The Red Bulletin September 2019 (UK)


Red Bull Music Festival London

“London has a

profound impact on

me as a creative.

It‘s a very

harmonious chaos”

Joe Armon-Jones

& Nabihah Iqbal

The tag team

Nabihah Iqbal


Just back from playing at

Glastonbury, 26-year-old pianist

Joe Armon-Jones seems a little

dazed that jazz superstar Kamasi

Washington had joined him on stage

at his Sunday-night gig alongside

Afrobeat band Kokoroko. “[LA

trombonist] Ryan Porter rolled

through, and Kamasi played on some

of my tunes. It was pretty mad,” he

says. “I was directing legends that

I’ve looked up to for some time.”

Armon-Jones is used to adapting

quickly. He plays with different

musicians almost every night, either

as part of renowned London jazz

crew Ezra Collective or in his own

projects. But despite the nearconstant

attachment of the word

‘jazz’ to anything he does, he’s

reluctant to label his music. “I don’t

sound like Miles Davis. It’s a mixture

of improvisation, dub, hip hop, soul,

funk – if I start giving it a stupid

name like, ‘Oh, it’s trap-dub-jazz,’

then it’s like I’ve put a stamp on it.

It would stop me from making

whatever I want to make in the

future. I don’t want to be thinking

about genres when I make tunes.”

The Oxfordshire-born musician

moved to south London to study jazz,

and he cites local DJ and producer

Maxwell Owin as a key influence. “He

opened my mind to dance music. As a

jazz musician, it’s easy to be arrogant

about other music styles because, say,

there might not be as many notes. But

when you go to make those styles,

you realise how hard it is.”

When 32-year-old Nabihah Iqbal

says she has diverse taste in music,

she means it. A childhood Michael

Jackson fan, she spent her teens

dancing to ska-punk at Camden’s

Underworld club, and cites her

favourite recent gig as jazz legends

Sun Ra Arkestra at Dalston’s Cafe

OTO. On her fortnightly NTS radio

show, she’ll play anything from the US

punk-rock of Alkaline Trio to calypso.

There are no boundaries,” she

says; something that has surprised

those with narrow ideas about what

music a British-Asian woman might

listen to and play. “It’s why I’ve

chosen to use my real name as an

artist,” she says, explaining why

she dropped her previous moniker,

Throwing Shade. “This is who I am

and what I do, and there’s nothing

incongruous about it.”

Iqbal’s own sound is dreamy

and electronic, as heard on her

2017 album Weighing of the Heart.

A multi-instrumentalist – playing

guitar, piano, flute and sitar, thanks

to a degree in ethnomusicology – she

studied to be a human rights lawyer

and sat the bar, but a sideline in DJing

at friends’ parties led her to music.

If music is her first love, London is

a close second: “It’s where I was born

and lived my whole life, so it has a

profound impact on me as a person

and a creative. It’s a very harmonious

chaos.” She grew up near Regent’s

Park and now lives behind Abbey

Road Studios. “I’m channelling the

energy. There are legendary studios

in that area, so I’ve got good music

feng shui. Noel and Liam Gallagher

lived nearby when I was a kid –

I used to see them on the street and

freak out. Once, I walked into a

lamppost because Noel, Paul Weller

and Alan McGee – Oasis’ manager –

were sat outside a café on St John’s

Wood High Street. I was 10 years old.”

September 11:

Round Robin

EartH, Stoke Newington

Road, N16

Created for the RBMF, this

event pairs up solo artists

from different backgrounds

for unpredictable, one-of-akind

performances. So, how

does Round Robin work?

NI: “There’s one person

on stage, then the second

person comes on and you

play together for a bit. Then

the first person leaves and

a new person comes on. So

there are always two people

playing, but it’s random.”

RED BULL: How do you feel

about sharing the stage?

NI: “Jamming with people

on the spot can be a bit

daunting, but it pushes you

out of your comfort zone.”

JAJ: “I like having other

people to bounce off.”

RB: What will you play?

JAJ: “Just keys, man. I can’t

play anything else.”

NI: “Guitar. I’ll take some

effects and maybe a loop

pedal. I play lots of things

a little bit.”

RB: Can you prepare for

an event like this?

JAJ: “You can try to make a

plan, but it’s a bit pointless,

really. Whatever happens,

you’ve just gotta go with it.”


More magazines by this user
Similar magazines