So, in June last year I went on an amazing and life changing intercultural music exchange: Ethnoengland, which took place in Oxford. These summer camps for 16-30 year olds started in Sweden in the 90s and now happen all over the world, check them out: ethno-world.org.
The England edition was organised by Lauren Spicely and the Tandem Collective, a group of amazing people who are also talented musicains with an environmental & social mission. One of the main focuses of the Tandem Collective is reducing food waste and this came into the ethno as well: most of the food we ate was the stuff that shops, restaurants and bakeries weren't able to sell and had given to the food bank. Obviously the food bank is for people who can't afford to feed themselves and their families, bur we were not taking from them; a lot perishable goods get donated so we took the excess. We were also given fresh curry food everyday from a delicious Indian restaurant whose owner loved the project so gave us food for free (left over from his buffet). Curry every day was amazing for me as I love Indian food.
The festival also looked at mental health issues and the moeny raised went to Mind and other local charities.
This year I went back to ethnoengland, which happened on a farm in Ramsden, in the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside.
The Tandem festival was much bigger than last year, with amazing bands such as Moulettes (alternative rock), Kourelou (greek music), Akervinda (vocal group singing Swedish folk songs), Zlabya (epic bafolk), and many more, including our friends Jay Sunaway, Yakez, Steph West, Sophie-janna. And of course there was the Ethnoband, which I was part of. The best of all was this cracking new band from London called Worldwide Welshman & Beyond. They are of course my brand new band! (and by no means the best, but we were warmly welcomed and had a great time, and we went down very well).
The newest lineup started in February with a charity gig in The Others followed by one the day after in The Hive. The band consists of my Italian jamming buddies Carry & Nicholas on guitars, Elliot on bass (who I met in a mad hatter's ball in West London), Hugo on drums (from Paris), Semra on darbuka (Turkish lady I met in Jamboree), Anna on backing vocals (we worked together in the music department at Linden Lodge school so she joined the band) and, occasionally, New Yorker-tunred-Londoner Benjamin on Trombone and Giusy Cancellara on Violin. A month or so later, on our way to play at the Community Garden in Elephant & Castle, my brother Sion and I met another brass player, Hywel, and invited him to join us in the gig, and he has since become our 7th band member, my brother and Ben being part-time members, and Giusy having left the electirc lineup and joined the acoustic spin-off project (you can catch us on Sundays on the book barge by Granary Square, Regents Canal).
Our biggest and best show so far was when we played in front of thousands of people in the Lambeth Country Show, Brockwell park. The next big show will be in HOOTERNANYS on September the 23rd, which we are understandably very excited about, it being a major venue on the world, funk, indie and gypsy scenes in London.
As well as building the band, I've been working on recordings with a lot of help from Carry, the guitarist from "& Beyond", who is an excellent sound engineer and my co-producer for the upcoming album.
To fund all this, I've been working as a teaching assistant, and for a few months as a supply music teacher, and teaching music classes on the weekend. And we're getting more and more paid gigs which is exciting.
In a few days I'll be heading to Ethnoflanders in Oonstend, and playing 3 shows with them including Dranouter festival on 6th of August! https://www.festivaldranouter.be/
After this I'm heading to Toulouse to join my band in Hugo's aunty's house for a week of music making and busking!
Then on August 20th I'm playing a set of mainly Jewish songs in Selig Court, for my grandmother and neighbours & carers. That evening I'll get the train to Edinburgh to join the Transglobal Troubadours (a spinoff of the Ethnoengland band), and we'll be there from 21st til 24th. And after that I'll be going on the Rila Music Exchange; travelling around the mountains of Bulgaria learning Bulgarian & Roma folk songs, meeting local people, eating goats cheese, jamming, drinking rakia...its going to be amazing!
Thanks for reading!