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Roots of Jamaican music uncovered in new podcast

A new podcast from Opera North, Dead ‘n’ Wake: Reset and Come Again, finds Leeds-based turntablist and sound artist Nicole Raymond (DJ NikNak) and poet, playwright and literary activist Khadijah Ibrahiim sharing a fascinating journey into their Jamaican heritage.

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With the help of some classic songs, versions and dub plates from the Pressure Sounds catalogue, Nicole and Khadijah uncover the deep roots of reggae, dub and sound system music in ritual and folk traditions.

As part of our Resonance workshop programme over the summer, Nicole worked with audio recordings from Khadijah’s archive, transforming them through collage, scratching and the application of reverb, delay and other effects.

The finished series of sound works, available on Soundcloud, is rich in untold history and hidden culture, from a Jamaican Rastafarian remembering Haile Selassie’s visit to the island, to recordings of a Black British church choir. Nicole and Khadijah went on to develop their work into a live performance for Opera North and Leeds Playhouse’s Connecting Voices festival in October.

In their podcast, the two artists use this source material and their work together as a starting point for a discussion of their shared love of reggae, dub and sound system music, weaving through tracks by Lee “Scratch” Perry, Jacob Miller, U-Roy and the late Bunny Lee among others.

One recurring theme is the “rewind”, the practice of stopping a record and playing it again from the start, which dates back to the Jamaican sound systems of the 1960s, and in which both artists find personal and cultural significance. Khadijah, recipient of an International Impact Award in October’s Legacy Awards, celebrating 50 years of the Black British communities in Leeds, comments:

“This wonderful creative collaboration is about the transformation of voices and sounds which connect time, space and place. The art of the turntablist became a vehicle of interrogation, and a way to hold on to the essence of the passed through the realm of language and rhythm.”

For Nicole, who has just been announced as an Oram Award winner in recognition of her innovation as a turntablist and sound artist, “this project opened my eyes to so much history and culture that’s been a part of my heritage, and I didn’t even know about it until now. Better late than never: this whole experience has been very educational, liberating and grounding.”

Opera North’s Resonance residency programme for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic artists is supported by PRS Foundation’s Talent Development Partner scheme.

Original interviews and audio recordings made by Khadijah Ibrahiim during research funded by Arts Council England’s Developing your Creative Practice programme.

Thanks to Pressure Sounds for permission to use music from their catalogue.



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