March For True Colours

By Sarah Lamptey
I’m mixed-raced; my father was brought up in England to Ghanaian parents and my mother is English. I’ve always lived in either Surrey or London and I’ve used the word “lucky” in the past, to describe getting so far into my twenties with only one direct experience of racism (aside from an overwhelmingly hostile reception in Budapest a few years back). The word never sat right though – in the world the decent and common-sensical are striving for, this kind of luck would be unnecessary. We’d save all of our good fortune for acts of God rather than human ill intent. Also, whether experienced late or not, the brutal truth remains the same. Humanity still has a distance to travel and no progress ever came from a rose-tinted perception. 
My one direct, racist confrontation was brief and relatively mild, although it shocked me at the time. Late last year, in Kingston, I crossed paths with a man who called me a “f*cking black…” I didn’t hear exactly what I was because I’d sped up, my legs seemingly taking their own initiative. My brain was busy regressing to that of a confused child, “But I didn’t do anything”, it repeated, whilst pushing out shocked, angry tears. Social media came into its own. I felt alone and in pain and was compelled share it the 21st century way: in the form of a Facebook status. The words of support and condemnation went on and on over the next few days, often in lengthy, considered and moving replies. In the face of the animosity people had come to show their beautiful – often hidden – colours and I came to feel more positive about humanity than I had before it had happened. Though less rosy, more real.
On Saturday 21st March, UN Anti-Racism Day, I saw journalist Owen Jones tweet that there’d be a march “against racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia” that afternoon in London, organised by Stand Up To Racism. The date signifies the anniversary of the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre in South Africa. It was to be my first march – not my proudest admission. I’d never gotten myself organised and I barely made this one, only spotting the tweet an hour before it started. On the train I felt energised; I had a purpose. I was to be involved in what I completely believed in. A bizarre shyness and uncertainty flooded in though, the moment I emerged from Oxford Circus tube station into the masses of people. I doubted I was up to the task, whether I was loud and strong enough. I accepted a Socialist Worker placard that read ‘NO TO RACISM’, with ‘Migrants are welcome’ and ’No to Islamophobia’ underneath as bullet points. Holding it, I was verified as a protester, associated with resilience and resolutions yet I felt the opposite, perhaps remembering that reduction of myself as an “f*cking black” something. I walked up Regent Street to the assembly point at Portland Place and in record time made a new friend, Meriel. We stood waiting for the march to begin, making our observations to one another. The atmosphere was infectiously jolly, raucous even. There was a shifty moment when the megaphone leaders started chants that everyone else seemed to know, but the lyrics weren’t tricky. “We are Black, White, Asian and we’re Jews (and we’re gay!)”, to the tune of “She’ll Be Comin’ Round The Mountain”, quickly became my favourite. It really sticks in your head. 
The route took us down Regent Street, through Piccadilly Circus, down Haymarket and into Trafalgar Square. With speakers blasting dub in front, weed wafting to my right and noise all around, the protester in me took its first breaths, warmed up and burst into song. It occurred that I should believe in what I was chanting. In extreme cases it was a bit like my childhood, growing up going to church and missing out the parts of the hymns I didn’t absolutely subscribe to. Variations on political beliefs aside, it was an entirely pro-equality and pro-peace parade. I hoped that word and images of marching crowds across the world would get to victims of prejudice and lift them, even a little. As we came up to the Eros statue in Piccadilly Circus, the air changed. The crowd ahead started to sing with less bounce, more power, “There are many, many, more of us than you…”, pointing to where a group of men stood behind policemen. This was the Anti-Anti-Racism Day protest. Ironic that a statue of the God of Love was chosen as their meeting point. It was a feeble assembly, a few rows on the steps, standing and staring. Heart pounding, face hot, ground suddenly less of a support, I began to rewind. But stopped. I was struck, like a good hug that takes you by surprise and knocks you unsteady, that I was surrounded by the intense positivity of many, many strangers. More bright, true colours out of darkness.
15,000 people marched in London, Glasgow and Cardiff on Saturday. We know that world unity won’t be brought about any time soon. But to get involved, to join voices and make connections even on the smallest level is progress that all of us can manage. As I left, a woman pointed to my sign and spat,  “No, [migrants are] not welcome here”. Only she said it very, very quietly.

Swiss Lips: The Album Review

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 14.34.17

The self-titled debut album from Manchester band, Swiss Lips, has been a long time coming, having signed to Sony in 2011. Frontman Sam Hammond has been Twitter-vocal about record label strife causing delays on its launch, but it’s now arrived in the form of the vibrant punchbag-smacking release that you didn’t even know you needed.

The record taps into manic emotions and common experience, spray-painting them out in a rainbow synth-pop palette, unafraid of getting messy. It speaks of the confusion of love and the fear that comes with adulthood. It tells of the escape of wild nights and holds a lighter up for the loss of youth. There’s a buoyant strain of resilience and solidarity throughout and a moving intent to defend someone, everyone.

Rebel-spirited “Books” opens and the weightlifting “U Got The Power” carries the baton on in a power surge start that doesn’t waver. “Carolyn” alludes to the great story of Beat Generation figure Carolyn Cassady, whom Hammond became friends with in her last years. “Kid” is a standout track for me, it twists and pulls inside. I’m envisaging “Kid” (and gin) fuelled tears at some stage.

I was left with the sense that despite life’s hardship there is light, which is stronger, derived from unity. We’re together and it’s alright.


Summer Music Picks for 2014! Old and new stories…

I present and exec-produce Back To The Future Sounds, a music series celebrating the vinyl and the digital music worlds on London Live. As for many of us, music is my absolute escape so my top ten summer picks either create fantastic stories or have great backgrounds to them.


‘Lost On The Way Home’, Chromeo feat. Solange

‘Lost On The Way Home’ comes from the ever-evolving Canadian duo Chromeo. David Macklevitch and Patrick Gemayel met as kids, played together in a band at 15 and later produced hip-hop as Dave 1 and P-Thugg (I’m hoping these were initially joke names that stuck) before producing their own music under Chromeo. ‘Lost On The Way Home’ from their fourth album White Women is the smooth record necessary on the way back from wherever the boy messed with your heart and mind a little. Solange sings our lines and a vocal from Chromeo gives the man-view back in a dialogue that’s far cooler than a chat for a song implies. The nice bit of relatable drama pushed this over the line but the whole of White Women is studded with gems of a diamond level. You might decide I’m wrong in the knowledge that one of their tracks is called ‘Sexy Socialite’, but that’s the kind of diamond-shaped sweetie ring that makes your finger sticky. It still tastes good.

‘Treat’, Kasabian

Not only did Kasabian deliver their signature electric-moody energy but they created something wild and bizarre to behold mid-headline set at Benicassim 2014. I’ve seen nothing like the animal hold that took over the men in the crowd when they played ‘Treat’ from their fifth album, 48:13. No exaggeration, there was a pervading, prowling hard-on confidence as men everywhere did the same rhythmic bop-boogie whilst two-stepping in on a lady. I can’t say it worked on all the girls but they were most definitely stunned. It worked on me: Kasabian rock seriously sexy.


‘Rude’, Magic!

‘Rude’ is the best kind of sing-along-song to behave ridiculously to. It comes from Canadian pop-reggae group Magic!, fronted by producer and songwriter Nasri Atweh. With their debut album Don’t Kill The Magic released this month, the group are on a mission to keep bubblegummy sparkle alive. I’ve spent my summer thus far hoping for chances to sing, “Why you gotta be so ruuuude?” and when chances were slim I orchestrated them. It’s been satisfying. Though in reference to the video – if any man turned up to marry me with a beanie on his head I’d probably decide that my dad was right.


‘Carolyn’, Swiss Lips

Swiss Lips’ ‘Carolyn’ sings of the mad thrill and timeless adventure of a boy and a girl living and loving by impulse and making their own rules. “Feet up on the dashboard”…of a convertible I bet, it’ll be red or black and someone will probably be looking for it. They’ll be heading to the waves, holding hands (or something), watching the stars and predicting the future… It’s easy to get carried away. Swiss Lips’ frontman and songwriter Sam Hammond was inspired by the richly textured life of Beat Generation writer and artist, Carolyn Cassady. Her unconventional marriage to Neal Cassady and their ardent relationship with Jack Kerouac is fascinating, complex and a bit insane. Fast forward five decades and an email from Hammond after learning the story movingly led them to become friends in the last years of her life. ‘Carolyn’ is typical of the Manchester-based band’s electro vibrancy, their sounds roll round my brain long after I’ve decided I’d better take them off repeat. Watch out for Swiss Lips’ debut album, there are loud whispers that it’s ready to launch.

‘Soul Searching’, Nujabes

Japanese hip-hop music producer and DJ Jun Seba produced the most soaringly exquisite and varied beats as Nujabes (his name spelt in reverse in Japanese order). Tragically, he died in a car accident in 2010 aged 36. The majority of his music and mixes are only on YouTube which feels desperately unworthy as their main platform. ‘Soul Searching’ is my favourite: one hour and 40 minutes of eternal music. It uses angel-dreamy vocals swirled through swooping strings and soothing piano mixed with hip-hop and jazz beats – all with a simplicity to it and a prevailing strength of heart and spirit.

‘Jubel’, Klingande

I’m keeping it strictly summer with ‘Jubel’ from French team Klingande. They call their sound “melodic house” and for me the house is on a perfect beach (sorry). The piano and saxophone pulse reassuring waves of calm and it’s a beach where the masseurs can’t get in (I find little less relaxing than a massage from a stranger in front of other strangers myself), where bats and balls are banned, where there’s sun and shade and breeze and cute kids that play quietly and dolphins giggling and turtles looking after their babies on the white, white sand. I’ve gotten carried away again… Klingande’s love of the Swedish language inspired their name and those of their songs, with Klingande translating to ‘chiming’. Their debut album is on its way and will surely meet the hugely high expectations.


‘Take My Hand’, Charli XCX

Hertfordshire girl Charlotte Emma Aitchison is Charli XCX and she’s super cool. ‘Take My Hand’ from her second album True Romance (her first,’14’, was never officially released) falls under “indietronica” apparently, or “witch house” – who makes these up?! It’s a song for the night where you can and must be reckless. It’s dark and you don’t need to know the time and your phone’s out of battery but it’s alright. You’re in a midnight city with someone you’ve only just met and it’s fine because they don’t seem creepy. When you make it to the bar you’re with more safe strangers who render the night so Coyote Ugly unforgettable that it’ll carry you through decades of coupley bliss until he, or you, kisses the postman and it all goes to sh*t. Right now though it’s the best, particularly as a new Charli XCX album is due in September.


‘Run For Cover’, Cazzette

Swedish producers Sebastian Furrer and Alexander Björkland joined to form Cazzette in 2011 and they make “f*ck my problems” music; put it on to have a wild and erratic dance to something spacey. In ‘Run For Cover’ and ‘The Coming’ you star in the film or computer game and having made it to the end, just when you think you’re safe, the BIG BOSS comes to beat your ass. But naturally you’re black belted and whoop him and his baddies with poise and Cat Woman grace. Then as always there’s the long awaited kiss and ‘Sleepless’ is gorgeous for that. Cazzette prefer to define what I’ve been Nintendo-visualising as “dubhouse”. It seems the easy, single genre is a thing of the past.

‘Arcades’, C2C

Any of French DJs C2C’s tracks are worth lots of your time. Their electro-funk party vibe fuses with blues-country (‘Down The Road’), hip-hop (‘Together’) and Disney-sweet pop (‘Genius’) and still makes the most fabulous sense. ‘Arcades’ just has the edge on blood-racing energy, which’ll be hard to believe if you hear the others first. It’s tricky not to make a DJ setlist composed solely of Tetra, C2C’s debut album. It’d be too lazy but so understandable. Their DJ supremacy won them the DMC World Competition four times in a row, skills which are all over the album without drowning it. I’ve set myself up saying all ten picks create stories for me. The only story here is that C2C are just very bloody good.


‘Forever’, Pete Drake

The dream and romance of country musician Pete Drake’s 1964 hit ‘Forever’ is almost too much. Born Roddis Franklin Drake in Georgia in 1932 (think we can guess why he went for Pete), he might as well have been playing his co-star – the talking box – floating in the sky. This time it’s Drake and his talking steel guitar up with the clouds, swirling fuchsia petals down onto a summer breezy lane. More modern songs of this genuine depth of feeling please, to balance out the twerking and the wiggle, wiggle, wiggle.

Thank you to Grazia for publishing this! Link below…