Musicport Day, Coastival
Scarborough Spa, Sunday 20 February 2011
Originally published on Tuesday 22nd February 2011 at http://www.digyorkshire.com/HighlightDetails.aspx?Article=1133
“Would the owner of a silver estate car parked outside the main entrance please move it immediately. It is about to be swept away”. So announces our glamorous compere, as the roaring waves crash over the sea wall and sweep across the road. As I gaze out of the Spa’s aptly named Ocean Room, I begin to wonder if the Victorians hadn’t pondered building it a bit further back.
Being balmy February, it’s the ideal time for Coastival, a magnificent festival with hundreds of things happening across town. There’s art installations, gigs and even sword dancing workshops. Friday’s opening night saw the Levellers kick off proceedings, followed by comedian Count Arthur Strong on Saturday.
Today’s highlight is Musicport Day, curated by Jim and Sue McLaughlin of the local Musicport Festival. Beginning in 2000, Musicport has become the largest indoor world music festival in the UK, held in nearby Bridlington each autumn. Today’s a taste of what you can expect to find, including people from countries all over the world, and fascinating music you’ve never heard before.
Three of the four bands appearing today are from Yorkshire. As world music is a bit of a niche, this is either an excellent indication of our region’s cultural diversity, or a rather exaggerated territorial claim encompassing several continents.
First up are The Everly Pregnant Brothers, a band of ukulele-wielding Sheffielders, who count among their ranks comedian Toby Foster. They’re a covers band, but specialise in that difficult subgenre of ‘Yorkshire’, subtly altering the lyrics of hits like ‘Sex on Fire’ to ‘Me Chip Pan’s On Fire’. That particular one’s been circling in my head for days, along with ‘No Oven No Pie’.
Next on stage are Rafiki Jazz, also from Sheffield, with heritage from countries including Brazil, Colombia, Gambia and Zimbabwe. The music drifts from serene Senegalese poetry to pounding global dance, held together by Mim Suleiman, a ray of human sunshine blessed with a powerful, soulful voice. Mixing steel drums with tabla, kora with guitar and berimbau with beatbox, Rafiki Jazz quickly fill the dancefloor with an amazing fusion of sounds that, in their words, “comes from a special place… over there!”
Following on are The Hut People, a two-man band consisting of former Beautiful South percussionist Gary Hammond and accordion player Sam Pirt. Despite being lower on members, they’re able to generate a huge, beefy sound that rivals Rafiki Jazz’s barnstorming set, veering from English morris songs to Finnish dances and clog dancing for good measure. “This one’s our drum and bass number”, Sam announces, shortly before Gary pounds a large stick adorned with beer bottle tops rhythmically into the floor. “A good activity to do with the kids”, he suggests, shortly before the dancefloor is rushed with scores of gyrating bodies.
To finish the night are Berlin’s 17 Hippies. As they arrive on stage, an announcement is made over the PA. “Don’t count!” Shock! There’s only twelve. This, of course, doesn’t matter, as they launch straight into a blazing Eastern European fiddle’n’banjo dance number that sounds like there could in fact be 117 hippies on stage. They’re huge in their native Germany and France, but seem to love the fact they’re playing in Scarborough. “In Berlin, we’re so far from the sea”, vocalist Antje Henkel says. “But here, it’s right there!”
Indeed, it is – and as I venture outside afterwards, I notice that it’s closer still. I’d forgotten how cold it was – the music had transported me to more exotic climes. Although the weather’s cold in Scarborough, it’s a cultural hotspot this weekend. But, as I look out at the approaching waves in the darkness, I can’t seem to pick out that silver estate car.