Encore for The Moors!
The Moors were founded by Elaine and Ken Edwards in Hastings, and they say they have been inspired by the musical culture of Hastings Old Town as much as by the Balkan gypsy music, klezmer, mediaeval Sephardic melodies, Cuban rhythms, jazz, blues, folk and rock that influences their music. HOT’s Erica Smith tuned in to the Moorish sounds.
I first heard The Moors playing in Alexandra Park three summers ago. I’ve never been a great fan of ‘fusion world music’, but The Moors made me pin back my ears. Their influences, from Irish folk to Klezmer are clear, but even when performing traditional songs, they make the music their own. There is an energy and enjoyment in their delivery which can get the toes of the grumpiest curmudgeon a twitching and a tapping.
I asked Ken Edwards (bass and vocals) a few questions about the band:
ES: How and why were The Moors born:
KE: “It began when Elaine (soprano sax, flute, piccolo, melodica) and I moved to the Old Town. A major part of the attraction of living here was the vibrant musical culture. We knew Richard (guitar), and started jamming with him on some folk and Klezmer tunes that Elaine and I had been playing as a guitar/flute duo. Then Jenny (fiddle) arrived, and our first drummer Andy, and we started working on more material, including our original compositions. The four of us have been with the band since we started jamming together in summer 2008. Tom has been our drummer for just under a year; we’re also grateful to our previous drummers Andy Maby (now with the Cajun Dawgs) and Tok Tippayanasa, and to Russell Field, who sat in on drums on occasion last year. We didn’t really intend to start a ‘proper band’ and were surprised by the audience enthusiasm as soon as we started playing in public (a series of ‘open rehearsals’ at The Stag in the Old Town in spring 2009). So we just had to continue!
ES: What influences your music?
KE: “We tend to steer away from English and Irish folk, simply because there are so many brilliant musicians in that vein in the Old Town and we can’t compete with them. However, the influence of that music is probably there, and even when we’re playing music that originates in the Balkans or Eastern Europe, or even Cuba, I think we bring an English folk-rock sensibility to it.
“We are not trying to re-create the music of the past, or of other cultures. Our ethnic backgrounds are no more or less diverse than any in the British Isles today, but we are not Gypsies; we don’t even have much Jewish heritage. What we’re trying to do is create our own music, in the present, influenced not only by those remote musics but by more variegated elements: rock, blues, jazz, even Cuban son, free improvisation and English folk music.
“Western music, both popular and classical, is haunted by the ghosts of its past. In Islamic Spain in the Middle Ages, Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities intermingled, each with their own distinctive musical cultures that influenced each other. As Western harmony blossomed over the subsequent years, much of that heritage was obscured, and yet it survives today.
“Florian Dohrmann, a Klezmer composer from Germany, whose beautiful tune “Stille Tage” is on our new album, told me the other day: “Music is really a great, borderless connection between people!” That’s about it.”
Album launch this Friday
The Moors are playing on Friday 4 May at St Mary in the Castle, 7.30–10pm, £5 entry fee, and £2 for children. It’s the ideal opener for Jack-in-the-Green weekend, and the perfect opportunity to check out this wonderful band, have a dance, and celebrate by buying their new album. But if you can’t wait that long, you can always visit their website to get a sneak preview of the wonderful tunes!
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