A Belated Interview With UK Soul Artist, Samm Henshaw

So you may recall that I’d mentioned interviewing Samm Henshaw a while back for The Nubian Times, which, on a personal level, was a very fun experience. I mean, the guy’s arguably the most talented soul artist to emerge from these shores in the last two decades.

Not only that, he was a seriously fascinating guy to talk to.

And so I’d planned, at the time, to share the video of our conversation here, once it had been uploaded to the paper’s YouTube channel.

But, as you may or may not have noticed, this never happened.

Due to technical issues I won’t even attempt to get into, the quality of the recording ended up so corrupted the paper couldn’t use it. Hence, I never shared the video with you.

Yeah, I know… Sorry.

But today – after unexpectedly coming across the remnants of the footage on my laptop – I’m making amends.

Yes, it’s grainy, it’s pixelated, and not to the standard of any respectable media publication. But the stuff Henshaw had to say about his journey into music and his songwriting was, to me, so interesting and cool I decided to edit up the recording and share it with you anyway, corrupted-resolution-warts and all. So, for your viewing pleasure…

Oh, and if you want to check out the man’s music – and you really should – you can do so by clicking right… here.

Does Manchester Have a Collaboration Problem?

“Here in Manchester… If we’d support each other, like London does, then we’d be up there. But [instead] it’s like every man for himself.”

Pretty startling comment isn’t it.

It belongs to JE, a member of Manchester-based rap group, TTS. I had the pleasure of filming an interview with them (see below) last night ahead of their performance at this month’s Mic Check, two weeks from now.

They had plenty of compelling stuff to say but what really grabbed my attention were the thoughts they expressed on Manchester’s burgeoning grime and hip-hop scenes – which are more or less summed up by the quote above.

Now, here’s the thing…

JE is a ridiculously talented MC, (we filmed a freestyle with him and fellow TTS member, Rebz, following the interview. See below), at 20, he’s still young – both literally as well as to the art itself – and yet what he had to say about the scene in Manchester was, to me, so familiar it’s become troubling.

For the last few months, whether speaking directly with artists or hearing from them via other means, this problem has been all I’ve heard about.

 

It seems grime music in this city – one of the most vibrant, creative and diverse cities in the world – has a serious problem when it comes to collaboration and unity.

Artists are reluctant to support one another’s music. Reluctant to promote and share the scene as a whole.

The question is why?

Ego? Competitiveness? Short-sightedness? Practicality?

And as importantly, might this reluctance to work together be hampering the progress and growth of the scene as a whole?

They’re questions I’m still trying to figure out, and ones I plan on writing about more in the future.

In the meantime, if you have an opinion on it, or the reasons behind why people sometimes fail to come together in general, regardless of the context, then please feel free to share it in the comments below. I’d love to hear your views.

On Writing: An Interview with… Myself?

The funny thing is I’m used to asking the questions, not answering them.

I mean, I’ve conducted a fair few interviews at this point, delving into the motivations and inspirations of artists, creatives, community leaders etc. – people who are passionate about what they do.

But I’ve never been on the other side of the conversation – the interviewee, rather than the interviewer… until now.

You see, having been nominated Cultureword‘s writer of the month – which I’m pretty stoked about – I was asked to answer a few questions about my work as a writer and journalist.

So, if you wanna check out my first ever time being interviewed, and gain a little insight into what makes me tick (a scary thought, I know), you can do so by clicking right… here.

The Future is Bright, The Future is… Social Media?

I’m told public speaking is consistently ranked as many people’s greatest fear… yeah, that’s right – above heights, spiders, snakes, clowns (I still don’t get why anyone likes clowns) etc. In fact, in many surveys public speaking is even ranked above the fear of death.

Which, in my opinion, is all the more reason for you to be very impressed with what I’m about to tell you…

You see, I had the privilege/challenge/trauma (delete as appropriate) of delivering a presentation on digital and social media last week at a Media and Marketing event (see video below) organised by The Nubian Times.

I’m not ashamed to say I was a little nervous beforehand, but by all accounts the talk went well.

Although I won’t go into the contents of it here, the presentation did allow me the chance to share some thoughts on what is, to me, a hugely exciting sector, one that has increasing influence in Manchester in particular.

You see, this city has the largest tech cluster in the UK outside of London, and that in an economy generating around £2bn annually, accounting for a significant part of the region’s overall economic output.

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That’s me being all professional and talky. Which does happen… occasionally.

All of which means the creative digital sector, of which social media is a major part, is a pretty big deal just now – financially, yes, but even more so culturally.

I mean, think about it. We keep up with current affairs via social media. We source job opportunities through it, decide which restaurants we’re going to visit with it. In fact, with some of the new features Facebook has recently introduced, the likelihood is we’ll soon be doing most of our shopping through it too.

Which gets you thinking…

With around a quarter of the world’s population now using social media, there are all sorts of questions about how this global society of ours is set to evolve.

So what do you think?

What’s been your experience of social media, professional or personal?

Do you see social media as largely a good or bad thing?

And what do you think may lie ahead for us, and it, in the future?

Feel free to comment below, would love to hear your thoughts.

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Elevator Fiction

elevator-fiction-frontYour mission, should you choose to accept it, is to give the reader a story worth reading in 500 words or less…

So said the email I received requesting I submit a piece of flash fiction for inclusion in an anthology to be published by Crocus Books. And so, never one to shirk a challenge, I complied. Happily.

The result of the project is, in my humble opinion, a pretty special collection of stories. It features 30 writers from Black and Asian Minority Ethnic backgrounds, with the tales told ranging from the weird and fantastical to the domestic and familiar – each one short enough to be read from start to finish in the time it takes to complete an elevator trip, hence the collection’s name.

I had the pleasure of attending the book launch this past weekend, which happened to be my first time attending any book launch. In fact, the event included a number of firsts for me.

img_1655-3My first time having my fiction published. My first time performing a reading of my work (see left). Suffice to say it’s a day I’ll remember, and fondly. Even more so for the chance to connect with so many other talented writers and creatives.

Anyway. Should you decide you want to pick up a copy, the book will be available on Amazon by the end of this week. I’ll be sure to share the link once it goes on sale.

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Grime, Hip Hop and the City

If American hip-hop – along with dancehall and garage music – are the parents, grime has since emerged from their shadow as the rebellious adolescent ready to forge its own path, becoming the voice of choice for British millenials tired of hearing tales of streetlife narrated from across the Atlantic.

It’s for this reason I’ve been eager for a while to get under the skin of Manchester’s grime scene and hear what artists have to say about the music and what it means to them.

And so below are a few interviews I conducted and filmed for The Nubian Times doing just that. Have a watch, some provocative insights on the scene’s evolution are shared by the artists in each.

 

 

 

 

There’s Nothing New About The News

Originally a rapper, and then a poet, for the last year Tom Bishop has been occupying that loose sliding space that lingers between the two, the stripped down art known as spoken word.

After connecting with him during one of his live performances last month at Sandbar’s grime and hip hop night, Mic Check, I had the pleasure of collaborating with him to film one of his pieces – ‘There’s Nothing New About The News’.

In simple terms: He provided the poetry and performance, I provided the videography. You can take a look at the results of our work below.

Thoughts and Images from the Manchester #BlackLivesMatter Rally

Photo - NahI think covering the Black Lives Matter rally in Manchester earlier this week is an experience I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

Seeing people of every colour and from a range of communities gathered under one cause was both sobering and inspiring, as was listening to a range of speakers including community leaders, activists and poets give voice to the sense of anger, sorrow and solidarity that had enveloped many who chose to gather beneath the steps of Moss Side’s Alexandra Park on Monday evening.

The rally, organised by a student union leader following the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille at the hands of police officers in the US last week, turned into a march that progressed from the inner-city South Manchester district of Hulme all the way to St Peter’s Square in the city centre, with those it passed often choosing to join the crowd of demonstrators as they went.

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The event was somehow sad and uplifting at the same time. As one marcher put it;-

It feels amazing to be here, and quite emotional too, to know so many people feel the same.

Below are some of the clips I filmed for The Nubian Times both before and during the rally. Take a look, and feel free to share your thoughts and feelings on both the march and the events that have led to it… oh, and be sure to check out the powerful spoken word poem (the last video) that was delivered during the demonstration too…

The young woman below had some sharp insights on some of the wider issues contributing to the racial disadvantages in America.

 

Sharing some important thoughts on the need for solidarity.

 

See below for Hafsah Aneela Bashir’s powerful spoken word poem.

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How Will Brexit Affect You?

Well, as you might expect, Britain’s vote to leave the EU has been the topic dominating the news, as well as conversation in my office today.

I expect I’ll probably get around to sharing some thoughts on it in future but in the meantime I’m curious to hear initial reactions – whether knee jerk or considered. So have a watch of the brief video below and if you have a view on things please share it.

Comment below or, if you really wanna broadcast your view and start a conversation around all this, check out and respond to The Nubian Times (the newspaper I work for) via their Facebook page, or Twitter (@thenubiantimes).

‘For me it’s about showcasing quality African content’: An Interview With Debut Filmmaker, Kunmi Ogunsola

kunmi-online-450x300You’ll probably know by now that one of my favourite things is to talk with storytellers, and so I was pretty excited to have the opportunity to interview Manchester-based filmmaker, Kunmi Ogunsola, for The Nubian Times.

We discussed everything from creativity, to family, to diversity and media, as well as Kunmi’s own journey into filmmaking. It was a pretty fascinating conversation, if I do say so myself, so if you’d like to take a look you can do so by clicking right… here.