Tom Farmer’s MOBO Memories

Tom Farmer of Empirical (third from the right in the photo above- credit William Ellis) writes about the group’s MOBO win.

We were overjoyed to win the 2010 MOBO award for best jazz act. How often does British jazz get an audience of millions?

Our trip up to the award ceremony last week was fun, if a little terrifying! The four of us, our manager and assistant, record label rep, special guest Julian Siegel and Shane’s brother John Paul were met by a red carpet welcome, screaming fans (not for us of course), celebrities, uber-trendy pop stars of all persuasions. We were experiencing a different world! Fortunately the new suits provided us with the confidence essential to make the most of an overwhelming evening, and long after party.

BBC presenter Reggie Yates was hosting the show with Alesha Dixon. When he announced jazz award, BBC 3 viewers would have heard his quip: ‘…try not to fall asleep during the Jazz award…’ Sharp intakes of breath on the Empirical table. When we heard ‘…give it up for…Empirical!’, I became more nervous than when playing at the Barbican, QEH or my first school concert in front of attentive parents: I was to make the acceptance speech (no pressure).

With award in hand, I had to bring Reggie up to speed – ‘…one more thing yeah, Reggie, come to on of our gigs, you won’t fall asleep man…you’ll be cool!’ Smiles, jokes and handshakes were all tastefully edited out for BBC 1 viewers.

But in all seriousness, the mainstream power of the MOBOs should not be underestimated. We were thankful for a brief moment, but for all those fans, hanging on the presenters’ and pop stars’ every word, Jazz is once again stereotyped and marginalised. Not helpful for the survival of Britain’s ‘hidden musical wealth’ especially in such bleak economic times.

We keep hearing things at our gigs like: “I liked your music! Does that mean I like Jazz?’: Bring it on Reggie and everyone who believes in the MOBO awards. Get to a gig this year, have your British Jazz misconceptions challenged. You never know, you might even enjoy it!

Categories: miscellaneous

5 replies »

  1. Being at the event, it seems Reggies comments completely worked in Empiricals favour. They got a huge response from the live audience and were much congratulated on their eloquent acceptance and much deserved win.
    What a lovely bunch.

  2. I second that – and congratulations to Empirical (whose 'Dolphy' gig at the Forge I loved).

    Secondly, you raise some important issues in that short paragraph – What is it with these people? You wonder what's going on in their heads – is 'jazz' a threat to them? Do they feel insecure if they are seen to be interested or aligned with the music? What will their friends and workmates think of them – will they be thought of as 'cissys', 'arty', 'intellectuals', in this age of dumbing down culture and its finer points? It's a pretty sad reflection on the silent and inarticulate majority who have to be spoonfed and consume their so-called music and culture in its lowest common denominator form to retain peer-group creds.

    Just keep playin'!


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