The multi-talented Merrill Garbus

The multi-talented Merrill Garbus

Imagine The Supremes backed by a scorching Afrobeat ensemble channelling Randy Newman’s gift for discomfiting lyrics and you’ll get an idea of the polyrhythmic assault on the senses that is Tune-Yards.

The project is the brainchild of Merill Garbus, a 35-year-old former puppeteer, who has the sweat-drenched audience at the packed Concorde2 eating out of her hand.

She recently told The  New Yorker magazine: “I hope that people who come to see the show feel that there’s risk involved, that the whole ship could go down at any moment. An audience deserves these rough edges.”

So it proved on the night, with the occasional snafu underlying the well-drilled performances propelled by Garbus’s collaborator Nate Brenner, on bass and synths.

The sound is celebratory, defying the audience not to be swept away by the carnival tempo.

Live, the dark undercurrents evident on the new album Nikki Nack, may be missed by an audience understandably keen to go with the celebratory flow.

When Garbus hollers: “I come from the land of slaves/ Let’s go Redskins, let’s go Braves!” it’s a polemical poke at racism while ‘Manchild’ takes down machismo swagger.

This is music that engages your brain while it kicks your ass.

Here’s the official video for Water Fountain, the single from the new album:



This review was first published in The Argus on June 27.



Bowe Bergdahl is an American enigma – and that makes him perfect for Hollywood

Bowe Bergdahl

Bowe Bergdahl

There are two movies in the pipeline about the controversial US soldier Bowe Bergdahl, including one by the acclaimed director of The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow.

Bergdahl is at the eye of a storm over his capture by Taliban forces in Afghanistan five years ago.

As I wrote in a piece for the Guardian, the movie makes should avoid heavy handed explanations of the soldier’s behavior and focus on the opportunities the strange tale has provided.

To read the piece, which was published on the Guardian Film blog on Tuesday, click here.




Appy days – Brighton’s festival is not just for the digerati


It’s almost  tecchie time!


The Brighton Digital Festival will receive £173,000 of funding over the next two years.

It will be supported  by public funding through Arts Council England’s Grants for the arts programme, which will provide management, coordination and marketing for two years. It will also fund the two-year appointment of a new festival director, Jesse Black Mooney.

Ms Mooney was the co-ordinator of last year’ event which  featured more than 170 events pulling 40,000 people.

This  year a number of commissions are up for grabs through the Grassroots Fund – the organiser is offering ten awards of £500, to go towards independently organised events that celebrate digital arts and culture. The deadline for applications  at http://www.brightondigitalfestival.co.uk is July 4.

For many people who do not move in digerati circles, the knee-jerk reaction is to dismiss the festival as a bunch of techies getting together to produce a series of baffling and self-indulgent events. Left to the aficionados that is exactly what would happen – which is as many people as possible should get involved and make the festival a true reflection of the city’s talents. From school projects to senior citizen organizations, anarcho-syndicalist movements to faith groups, nobody is untouched by the phenomenal development of digital technology. If the bells and whistles are harnessed to solve  practical and urgent problems – such as how to find meaningful employment for our under-employed highly qualified young people – the results will be worth shouting about.

I would like to see a focus on the implications for privacy and politics of the spread of digital technology. Much has been made in some sections of the media of the supposedly sinister spread of the secret state’s tentacles. But the many words written on the subject have failed to stir a broad public reaction. The Brighton Digital Festival should examine and explain this disconnect.

The festival is one example of how the Victorian’s favourite bathing spot is at the cutting edge of modern life.

It is up to us all to make it a world-beating success.



Sussex Police in new fly-on-the-wall TV series


Lights, cameras, police action

Lights, cameras, police action in Brighton

A three-part, prime time ITV documentary series, based at John Street Police Station, in Brighton, is in production.

The series, which has working title of ‘The Nick’,  has been commissioned by the ITV Head of Factual Programming, Richard Klein and aims to let viewers know what it’s like to police Brighton and Hove.

Three two-person film crews are filming from May until August, as I discovered on my way home last week. I was waiting for the bus stop near St Peter’s Church when a shoal of police cars arrived at St Peter’s Place in a blaze of flashing lights and wailing sirens. An ITV camera crew was also in tow.

A 22-year old man who appeared to be acting suspiciously ran from police as they approached to speak to him near The Level in Brighton. Police gave chase  and stopped him in St Peters Place.

A man has been charged with two offences of resisting police in the execution of their duty, and on offence of assault on police. He is due to appear on bail at Brighton Magistrates Court on July 24.

Whether this incident makes the final cut for the TV series remains to be seen.

Sussex Police was  approached by the programme makers, Renegade Pictures, in August 2012.  Last year, police chiefs agreed to two non-broadcast ‘taster’ films being made, so that the producers could explore the logistics of filming such a series, and the Force could carefully consider its working relationship with those involved to see if there was an appetite to proceed.

Chief Superintendent Neville Kemp said: “I had the support of the Chief Constable and while of course, there are some risks with something like this, I am continually impressed by the professionalism and dedication of my officers and staff who are committed to keeping our community safe.

“I want the public to see first-hand the complexities of policing, and the demands on my officers and staff. Many of them go above and beyond the call of duty to keep the public safe. It is a demanding job and we have some very dedicated people willing to do extraordinary things.

“In the last few years we have seen a number of stories damage public trust and confidence in the British police. I am hugely proud to be a British police officer and welcome transparency and accountability – after all it is the public who pay for us. That is why I think it is right to let the film makers in.

“I’m also confident that my officers and staff deliver top class policing that will make the police and the public who watch the series proud of our policing service.”

Richard Klein, head of factual programming at ITV said: “Policing modern Britain isn’t easy, and yet we all expect the very best of our police forces. The chance to explore just how difficult this is, juggling manpower and public duty with a limited budget and the ever-increasing complexities of the modern world – and this in the context of the ever-growing expectations of the public about what their police officers are actually supposed to be doing; and then set that in the sprawling, toursity, urban conurbation that is 2014 Brighton: that is a chance few would turn down. I am grateful and very pleased indeed that Sussex police and the Brighton division in particular have allowed ITV to make a documentary series portraying the realities of modern policing.”


Fifa chief must resign, say Brits



The British public belives Qatar must not be allowed to host the World Cup in 2022, following allegations that its top football official paid millions of dollars to African counterparts.

62% of the public say Qatar should be stripped of the right to hold the World Cup and 65% say Sepp Blatter should resign.

But most people are unsurprised by alleged Fifa corruption

The YouGov survey results come in the wake of the Sunday Times expose unveiling secret emails, letters and bank transfers. The newspaper alleges the documents prove Qatari football official Mohamed Bin Hammam paid £3m to officials to support Qatar’s bid for the 2022 World Cup. It says Bin Hammam’s year-long strategy was to pay for a bloc of support, which would then influence the four African committee members who could take part in the election to decide where the competition is held.

The new YouGov survey found that that 77% of British people, and 90% of football fans, think the decision to hold the world cup in Qatar was influenced by bribery and corruption, while a mere 4% think this is false.

According to the survey, 62% overall and 77% of those interested in football say that Qatar should be stripped of the right to hold the World Cup, while only 10% say it should not.

The majority of the public (72% overall and 84% of football fans) say the allegations are predictable – ‘Fifa is a corrupt organisation that has just been caught out’. Only 8% think the blame lies more with Qatar than Fifa.

Fifa’s vice-president Jim Boyce has said he would support a re-vote to find a new host for the 2022 competition if corruption is proven

Fifa president Sepp Blatter faced calls to resign after he admitted the decision to award Qatar the World Cup, despite it reaching 50 degrees in summer, was a mistake, and politically motivated in part.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said on Twitter: “These are shocking allegations about the bidding process for 2022 World Cup. If proven true, FIFA must rerun the contest fairly and openly.”

Anna Soubry, the defence minister, said someone has to get a “serious grip” on Fifa, and Nicky Morgan, the financial secretary to the Treasury, said it was “galling” that countries that play by the rules might have lost out to “money talking”.

Gary Lineker, the former England footballer, said Fifa should rerun the contest for the 2022 tournament.