Getting the

‘Ee, a big fian!’ you might say, anagrammatically. Or, perhaps. ‘I be a fag, Len.’ But you’d be wrong on both counts. The name is Lena Fiagbe, as Alastair Mabbott discovered, and she could be one of ' the biggest stars of the currently emerging British crop.

‘I started out just wanting to be a singer. You know. I looked in the back of Melody Maker to find bands.

joined bands. and l was always either singing the keyboard player's songs or the guitarist’s songs and I

realised I wasn't getting anywhere delivery-wise. '

because I was trying to express somebody else's feeling and I didn't know where they were coming


s ’4‘ gas.

from SO~ all” gell'ng some CXPC'"C"CC~ l mall-‘0‘] 7 throne with an accomplished pout. a tangle of black

that there was something more to it.‘

Don‘t draw the wrong conclusions frorn a casual glance at the sepia-tinted portrait on Lena Fiagbc's debut album. Visions. where she gazes out frorn a

, curls and knee-high boots. Lena Fiagbe is not the

latest soul diva to be nudged into the marketplace. but a woman in the singer-songwriterly tradition. Already. her heart-on-sleeve lyrics have occasioned

i' comparisons with Joni Mitchell. Eartha Kitt. Carole

King. Joan Arrrratrading. Minnie Ripperton. Brenda Russell and Buffy Saint Marie.

Born 25 years ago to a Liberian mother and

Ghanaian father. Lena Fiagbe grew up in Crouch End and now lives off the Portobcllo Road. where she collects her thrift-shop clothes. She seems to thrive on the cosrnopolitanisrn of London. and the natural

ease with which different styles rub tip against each other in her songs could stand as a metaphor for that

. melting pot of a city. As further evidence of both her eclecticisrn and her lineage. the initial run of her Cl) is accompanied by a bonus acoustic Cl) which

I comprises skeletal versions of album tracks and

Q covers of tunes by Bob Marley. Van .‘Vlorrison and

r Sly Stone.

‘I wrote a song myself the other day, about Kurt Cobain, and it’s the first time I’ve ever done that. It’s quite personal.’

She has two ways of writing songs: inspiration. and ; what she calls ‘writing to order" (often prompted by

both kinds on Visions. but her very favourite. the closing track ‘lt ls‘. was a mixture of both. While needing another track for the album. ‘I saw something in somebody that l thotrght l recognised. and then afterwards I wasn‘t quite sure because they hadn‘t proved themselves to be what I thought they might be. And then a situation happened when they did. and I knew I was right the first time.‘ she explains. somewhat obliquely.

overdue rent and unpaid bills). There are examples of

As fate would have it. poetry was her strong suit at school. She still jots down little poems. ‘for my own personal consumption‘ and gives the impression that it wouldn‘t take too much persuasion for her to release them to the public’s gaze. if a publisher were to take an interest. For the songs. she comes up with the lyrics and the melody while her partner Michael Graves works out the chords she's singing over. ‘l’m just starting to write a bit rrrore with the guitar. I wrote a song myself the other day. about Kurt Cobain. and it‘s the first time I've ever done that. It‘s quite personal.‘

Even before her first album was released. she had a songwriting credit on a Daryl llall record. The connection was tirade through lidinburgh producer Mike Peden. who put her up to writing a song for him last year. Lena was reluctant at first. as [fl'llU/yflflt/P was just abotrt to start. but got up off her sofa andgot to work.

‘I had always been a fan of Hall and ()ates because my brother was very much into them. And when I wrote. I remembered the sort ofthings I thought he was about and tried to put myself in his shoes. He was really happy. He actually said. when he saw the lyrics. God. I can sing these. .-\s if they were his sort ofthing.’

She now thinks she should be able to tailor songs to

suit anyone. not just artists she grew tip listening to.

‘You just happen to see a person and chat to them and get to know something they‘ve done before.‘

All the same. her first love \\ as singing. and her late father is to be congratulated for his foresight. lle named her Lena in honour of Lena Horne and at her christening annotrnecd that. 'lhis girl w as meant to sing.‘ Already a lop 2() artist vs ith her last single. ‘(iotta (Bet It Right'. she doesn't look as though she's going to stop.

Lena I'iug/n' Inger/rs /I(‘I‘ [frills/1 {our (If King 'I'ul's'. (i/usgmv (m filt’ I7.

Tennents Live! Making Musicflappen

The List () ~l‘) May 199-1 37