Sebastian Scotney spoke to Jumoké Fashola about her new album, The Condition of Being A Woman
Sebastian Scotney: Tell me about yourself
Jumoké Fashola: I’m a broadcaster and vocalist with a passion for jazz. My début album The Condition of Being A Woman is released this month. I also curate and present the monthly Jazz Verse Jukebox, a night of live Jazz and Poetry, Upstairs @ Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club.
SS: Does your first name mean something (in what language?)
JF: Well my full first name is Olajumoké – which means in Yoruba means ‘wealth or well being has come to bless this child’. Yoruba is a Nigerian language.
SS: Where does the singing come from? Have you always been a performer?
JF: I went to a private Roman Catholic school and sang occasionally in the choir. I decided when I was about 14, that I wanted to be an actress. This appalled my mother who called a family meeting in an attempt to deter me from ‘bringing shame on my family name’. Ironically, once I was ‘well known’ in Nigeria, it became less of an issue. No one in my immediate family sings but in my extended family, I have a distant uncle who ran a Jazz Club (the first place I ever sang a jazz song) and another who is a renowned professor of ethno-musicology. We listened to music from around the world when I was growing up.However, I learnt about the jazz greats,from a boyfriend at Uni,who used to bring me a gift of music every week and say ‘listen to this and make up your own mind’.He was a jazz fan and that has influenced me ever since.
SS: Are you a morning lark or a night owl or both or neither?
JF: It seems, I am both a morning lark and night owl with lots of sleep in-between!I have presented both late night and early morning radio shows, so my body has become used to weird hours. I do love the dawn though, there is something magical about catching the beginning of each day. One of my favourite poems is Daybreak by J. J. Rabearivelo. It’s starts, “Have you see the dawn go poaching in nights orchard? See she is coming down eastern pathways overgrown by lily blooms . . .“
SS: Wardrobe / headgear secrets?
JF: I’ve worn headwraps for years, it’s all about the fabric and the way it’s wrapped. Everyone has their own style. Be warned they are always called headwraps NEVER hats!
SS: Are some of your new best friends altered chords?
JF: er we could be closer!
SS: What made you want to do an album?
JF: I have been fortunate to work with some of the most fabulous musicians over the years andI just wanted to capture some of my live musical experience to date.
SS: And why at this moment in your life?
JF: Because it feels right. I have spent quite a few years growing as a musician, finding my own voice and what I want to say through music. When I was growing up I wanted to do two major things – be an actress and sing.As an actress in Nigeria, I appeared in quite a few Nigeriansitcoms. In fact, one newspaper a few years ago, dubbed me the ‘Kylie Minogue of Nigeria’ That’s to do with the sitcoms of course, not the hot pants! Music has been a long term goal and I am just so excited that this album has come into being.
SS: Is there a narrative running through it?/Is there one song which tells your story? Or do they all?
JF: The album is a distillation of my diverse musical tastes with a particular emphasis on African inspired jazz, reflecting my musical journey to date from Africa, Europe and beyond. It’s called The Condition of Being A Woman. The ‘condition’ refers to what it is like to be a woman living in the 21st C.I am interested in the stories that we tell about ourselves.The level of multitasking that is expected from us is sometimes overwhelming.My original composition,’Recession Blues‘is about the politics of living. Can I blame David Cameron and Nick Clegg for the lack of money in my pocket? Do I really have to give up shopping at Sainsbury’s for Primark because of the banking crisis? Or as someone who is now an ‘orphan’ (as both of my parents have died), how do I make sense of their history and mine? Do they disappear and leave nothing behind? That is what I’ve tried to explore with the Wayne Shorter tune, ‘Footprints‘ using the poetry of Birago Diop.There’s also the excitement of a new love – (Welcome To Love) And what do you do when someone you thought was always going to be in your life,leaves or hurts you?(my song ‘You Stay‘ ) How do you deal with that hurt? Do you become bitter – ‘When Doves Cry‘? I’m also interested in the notions of Identity and estrangement. That is why I wanted to do Tim Sutton’s songI am a Stranger, and Nina Simone’sFour Women. Oh and there’s some fun stuff as well.
SS: Who else is involved?
JF: Amazing band! It’s been such a privilege to work with such fantastic musicians: Simon Wallace(Barb Jungr, ‘Absolutely Fabulous’, Waterboys) onPiano/Rhodes,Oli Hayhurst(Pharoah Sanders, Zoe Rahman) on Double and Electric Bass,James Maddren(Gwilym Simcock, Kit Downes) on Drums,Richard Olatunde Baker(Mulatu Astatke, Seun Kuti) on Percussion.
SS: What’s gone right so far?
JF: The support I have had has been amazing. This album would not exist, without my decision to take the plunge to crowd fund it via Pledge music and a Jazz Services Recording Scheme grant, and friends and family. I have learnt that people like to be involved. That asking people to be enablers, is not begging,but it’s is a chance for all of us to share in our mutual journeys, to help each other to grow and fulfill our individual dreams.
Sebastian Scotney: What can… possibly go wrong?
Jumoké Fashola: Well, as with every album that is released,not getting it to the people who may want to hear it.It’s already been rather stressful getting to this point. Releasing an album as an independent is a labour of love!
Jumoké is appearing at the Hippodrome Casino on Thursday 17th April. Tickets HERE