On hiatus:

///Be Back Soon///

///In the meantime, read my posts, comment, contact me///

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

REVIEW: John Legend - Evolver

After two successful albums, John Legend is back with his third release. Aptly entitled Evolver, we see Legend experiment with this latest installment of lyrics and melodies. Teaming up with producers Andre 3000, Pharrell Williams and Kanye West expect to hear smooth synths and plenty of bass. Upbeat tracks dominate the first half of the album, but dedicated fans will be pleased to know that Legend’s soulful and easy-listening vibes take precedence in the final half.

Though his (reggae-influenced) duet with Estelle was expected, his duet with Brandy comes as a welcome surprise as they harmonise perfectly over electro-pop, on the standout track Quickly. Other noteworthy tracks include Green Light, Everybody Knows and No Other Love.

On If You’re Out There, we hear John Legend take a break from his usual soliloquies about love and relationships and delve into political territory, by calling for change in the world (the track also features on the official website of President-elect Barack Obama).

Though Evolver is not instantly catchy and may take a while to grow on you, with this offering, John is once again proving that he is musically talented enough to carry an album without an entourage of guest artists; and that he may be on his way to becoming a legend in his own right.

© Rachelle Hull, 2008
Published at: www.catchavibe.co.uk

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

REVIEW: Blessed Souls - Open Mic Event (November)

In the basement of Adulis Eritrean Restaurant an intimate showcase took place, amid leather sofas and a smattering of candles on tables. With live music from MAC band (bass, keys, drum and sax in full effect) and hosted by Adelaide McKenzie, the night promised to be an enjoyable one.

Open mic nights tend to be musical translations of Forest Gump’s chocolate box - you never know what you are going to get – and I found the Blessed Souls event to be no different. From a harmonica-player, speaking Hebrew lyrics over a solid reggae rhythm; to a humorous poem about God told in Patois; the unique and wonderful shared the stage with aplomb. In between acts a selection of soul, r&b and dancehall tracks were mixed by DJ KMT, to keep the crowd entertained.

Highlights of the evening included a Norah Jones-esque ballad by a young lady called Matshidiso; an energetic and crowd-pleasing performance by self-proclaimed street psalmist Karl Nova and a beautifully passionate performance by a Ms. Rachel Kerr. Despite the sound-checking interruptions at the beginning, due to a late start, Adelaide’s lively and engaging banter with the audience quickly won me over. As I reclined on the mocha-coloured leather sofa, and soaked in the laidback vibes I felt as if I were receiving a live gig in the privacy of my living room. My only gripe for the night was the event lingered on a little bit too long and having to use the upstairs bar instead of the one in the basement.

For those interested in great music and good vibes, with spiritual undertones, Blessed Souls is the perfect spot.

© Rachelle Hull, 2008
Published at: www.catchavibe.co.uk

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

ESSAY: Obama Election Result: Where Were You?

At some minutes after 3am this morning I could not sleep. Whether it was due to the surprising humidity (in November!) or because my subconscious was encouraging me to bear witness to the historical event taking place; I am not sure.

From the comfort of my bed, I logged onto the site that never sleeps (otherwise known as Face Book) and I discovered I was not alone in my need to be awake. Plenty of friends (mainly from the UK) were alive and kicking; discussing and celebrating the victory that had recently occurred.

On hearing the news I felt anticlimactic and I immediately began to question whether this moment - this day - equated real change and for whom? Expressing my thoughts on FB I was soon to find out what the rest of my peers thought; old friends and new.

I was questioned about questioning the event. Did I not realise the significance of what had just happened? Not only for Americans, but for people all over the world. Not to mention the added significance for Black people all over the world: African-Americans; Black Brits; Kenyans; Canadians; Afro-Europeans; Bajans; Nigerians; Brazilians; Sierra Leoneans - and the list goes on.

Venturing downstairs to the living room I tuned in to BBC1 to hear the first speech, live, from the President of the United States: Barack Obama. In short, Barack delivered. His speech was passionate, inspirational and honest. The sight of tears from Oprah and Jesse Jackson (for whom I cannot imagine how this moment feels), I began to understand. Regardless of my earlier fears and questions this was a moment to be enjoyed and to be treasured.

As the hours passed and the UK began it’s morning “business as usual” routine; I noted a group of young black boys (no older than eight) on their way to school. With smiles on their small brown faces, they argued amongst themselves and I heard shouts of “I’m Obama!”, “No, I’m Obama!”, “No, he’s the President!” The moment was surreal and I realised that for today, at least, it wasn’t “business as usual.” I have witnessed a historical event that truly means something to me; one that I will relish telling my children in the future.

I know where I was on the 5th November 2008, physically and emotionally, where were you?

© Rachelle Hull, 2008

Monday, 20 October 2008


*Click on image (twice) for a larger view

© Rachelle Hull
Published at


*Click on image for a larger view

© Rachelle Hull
Published at

Interview: SOUL:ID

Soul On A Mission

In an industry where formula rules, it is rare to find a band in the spotlight where friendship and music are at the core. Though boasting four identities, Soul:ID are not the machinations of a clever PR; so do not expect cute names and kitted out personalities to match. With their combined experience of studio recording, production and supporting other artists in live performances Tchaї (lead vocalist), Dad’D ( vocalist/producer) , V ( vocalist/producer) and Urban Deep (lead producer) decided to build their own creative collective, back in 2004. ‘Everybody knew each other in different ways and that’s how we slowly started to form the sound of Soul:ID,’ says Tchaї.

The sound of Soul:ID is referred to as Afropean Soul, for their music is ‘made by Africans that grew up in Europe and vice versa.’ The result? A combination of jigsaw sounds that piece together perfectly. Based in Belgium, with Tchaї, Dad’D and V hailing from Africa: Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo respectively, Soul:ID’s day to day experiences epitomise this newfound genre. Being a band with members from two continents that share an afflicted history, whilst three quarters of the band hail from neighbouring countries, Soul:ID had some decisions to make. ‘The first question we asked ourselves was: are we going to be political or not? But with three of us from three close countries with difficulties, coming together and making music – it was inevitable,’ Tchaї explains.

Having performed in Africa already, the band is aiming to do more. ‘We would like to start initiatives for peace in Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It’s an incredible amount of work, but not impossible,’ Urban Deep reveals. Despite their political aspirations, Tchaї is quick to point out their ability to maintain a balance between this and the value of entertainment, ‘We definitely want people to be aware of things, but at the same time you need to laugh and you need to smile.’

With the European release of their debut album this month, the quartet are optimistic about the future, ‘The first album is an adventure of four people seeing how their music comes together. Now we know the ingredients, the second album will be completely different,’ Tchaї tells me.

Their London gig is scheduled for October 22 at Soho Revue Bar.

© Rachelle Hull, 2008
Published at: www.catchavibe.co.uk

REVIEW: Soul:ID - Love, Sex & Philosophy

'Love, Sex & Philosophy'

Housing four members: Tchaї, Dad’D, V, Urban Deep, and four cultures: Belgium, Congolese, Burundi and Rwandan, the multicultural fusion kicks off with a concoction of Swahili and French for the intro. Their exploration of life through music, using their own sound they have dubbed “Afropean soul”, experiments with slick drumming, synthesizers and deft harmonies. Though stamped with the Afropean label, do not be surprised to hear Soul:ID dip their metaphorical toes into Babyface crooning and Jill-esque vocals, polished off with a drop of Dwele smoothness. Standout tracks include “True” ,a Spandau Ballet cover deliciously coated in soul goodness, “Is This Luv?” and “How Come”, an edgier Neptune-inspired track that tackles the issue of racism. Though not a truly unforgettable album, “Sex, Love & Philosophy” is pleasant enough to add to any soul collection.

© Rachelle Hull, 2008
Published at:

Monday, 29 September 2008


Laura Izibor enters the studio, dressed head to toe in black: jacket, jeans and boots. Her curly hair is full of life and makeup flawless; her smoky eye shadow completing the look. Gone is the fresh-faced, girl-next-door I had come to know from her MySpace pictures. In her place? A soul chick that rocks. As we talk her Irish lilt is occasionally inflected with a soft American twang (a consequence of spending ample time in the US with her record label Atlantic) and the laidback Irish charm is apparent. Featured in our Rising Star Spotlight late last year Laura Izibor needs no further introductions.

Despite the delay of her debut album, Let The Truth Be Told, Laura has been busy. Though you may not be completely familiar with the name yet, the music will certainly sound familiar. Her track From My Heart To Your's appeared in an episode of the medical drama Grey's Anatomy and Carousel was specifically written as the theme song for the film Nanny Diaries (2007). Whilst her gospel-influenced Mmm featured in not one, but two films: Why Did I Get Married? (2007) and Step Up 2: The Streets (2008), respectively.

Right about now the Irish soulstress is feeling 'Really damn good!' and with good reason. Not only has the film world been paying attention, but with the recent votes from Rolling Stone and Vibe Magazine as Artist to Watch 2008 it seems the rest of the world is too, 'It's taken a really long time to get this record finished; so to get this kind of love, it's crazy,' she tells me.

Considering the buzz around her music, the 21-year old's feet remain firmly on the ground and she reveals the perfect remedy for coping with the expectation prior to her debut release, 'I don't have any expectations for myself; that's the way I try and live my life. I'm just really enjoying singing and playing, just doing what I do.'

Unlike other young female acts who have come and gone before, Ms. Izibor will never be branded a 'studio chick' but a seasoned performer instead. What you get on the record is what you get in person; so when the lady performs live, she performs. Having opened for Angie Stone, the late James Brown, Al Green, The Roots and Jamie Cullum is there need for any more proof? 'Performing live is what you work for - it's the adrenaline, it's the buzz', though this does not mean her love of studio time is any less deep, 'at the same time the creative process is a lot more personal - it's an inward achievement. I couldn't live without the both of them.'

In tune with Izibor's laidback personality is her method of writing; imagining her with a pen and a pad, would be inaccurate, 'I don't write my lyrics down, I just usually record myself on a Dictaphone or whatever I have and just play, mumble, sing and vibe. When I listen back I'm like, 'Oh I see what I was trying to do there' and put a little bit of structure in, a little bit of edge and the song usually just writes itself. Sounds cliche, but it is just a natural process and that's the way I try to keep it.' When asked if there is a special someone to inspire her, she laughs and says, 'Not at the moment. I'm so busy I don't even get time to see my family.'

Now a little older, wiser and more experienced Laura is pleased that she took the time to work on her talent before putting herself out there, 'It took me a very long time and there was a lot of frustration, but it taught me an awful lot. I would still say to someone wanting to get into the industry to work on your skill, get a good demo and send it to record labels and song writing competitions. It's important to take every opportunity that you see; you really have to have no insecurities and just believe in yourself.’

With a 2009 release of Let The Truth Be Told, her debut album of home-cooked soul with an edge, Ms. Izibor is more than prepared. 'I'm most excited about walking into a store and seeing the record on the shelf and just being able to buy it myself. Let The Truth Be Told is an album that I'm proud of and that I believe in. I've been very lucky to write my album 100% so there's nobody else's words there or visions. The album is completely my truths and my experiences.'

© Rachelle Hull, 2008

Published at www.originsmag.com

Interview: SHAGGY

Mentioning the name Shaggy is like playing word association, as Boombastic and Mr Lover Lover immediately spring to mind. Best known for his massive hit singles It Wasn't Me (the biggest selling single in 2001 in the UK) and Angel, the chart topping reggae superstar has been filling our ears with his trademark sub-baritone vocals and patois infused lyrics for well over ten years.

But where did it all begin? In Jamaica. 'I remember the first time I saw Yellowman live and that was it for me – I caught the dancehall bug.' It was when he moved to America that things really took off, 'When I came to the states there was a huge dancehall scene in New York. I started chatting on sound systems, free styling and after a while I just started making records.' Yet it wasn't until the release of Oh Carolina, a dancehall remake of the 1960s classic, which made the music industry take note. The track was passed on to Greensleeves Records where it garnered major attention in the UK in 1993, causing Virgin to come a-knocking at Shaggy's door.

Despite his growing popularity Shaggy was not without his critics, 'At the time Oh Carolina came out, I was being dubbed a one hit wonder. Almost all the headlines were saying I only had a hit because it was a cover. That aggravated me and I just had to prove them wrong; I had to get a bigger hit and it had to be one that I wrote – so I wrote Boombastic.' The single was an instant hit in 1995, reaching the No. 1 spot in over four countries; including both the UK and the US. His distinctive voice, humorous metaphors ('Well you a the bun and me a the cheese/ And if me a the rice well baby love you a the peas') and good looks cemented his (largely female) fan base.

Capitalising on this, Levi's jeans company used the track for its tongue- in-cheek advertising campaign that same year. Although Shaggy would go on to release bigger hits, it was Boombastic that established his signature sound. Fast forward thirteen years (and twenty million albums sold worldwide) later; the road from then till now has not existed without its potholes. 'I've not had the easiest of careers; I've probably been on about five record labels. When I did Oh Carolina Greensleeves wanted me to re-do that type of sound, I refused and then Apache Indian came out with a song called Boom Shack-a-Lack; which had the same feeling. I keep getting dropped because they want you to repeat what you've already done.' For Shaggy re-invention is key; and though it may not be done with dramatic wardrobe changes and excessive press coverage in the style of Madonna, it can be heard throughout his music.

Over the years Shaggy has collaborated with a barrage of successful artists, from Maxi Priest, to Janet Jackson, to Akon and with lesser known artists, like Rik Rok and Ravyon. His collaboration with renowned reggae artist Sizzla and newcomer Collie Buddz, on his 2007 album Intoxication, may come as a surprise to some. Entitled Mad, Mad World and waxing lyrical on the 'Politics, polytricks, equal econometricks' the record is a far cry from the usual party anthems like Hey Sexy Lady and What's Love. According to Shaggy this is not something new, 'I've always done these songs. If you listen to all the albums, I've got Why Me Lord, Keeping it Real, Hope, Gone with Angels.' His defence on why these particular tracks have never been released? 'Major labels would never put one of those songs out. Boombastic worked so that's why you have so many girl tunes; that's the formula they know and so they gear you towards that.' But aware of how the market works he explains, 'In defence of the record companies the kids at the clubs don't want to hear about social issues and radio won't play those songs. It's just like Kanye saying I won't get played because I talk about Jesus. It's sad, but it is what it is.' Though his albums were selling fast, like hot patties, Shaggy was losing his core fans– the lovers of dancehall. Something had to be done. Founding his own label Big Yard Music (a joint venture with long time manager Robert Livingston and producer Sting International), Shaggy had complete creative control. 'I needed to get the dancehall fans back, because they weren't feeling Shaggy. Dancehall fans that I had during Big Up and Boombastic have all grown up; these young kids only know Shaggy as the pop guy that's in Angel. I had to get the street back and Wild Tonight and Church Heathen were the songs to do it.' With its heavy baseline, dubbed the Heathen Riddim, and Patois lyrics in true Shaggy fashion ('Sister Gwen claim she a Christian/But a last night them catch her in a Stone Love session/She a do di dutty dance to the Matterhorn song') Church Heathen was sure to win back his lost fans. To ensure the track reflected what he was trying to do, Shaggy came up with the concept of the video (of which there are two versions) featuring Ninja Man and paid for them out of his own pocket. It worked. Church Heathen was a hit on the dancehall scene and across the globe.

Now in 2008, Shaggy is releasing his first official greatest hits collection; The Best of Shaggy: The Boombastic Collection. 'This is probably one of the few things I've done on a major label where I'm in full control; I picked the songs and the artwork for the covers.' Whether you've been a Shaggy fan from back in the day or you are a new recruit to the millions of fans around the world, with a track listing of eighteen songs there is definitely something for everyone.

Drawing on his own experiences in the industry, his advice for others? 'Your drive is more than anything else. You can't be successful in anything unless you're passionate about it; if you're going in there for money or fame it makes no sense. I would still be a reggae act if I started out now; I think it's almost like being a part of royalty. It is certainly not the easiest road; but I'm about being an artist, not really a celebrity. That's the secret to success – if there's a secret.'
© Rachelle Hull
Published at www.originsmag.com

Thursday, 10 July 2008


*Click on images for a larger view

CEO: Annika Allen


DIRECTOR: Loraine Ffrench

Monday, 30 June 2008

ESSAY: Italian Vogue: Black Is Beautiful?

Italian Vogue is celebrating black beauty in July.

Or so they say.

Whilst many across the country felt joy at the news, I was still questioning their decision.

According to Vogue's editor, Franca Sozzani, her decision is based on the discrimination that black models face within the fashion industry (as well as the whole Obama phenomenon).

Though I cannot speak for everyone, I have never been in denial of the beauty that exists within my race. I do not need a book, a magazine, or anyone else to tell me what I see every day: in my family, in friends and in black women across the globe.

So I question the need for such a grand display from those who are usually hell bent on making the aesthetics of the black woman appear grotesque, to the rest of the world. For some this moment has been a long time coming, whereas I cannot help but feel a sense of déjà vu. Is it just me or does this reek of the Oscars black out: Denzel, Sydney, Halle anyone?

Is this July issue seriously going to change anything? I doubt it. The fact that Sozzani is reported as having said this will be ‘the worse selling issue’ is not dampening my reservations.

By making a standalone issue the highlight of the debate, ironically takes away from the wider discussion. This should be about a racist institution that makes millions every year from the same women it rejects. This should be about a racist institution that has been allowed to perpetuate its racism without being severely challenged and taken to task. Instead, this is about one magazine doing one good deed for the year, and yet black women are not a charity case. It is not just about the models either, what about the racism amongst the designers, fashion buyers and editors of these fashion magazines?

If it continues to be about the one issue, will this mean fashion no longer has to dole out another pity issue for, oh let’s say, another forty years? If ever again. Maybe I am being a bit too cynical - but can you blame me? This is what the Football Association does when there are cries against racism – they dole out fines that can easily be paid by the clubs and everybody moves on. This is what the (previously mentioned) Oscars did when there were murmurs about the lack of black actors and actresses winning the accolade – they doled out three for the price of one. So now it is the turn of the fashion industry.

Tell me, once the month is out and the sales figures are in, which point will be proven: that black is truly beautiful or that black girls ‘do not sell’?

© Rachelle Hull, 2008

Interview: GINUWINE

He was the sex symbol of the '90s. Creating a whole new meaning for the word pony with his debut single of the same name, Ginuwine graced our screens and ears with his silky smooth vocals, pretty boy looks and candid sex appeal.

Twelve years on and a couple of double-platinum albums later, the former bachelor is older, as handsome as ever and ready for 2008.

Considering his previous success one would think he had a complex about recreating work of the same calibre. But there are no pressure bars set-it's not his style, 'You can't go back and say I want to top Pony because Pony might not have worked now. You've got to deal with today's time and work around that and just try to come up with something for that time.'

It was in 1996, to be exact, when Ginuwine and the prolific producer Timbaland gave us Ginuwine...The Bachelor, his debut album. Back then, both the artist and the producer had been a part of former Jodeci member DeVante Swing's Swing Mob group (which also included Missy Elliott and Tweet at the time) before the group folded. The dynamite combination of Ginuwine's vocal talent and Timbaland's production skills is what made the album explode into double-platinum status.

Following on from his instant success, Ginuwine has gone on to release four more albums. His sophomore album 100% Ginuwine (also reaching double-platinum) in 1999; The Life (a platinum selling album) in 2001; Senior in 2003 and Back II Da Basics in 2005. Spawning numerous hit tracks from each release.

Judging from gaps in release dates it is clear he is not an artist who feels compelled to saturate the airwaves with his sound. His recipe for r n b: a dash of gentleman and a pinch of thug is what keeps his fan base solid. His declaration of, 'I just feel like I've got to make good music' and releasing a catalogue of substantial material when necessary, is what maintains the (level of) respect he receives within the music industry.

Speaking about the industry Ginuwine points out the major difference between the time he came out and now, 'You can do it all over the internet. It's all about promoting and marketing on the net.' Though he is quick to add, 'Make sure you've got a hit though because that's the key to opening any door.'

For 2008 Ginuwine is working on his sixth album, A New Beginning. His disillusionment with the current state of r n b, 'When we were making music it had more substance to it. You can't really knock what's going on right now, but it's not something I care too much for' and the decision, in 2007, to join forces with r n b hit-makers Tyrese and Tank to form the r n b supergroup TGT, one wonders if the title refers more to the genre than the artist.

Speaking of the new material he says, 'More sexy, smooth and laidback. I'm a little older now so I don't do the jumping around – been there, done that. I'm moving on to the Marvin Gaye feel.' For an artist who is known as much for his energetic moves as he is for his music, it is hard to picture a dance-free Ginuwine. Even he admits, 'When you come to a show though I'm a slave to the rhythm, so I'm gonna move.'

Proof that Ginuwine still has love for the occasional club banger is his current collaboration with UK producer Shayal, on the track Baby. The collaboration is the think tank of British-Asian producer Khiza for his 'culture meets culture' project, on the independent label Utopia Records. At a first glance the pairing of a US r n b star and an up and coming UK producer seems unusual. But with Shayal making quality r n b music and receiving support from other US artists, such as Rickey Rush (who has shared the stage with R. Kelly, KC & JoJo and Ginuwine himself), the duo make perfect sense.

Although some things may have changed for the man who brought us hits like In Those Jeans and Differences, one thing remains constant – his motto for success. 'You've got to work to achieve whatever you want in life. You can't lay back and hope it will come to you; you've got to get up and work.'

© Rachelle Hull
Published at www.originsmag.com

Friday, 30 May 2008

Feature: FABULOUS FIVE & Interview: ARTCHA

*Click images for a larger view


© Rachelle Hull

Friday, 25 April 2008

REVIEW: Adi-diction

Event: Adi-diction
Venue: Bernie Grant Arts Centre
Actors: Artcha James and Katie P

April 23rd 2008:

With an abrupt entrance, Artcha James and Katie P filled the small stage at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre. I was seated perfectly to watch both performers, as they stood in their positions: Katie lay sprawled on the floor, juxtaposed with Artcha's upright and rigid form. They maintained this for a little longer than necessary and with the promise of 'movement' in the advertising campaign, for a moment I thought I was watching the wrong play.

Adi-diction is about a young man by the name of Joe, who is addicted to trainers (hence the play on the word Adidas and Addiction to form the title). The 'story' does not unfold with your typical beginning, middle and end. Instead, it reveals itself in a sequence of soliloquies and confessions to the audience, often accompanied by music. Starting with Artcha, Joe's struggle is evident as he attempts to theorise the problem. Meanwhile Katie skips the bull and breaks it down, educating us on the variation of brands and styles: Adidas, Nike, Puma, Reebok, Airforce 1, Classic, Airmax, Superstar, Finster, Shox, Campus. Not being a connoisseur of trainers, I was lost among the lengthy list; but was quickly brought back into the fold, when the words 'honeydew', 'French lavender' and 'sweet cotton' escaped her lips - transporting me into her candy coloured world of laces and leather.

Whilst Artcha's role is evident from the get-go, Katie's takes a while to come to light. At one point she curled into the foetal position around Artcha's feet and as he stood, feet cocooned and lost in her embrace, I mistook her for a metaphor. Further on I realised Katie was not there to symbolise the trainer, both Artcha and Katie are Joe, just different sides of the same person. This is classic Freud: the ego and the id, the reality principle and the pleasure principle. Katie revels in the addiction, Artcha philosophizes it. A clever twist occurs when towards the end of the play you see Artcha change into the id, as Katie becomes the ego.

The clarity of roles makes for a more interesting play as it allows you to place yourself in the situation, substituting the trainer for your own vice. The ability to become so caught up in something, or someone, comes so easily to many of us that we are often unaware it is happening.

Although both performers were comfortable in front of their audience I was somewhat distracted by the often awkward mirroring of each other's movements across the stage. I understand the purpose, to convey the confusion and miasma, but at times it looked as if they were moving to justify the use of the word in the play's promotion. Despite this their confidence is evident in their delivery, Artcha floats easily between conversational speech and rap and back again; whilst Katie's palette of emotion, from calm to humorous to rage, emphasises the psychosis of Joe's predicament.

Though not flawless, Adi-diction is an interesting exploration of how a passion for even the most innocent of trappings can spiral out of control.

© Rachelle Hull 2008

Saturday, 19 April 2008

REVIEW: Breakin' the Ice

EVENT: Breaking The Ice Karaoke – Valentine’s Special
VENUE: Favela Chic
TIME: 6pm till late

February 2008:

Much noise had been made about this event. The Voice Newspaper demanded it was “definitely a date for your diary’’ so my girls and I decided to check it out.

The venue was a cauldron of South American tapas bar and French fairytale; with hula hoops and umbrellas dangling from the high ceilings. Although the seating arrangement was sparse, the bric a brac décor worked well, lending Favela Chic a certain charm.

Plied with glasses of red wine, my girls and I were feeling ultra confident, and so we trawled through the book of songs, whilst thinking of a catchy group name. Eventually deciding on Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”, we dubbed ourselves “Don’t Get Out Much” and waited for our five minutes of in-house fame.

Our hosts Annika and Natalie kick started the karaoke; the ladies were a great sport as they gave those of us with cat screams for voices a sense of hope. The concept of the event is not to see who has the best voice, but who provides a more entertaining performance. So it was great to see the novice and the intermediate battle it out to become karaoke King or Queen of the night. With renditions of Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road”, Alicia Keys’ “No One” and the Pussycat Dolls’ “Dontcha” it was going to be a tough call.

In between performances the resident DJs spun tunes that kept the large and fairly mixed crowd bumping, grinding and staying on till late; in spite of it being a mid-week event. The vibe was one I had not felt or seen in a long time: plenty of merry faces amongst a crowd who were obviously charged and out to have a fantastic night. During one of the intermissions a free raffle took place - courtesy of it being a Valentine’s special. Although I bribed three tickets from the ticket man, with my winsome smile and an offer of Lindt chocolates, I still managed to come home empty-handed.

Towards the end of the night, “Don’t Get Out Much” were finally called on to perform. Although our threesome had now become a duet (I had sobered up and chickened out), my girls put on an excellent performance. Engaging the crowd with their tuneless crooning, uncoordinated adlibbing and body popping it was only fair they were crowned Queens of the karaoke. Winning a specially branded ‘Breaking The Ice’ bottle of Champagne – of which I was not allowed to partake.

My only gripe for the night was no set finishing time, so it appeared to drag on for that little bit too long. But if you did not come or you came and did not let go, let flow then you missed out. Big time!

© Rachelle Hull 2008

Saturday, 12 April 2008

ESSAY: 'We Don't See All of Who We Are'

March 31st 2008:

Wise words spoken during one of Obama’s many speeches; Michelle that is – not Barrack. Throughout history the representation of the black woman has been less than favourable. She is often sexualised and dramatised, whether for comical effect or to further discredit the very foundations of a struggling nation. Her value in society shuffled around like a pack of cards – always the joker, but never the ace. Her very existence often laying at the bottom of the social ladder, or just simply ceasing to exist.

The many complexities of what it means to be a woman, first and foremost, are apparent. Added to this the identification with a race so full of riches and woe, it would seem there are many avenues to choose from. But that has not been the case, until now. Not for a long time has the representation in the media delivered so much promise.

Introducing Michelle Obama: a Vice President of community and external affairs for University of Chicago Hospitals and a graduate of both Princeton University and Harvard Law School. Not to mention wife of Barrack and a mother of two. Impressive indeed, but not the main focus. Her ability to comprise all these areas of her life and not apologise for being active, and determined in each is what makes her a remarkable woman.

I am often bombarded with women who appear to be mere shadows of those I identify with in my own home. Not ashamed of being ambitious, whilst drawing her own guidelines for success along the way and proud of being cultured and passionate beyond belief, I share an affinity with Michelle. For these are parts of the core values passed on to me, like heirlooms, from my mother.

It is rare to see us placed within a context; particularly one that is not limiting and void of any profundity. One dimensional characters are all too easily churned out for the masses to feast on and digest without complaint. All too often we are seen as carrying on in this world alone. According to the media, family is an alien concept for the black woman. With no support system, or rejecting the one that was offered we are portrayed as bitter from our experiences and lashing out at those who look most like us: the male and the female form.

So, what a breath of fresh air to see Michelle and the family unit intact: wholesome and tangible. She is not an apologist for drawing strength from this; recognising the benefits and holding fast. Nor is she an apologist for celebrating selfhood outside of her kin, instead she revels in the dynamics that complete her. She is a card-carrying member of Woman.

© Rachelle Hull, 2008

ESSAY: The Pursuit of Happiness?

February 28th 2008:

The endless pursuit of happiness in career, love and with self is what seems to be the life of an average twenty-something female in Britain today.

Promises of further education being the ticket to success had us all filling out numerous applications before we’d even sat our GCSEs. Envisioning doors opening with ease; once exams were all said and done and the qualification papers were in hand. Then, reality hit: the majority of us were steered on the same narrow road to reach our career goals, and thus we resulted in blocking the road, making it much smaller and even more competitive.

Hard work is not the issue, for a lazy and apathetic culture who expect everything to be handed on a plate (plus five minutes of fame as an extra serving) is unproductive for everyone. The question is, even when our feet are through the door are we ever able to remov
e our shoes and feel at home? Or are we made to feel like an eternal GI Jane, striving to keep up in an ’Old Boys’ Club’?.

And what of love? In this world of digitalisation and Photoshop are his expectations too high? Bombarded with images of fast cash, in an almost cashless society and lavish living have I become accustomed (some say conditioned) to the need for greed; where my happiness can be counted, literally? Speed dating has become the so-called advanced way of finding a partner, a method that appears to have been created for those of us who barely have the time to meet people under more ’traditional’ circumstances and thus we do not want to waste further time with undesirables. With three to eight minutes allocated per person we are able to meet as many potential partners as possible, in one night or a few. In a society insistent on choice this appears to be a natural addition to the list.

But what happened to the time before, when intimacy was not sold in a 30ml bottle and truth was more than just an artist with a one-hit single? Has the era of true companionship passed this generation by?

It has been said that the art of true love is acceptance, yet how do we begin to love another if we have not mastered the art of loving ourselves? I can categorically say that the hardest relationship I currently have is the one with myself: recognizing strengths, improving on weaknesses and finding my own niche in this often confusing and testing journey of life. Of course it is unrealistic to feel confident about self in every situation, especially when we are taken out of our comfort zone, but how do you convince someone you are the right person for the job (work related or otherwise) if your self-confidence and acceptance of self is non existent? So though I may at times find myself questioning my choices and wondering about my actions, there does come a point where I know that whatever decision I make it is the best one for me..

There is nothing permanent about a career, a relationship or even confidence; neither of these are consistent or guaranteed on a long-term basis. Maybe it isn’t happiness we should be seeking, perhaps it is contentment. Where we can be satisfied with our achievements (whatever they may be) on a long term basis and rid ourselves of the short term, almost drug-like high happiness seems to offer.

© Rachelle Hull 2008
Published (in part) in the New Nation newspaper


Related Posts with Thumbnails