I enjoy the most is writing, that’s for sure. I enjoy getting a song and getting the arrangements done, but then when I do the shows I really enjoy it. I love going to America, because the audience is very warm, very demonstrative. They’re not false. If they don’t take to you, they’re the quietest audience you care to name. But if they do like you, they go over the top, and I’m very happy to play to the reaction I get in the States. As I say, they’re not false. When you get that reaction, you know it’s real.’ Joan Armatrading plays Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Tue 9.
When it comes to Icelandic composers. the only name that instantly links Scotland and Iceland is that of Haflidi Hallgrimsson, an Icelander now resident in Edinburgh and an active participant in Scotland‘s musical life for many years. But that situation is now set to change with Breaking The Ice, a
Festival of Icelandic culture straddling
Edinburgh and Glasgow in June. Soon names like Thorkell Sigurbjornsson and H jalmar Ragnarsson will be tripping offthe tongue (if not the word processor) and Scottish audiences will have a new found knowledge of Icelandic music, with a special emphasis on the contemporary music world.
Visual arts, film, literature and cuisine are all part of the festivities, with music playing the most prominent role. Concerts are being given. mainly in Glasgow, by outstanding Icelandic musicians such as the Reykjavik String Quartet, violinist Sigrun Edvaldsotti and tenor Gunnar Gudbjornsson, as well as by Scottish musicians including the BBC SSO, ﬂautist Rosemary Eliot and Paragon Ensemble of Scotland. Paragon‘s role has taken on its own identity under the heading Ice And Fire and promises to reveal some of the most exciting substance of the three week event.
During May, Sigurbjornsson, composer in residence for the Festival and generally acclaimed as ‘the father of Icelandic music‘, has been working with Paragon's education team and children from Strathclyde Region. Drawingtheir inspiration from the extremes of the Icelandic landscape, their pieces will form ‘windows‘ to ﬁt into Sigurbjornsson's new work which they will perform with members of Paragon (Sat 13 at 12.30pm). On the preceding evening, Paragon presents a representative sample of two generations of modern Icelandic composers, all of whom have been inﬂuenced by study outwith their native country. (Carol Main) See Classical listings for details or phone 041 3 i7 1 I 61 (Breaking The Ice
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