MAKING their debut at a Boss Sounds gig in Newcastle on Friday will be an African band called Kilimanjaro – all the way from Newcastle!
Their appearance in support of London-based Jamaican star Dave Barker and North East reggae band the Equalisers is evidence of a budding African music scene in the region.
It has been nurtured by the Jumpin’ Hot Club team of Adam Collerton and Graham Anderson, who run the Boss Sounds programme, showcasing the best of reggae.
Adam says the band has emerged from a Jumpin’ Hot Club mentoring service which, a few years ago, brought established African musicians up from London to work with newer arrivals in the North East.
“What has happened since we did that is that some of the local musicians here have met other Newcastle-based musicians and formed Kilimanjaro, the first African band to be formed in Newcastle.
“What we’ve done is worked with them and paid for some rehearsal space for them to give them the chance to develop their own music.
“A lot of them are very talented musicians in their own right and really great song writers but, when they first come here, they have nowhere to rehearse and no equipment.” The line-up, led by a singer-songwriter called Ballas, includes some musicians who have lived in Newcastle for several years, mostly in the West End, and some who are relative newcomers. All, though, now call the city home.
The line-up of Kilimanjaro is truly pan-African, with members from across the continent. This cultural mix sets them apart musically from a band from Cameroon or Congo, says Adam.
But not only that. The band, as adopted Geordies, have subtly infused their sound with British and even North East influences.
“We’re trying to build up a profile for them and so have some other dates lined up,” says Adam.
“They’re going to play the Green Festival in Newcastle (June 2 and 3, Leazes Park) and they are also performing at Grey’s Monument during Refugee Week (June 18-24).”
They should get a large and knowledgeable audience at World Headquarters on Friday, where a late-night music programme runs from 11pm to 3am.
Adam says the Jumpin’ Hot Club has been working with the Nigerian Society, the North East Afro Caribbean Society and Byker-based African Community Advice North East (ACANE) in support of the local music scene.
“As well as the band, we are trying to develop an audience, bringing people who live here together with new arrivals to the city.
“We are just trying to make it a more diverse place.”
Friday’s headliner, meanwhile, has a particular place in Adam’s affections, because he was buying the music of Dave Barker as a 16-year-old fan of “skinhead reggae”, as the genre was dubbed in the 1970s.
“I never dreamt I’d end up promoting him as an artist.”
Dave, who was the first reggae star to have a hit on both sides of the Atlantic with Double Barrel, also performed here in 2008, at the annual Boss Sounds Festival.
At 63, he shows no signs of slowing down, so Friday promises to be a good night. Tickets £10 on the door.