Niche or Naff

Whim or Watershed? You decide

People are devious. Yet it’s easier to be cynical than to believe. Strapping on these two polar maxims Clash dives into a murky area of modern music…

Ding ding! In the blue corner: the socially excluded champions; the marginalised future heroes; the genius almost lost to strife.

And in the red corner: the clever marketing blags; the twisted history; the opportunists thriving on ignorance.

Whim or Watershed? You decide.

Hobo Musicians: Clutchy Hopkins

One of 2007’s highlights was Seasick Steve’s washed-out Thunderbird blues delivering tales from the wrong side of the tracks to comfy laminate loafing music fans. Some would say its class based musical tourism. But hey, Seasick did it first and his music sure unhinges those hips.

Now steady those floodgates. Whether this new album by Clutchy Hopkins would have been possible if it were not for Seasick Steve’s trampist soul is entirely up for debate, however what follows is a remarkable collection of information.

Clutchy Hopkins is a figure of mystery, writing smoke-stained legend and long lived songs. His is an eerie blend of dusty-bar blues, mariachi soul and hard times funk. Ubiquity Recordings stumbled across reel to reel tapes marked “C.H.”, at the Bargain Town Thrift Store in the Mojave Desert. A chance encounter with a woman who claimed to have once owned the tapes led them to ‘The Misled Children’, supposed messengers of Hopkins.

This long-haired, note scribbling, double talking duo eventually travelled to the Ubiquity office and, after drinking their fridge dry, made a deal to deliver an album’s worth of Hopkins tunes. They gave Ubiquity two tracks and then, over the course of a year, sent a dead pigeon, a half-empty jigsaw puzzle and a purple v-neck sweater.

No album appeared in the post. Eventually, a napkin from Mama C’s Restaurant arrived in an envelope. On it was written “Go see Johnny Brooklyn at Valentino’s Pizza Place – he has your music, creep.” At the back table, Mr. Brooklyn was waiting, album master in hand.

By strange coincidence label-mate Darondo is on one track, while Shawn Lee and Todd Simon (Connie Price and The Lions) were also dragged into the proceedings to complete the album. Ubiquity are not exactly sure how these collaborations came to be. They say that they are just relieved to have a finished copy.

One thing Clash is sure about: Clutchy is one musical dude and well worth a listen. Even lyrical guru MF Doom is in on the action and has laid down some rhymes with this tatty daddy of blues leaving this one hangin’ in the balance.

Have Your Say!

Do you smell fish or just a fine hobo story about to erupt?

Child Soldier Rappers: Emmaunel Jal

Jal was abducted from his village in the Sudan when he was just seven years old and forced to fight as a child soldier against Government troops for five years with an AK 47, which for a while was bigger than he was. He was sent to war in Ethiopia and southern Sudan, one of thousands of children taken from their homes to fight.

Now, as he approaches his thirties, his hip-hop career has flourished and he is using his experiences to highlight a message of reconciliation and peace, in his homeland and all across the world.

Peter Gabriel, all round nice man of music said: “I was enormously impressed meeting Emmanuel Jal. He is an extraordinary artist, led by the heart. A man on a mission who I am sure will eventually affect an enormous number of people in Africa at first, and then around the world. I felt I was meeting a man with the potential of a young Bob Marley. There is a generosity and compassion in his approach to the world that is an inspiration to me, and I am sure will be to many others.”

Jal has invested heavily in charity work and his music can be found alongside Coldplay, Gorillaz, and Radiohead on the fundraising ‘Warchild – Help A Day In The Life’ album. His music can also be found in three ER episodes, the National Geographic documentary God Grew Tired of Us, and more recently in the feature film Blood Diamond starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

However before accusastions of profiteering can be thrown, Emmanuel has donated money to build two schools in the Sudan and has returned from exile to witness the poverty and deploy aid on the front line.

With a documentary on Jal’s life scheduled for 2008, his autobiography has been sold to St. Martin’s Press, his new album ‘Warchild’ is due for release early 2008 with additional production and mix by Neal Pogue who has worked with Outkast, Talib Kweli and Pharohae Monch.

Life is looking up for Jal. He is over his hardships – but is he being used by the industry to make more money for labels and promoters? And what about all the conflict children still trapped in Africa fighting in wars beyond their years?

Catch Emmaunel Jal in action at Oxjam 07 –

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