The Ones to Watch
(Part One of Two)
THIS year is not even at its half-way mark and...
there are some many great, new musicians coming through. Whether you prefer your sounds reflective and calm; rambunctious and chaotic- or somewhere in the middle- you are well catered-for. I have been luckily enough to review and support some of the most unique musicians around the world. In coming additions- two more arriving soon- I will be looking at artists like Elena Ramona, Kirbanu and Duke of Wolves; Grime and Jazz artists; Pop and Folk stars- taking in acts from all around the globe.
In the first installment, I highlight wonderful solo artists and bands; D.J.s and Electro. artists-in-the-making: wonderful voices and unique talent. Sit back, relax and discover some musicians who will be making big moves through 2016/’17.
Here are the first bunch…
The State of Georgia
After reviewing No Man’s Land (in February) I was compelled to check-out The State of Georgia’s album, Roses & Swallows- https://thestateofgeorgia.bandcamp.com/. The title track features flowing piano notes and lyrics that intrigue the mind (“The Roses and Swallows will know where I’ve been/They’ll know where I’m going and what I have seen/They’ll make time stand still and the world shy away”). The Wolf packs bellicose percussion and features a heroine/central figure that howls at the moon. Maybe documenting a former friend- someone who has changed for the worse- it is one of the finest vocal performances on the album. Tracks Father, Brother and Mother deals with a trilogy of familial insight. Father is filled with fatherly advice and caution; Brother is a darker and more disturbed beast; Mother a redemptive and beautiful piece that sees a motherly bond transcend trouble and pain- “when you light up all the bad is gone and I am fine”. An incredible album that mixes Tori Amos-esque flavours with Regina Spektor grandeur: Roses & Swallows (is one of 2016’s) most captivating records. The self-funded L.P. not only shows what faith fans have in Georgina Jakubiak: it demonstrates an incredible talent at the peak of her abilities. The Leeds-based musician is someone you will want to keep a very close eye on.
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I have long-adored Edinburgh’s Steve Heron and his stunning blend of ‘80s-isnpired Punk and beautiful, heartfelt songs. It has been a while since Heron has posted new material: Three of Swords is a demo. That has just been released. A bouncing, rousing guitar supports lyrics that look at mortality, love and introspection. Our hero dreams- despite having no tradable looks to fall back on- of a particular girl: recalling a time when her lips were on his; the two were in each other’s arms. Having hesitated and come this far: you feel that desire to rekindle love and gain something precious. Heron’s soulful and commanding vocal brings the song fully to life- it would be wonderful to see it given a full studio treatment. Let’s hope there is more material (and E.P., perhaps) from the Scot. in the coming months. Three of Swords is classic Steve Heron: earnest, honest lyrics that blends romantic longing and humour; a sense of defeat and a need to succeed. Edinburgh is the home to some wonderful and multi-talented musicians: few are as memorable and impressive as Heron.
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Rews consist of Belfast songstress Shauna Tohill and beat-making London-dweller, Collette Williams. The extraordinary chemistry and understand the girls share feeds into their electrifying, Pop-Rock stunners. Songs that look at real-life issues and unusual characters: radio stations, fans and causal listeners have been entranced by their incredible, bold songs. Rews remind me of a female Royal Blood: they have epic tunes and an undeniable bond; they have the potential to be one of the U.K.’s biggest duos. Shake Shake- their most recent single- is notching up the YouTube views: there is no denying what a following they have. Tohill is one of the most consistent songwriters and unique singer-guitarists around: Williams has been signed to the Tama U.K. brand; one of the most passionate and talented drummers around. The girls are playing a host of festivals this year- including a prestigious spot at Glastonbury- and are busy on the promotional circuit. The girls’ kinetic energy and incredible live performances have created huge buzz around London. Few would bet against them conquering Europe and the U.S. in years to come- a string of high-profile gigs will go a long way to achieving that goal.
The Scottish Alternative-Rock band their sophomore album, Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace in February. The ten-track album followers from their debut, Back to Earth. There have been changes and challenges within the band’s ranks- creative doubts and personal alterations- but this has not dampened and distilled their quality. The Pavement/Pixies-inspired songs see twin-leads James and Lisa Russell deliver an incredible set of songs- each with one eye for the live crowds. Their singalong choruses and incredible band performances have got critics talking and fans enthralled. I have followed the guys for several years and see how much they have evolved and strengthened. A determined and intrepid quintet: they have achieved a lot over their five-year careers. Each track (across Watched Over by Machines’) has a sense of uplift and positivity. Even if the central messages look at something fraught- anxieties and doubts- you get warmth and comfort in the vocals; an electric riff that enthralls the bones- a rousing kick that invigorates the senses. After a busy last few months, the guys are showing no signs of slowing. So many bands and musicians have stumbled at hurdles and called time: the fact Universal Thee have steely resolve- and continue to roll on- shows just how much desire they have. Of course, it helps if you have exceptional, ready-for-the-eager-crowds tune: the Edinburgh have this is shed-loads.
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Yorkshire’s Jen Armstrong is one of the most distinct musicians I have ever encountered. Her songs mix witticism and humour: an upbeat and quirky take on modern life; a rarified and exceptional songwriting talent. Sound-tracking these songs is that incredible, versatile voice: something capable of heart-breaking purity and sky-scraping intensity. An exceptional pianist and musician- she works at London’s The Piano Works- her commitment to music is non-stop. When she is not performing live- which she does as part of her job- she is formulating new tunes and working on fresh cover versions. Having relocated to London: it marks a new stage in Armstrong’s career. Having performed in the U.S. - she has spent a lot of time in L.A. and Nashville; wowing the crowds there- and New Zealand: that experience and travelogue blends into her characterful and beautiful songs. Whether an album/E.P. is due this/next year; that will not matter a jot: Armstrong is always creating music and keeping herself busy. A few seconds after she starts singing; she can silence a crowd: get the jaws dropped and attention grabbed. London is a lonely and large city: with Armstrong in it; it seems a lot happier, friendly and magical.
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Between radio appearances- having just appeared on Sussex’s B.B.C. Introducing- and releasing new music- the track, Nikki, was unveiled a month ago- Eden Jones has had scant time to put her feet on the ground. Jones is one of the boldest and most confident musicians I have encountered in years. Previous tracks Our Time Is Now and Wild Hearts are complete with bubbling electronics and gorgeous vocals: exceptional production and stirring emotions. Wild Hearts is particular affecting: a stunning, symphonic song that boasts one of Jones’ most captivating vocals. Previously based in L.A. - in love with the city and its vibrant atmosphere- Jones has gained a lot from her U.S. residency. Now in the U.K., we are lucky to have in our midst. This is another musician I am watching closely and excited about. Every performance- whether live or on record- leaves me emotional, thought-provoked and affected. There are many excited and fascinated to see where Jones heads next. Such a complete and fascinating talent: she has a warmth, down-to-Earth demenaour and sweetness- a readymade, girl-next-door musician that can easily win hearts.
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Baylis is another musician I have been following for several years. An Oxford graduate with a fascinating past- her family and background is the stuff of novels- her incredible beauty and strength goes into music that gets into the soul and registers some serious emotions. Baylis has just released You Don’t Love Me: the second demo. from her forthcoming E.P. That E.P. will be a relief and welcomed addition to the back catalogue of a singular musician. Previous tracks such as Into the Water have been replete with cinematic drama and vivid lyrics: her new material sees new inspiration and motivation come to the fore. Her voice seems more lustful and full- a raw passion has replaced the sweetness- and fragmented relations arrive in her songbook. With Ross O’Reilly in the producer’s seat: Baylis’ new material ranks among her very best. Despite a gap between original material: Baylis has been touring and performing relentlessly- taking her incredible tracks to crowds across the U.K. If you want to back a musician that can go all the way- and continue to produce amazing, deep songs- then you will not go wrong with Lydia Baylis. The Wiltshire-born heroine is an arresting and tantilising proposition: one of those musicians you hope will achieve everything she sets her mind to.
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My first non-musician inclusion: Robb Powell is a taste-maker-cum-D.J.-cum-blogger. Retiring his Band of Badgers blog- that brings together the best, genre-spanning Indie music into one place- Powell continues to be a part of #RKC: where he presents a weekly podcast/show. Keen to support new musicians and bring us the freshest, finest sounds around: make sure you check out Powell’s work and guidance. An altruistic, intensely passionate music-lover: we could all learn a lesson from this guy. If you do not have time to investigate his podcasts: make sure you read the blog and discover artists of extraordinary calibre; the commitment and focus (Powell puts into) his work.
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Official (Band of Badgers):
It has only been a couple of days since I reviewed Echo Arcadia’s latest album, Visions of Symmetry. Another great Scottish band- bit of a theme occurring here! -the group’s blend of atmospheric introspection and gorgeous melodies makes the album one of the most-essential of this year. Leigh Moyes and Jenna White’s vocal combination- White is no longer part of the band- create some of the biggest reactions imaginable- sending the songs into hyper-drive. The entire band has grown in scope and ability: they have grown stronger and galvanised since their debut album, Beauty in an Average Life. Ensure you pick the L.P. up and discover a band like no other. Although the lyrics can err towards s certain weariness and defeatism: there is always hope, light and inspiration waiting; plenty of beauty, passion and determination. The music industry is filling up with promising bands and artists that could succeed to the mainstream. Echo Arcadia seem ready for the task at hand. They have the musicianship, bonds and tunes all in place- all they need is that break. That will surely come soon enough: there is a determination and work ethic in the group that deserves rich rewards and long-term success.
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Jo Kelsey Music
Performing with Niels Bakx: Jo Kelsey is one of the most arresting and alluring singers I have heard. She has recently been traveling the globe but is back in the U.K. New music will arrive soon enough, but for the time being, there are plenty of tracks available online- underlining what a duo (Bakx and Kelsey) are. The chemistry and combination works just right. Bakx’s assured and confident guitars- he is part of London band, Los and the Deadlines- gives Kesley the drive and support for her voice to flourish and fly. Whether speaking of love’s imbalance or the struggles we all face: every performance is delivered with a tremendous amount of soul, heart and expression. The Folk-cum-Blues bases are instilled with Rock and Acoustic contrasts- a duo that does not like to stick to one (rigid) sound. Based out of the capital, I am sure their music will take them all across the country. It is always hard finding artists that will survive and continue to exist in music. Given how far they have come- and how long they have been playing together- there is no danger of imminent split. In fact, I know the guys will be looking to the future and fresh ideas- hopefully just in time for the summer. Leading Us Home is the latest track available online: check it out if you get a chance to.
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James Edge and the Mindstep
After reviewing On a Red Horse recently- check it out on my blog- I was left somewhat crestfallen and stunned- not in a bad way. The experimentation and psychotropic elements- not to mention the dark, unforgettable music video- certainly made its mark. There are few acts that can mix in Jazz and Rock; put Prog.-Rock in there and make something, not only credible, but extraordinary. The clamour and franticness of On a Red Horse is only the start of things. Look back; and you have a compelling and varied back catalogue. Edge’s wistful and commanding tones make every song (within the On a Red Horse E.P.) sound essential and special. His band- Avvon Chambers on percussion; Andrew Waterworth on double bass- add colour, energy and mysticism. Many have made Radiohead comparisons- the band have a bit of The Bends/OK Computer-era Radiohead to them- so if you are a fan of the Oxford legends- you will want to check out James Edge and the Mindstep. An incredible musical force with plenty more music to come- watch this space…
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Beyond Memory is the latest offering from German-born NINA. Based out of London: she is one of the most exciting and beautiful talents in the city. The Synth.-Pop artist is just as stunning covering material as she is writing her own- NINA’s version of Blondie’s Heart of Glass is a stunning thing. At the moment, NINA is getting settled in Greenwich- moving into a new studio there- and preparing more material. Taking influence from the likes of David Bowie, Depeche Mode and Cindy Lauper: a wonderful artist who can mix genres and sounds; without compromising her own identity. Towards the end of this year, NINA will be touring around Germany- ensuring her home nation get to see her in the flesh. That brings us to the subject of new music: when can we expect some? Head over to iTunes- https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/beyond-memory-ep/id1101787845- and you can get her Beyond Memory E.P. Perhaps there will be a new album (towards the year’s end) or another E.P.- NINA is one busy girl! Whatever comes, you can be guaranteed this: you will definitely want to get your hands on it!
I have a lot of admiration and respect for Carly Wilford. She has achieved more in the past few years than I have my entire life. An influential D.J. and presenter: she is one of the most influential movers-and-shakers in the country. As the creator of I Am Music- http://iammusic.tv/- she has created a platform where upcoming artists can link with producers and record labels. Driven by a clear passion for music: Wilford wants to leave a legacy; create something that will inspire musicians to come onto the scene and dream big. Outside of I Am Music, there is Sister- https://soundcloud.com/itssister- presented with Shan McGinley. Global. Rave. Material. for the masses: make sure you head over and see a true talent at work. Whether doing D.J. work or reviewing; presenting or voiceover stuff: there seems to be no slowing-down for Carly Wilford. Someone who puts her heart and soul into music and its possibilities.
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Liam Aitken and Jack Butler
Very soon, Liam and Jack will be presenting (a weekly show) on Kane F.M.- http://www.kanefm.com/. I have always been a critic of local radio- not having the quality and showmanship to rival the best of the mainstream- but that could well change. Bringing their dedication for music- not to mention plenty of banter, fun and energy- their show (Wednesdays, 9-11am) will be worth tuning into. Individually, both are respected and incredible musicians. Jack’s Mania Productions Ltd. Will soon be the home of his new music and output- a Surrey-based D.J. and musician who has a big future. Liam’s alma mater, Next State, are on the verge of releasing new music. Having sequestered himself in the studio: we will soon see some Electronic bliss. Having heard previous Next State material- and knowing what kind of songwriter/producer Liam is- it is sure to be a summer-ready smash for the masses. Be sure to check out Liam and Jack- on the links below- and catch their Kane F.M. show- the result of their hard work and passion for music; I am excited to see how far they can go.
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Jack Butler (Mania Productions Ltd.)
Liam Aitken (Next State)
I ‘discovered’ Siggie Smalls the same time as Carly Wilford. Here is another (incredible) D.J. and talent that easily put a smile on the face. As D.J./Host for MEATtrasMISSION- her Sunday shows are a definite highlight- Smalls delves into the annals of Disco and beyond. With every show you can hear that passion and spirit come through- there are few people that become so involved in the music itself. I would love to see Smalls take on a bigger role- it seems like she can have a great career in radio- and make her way to the mainstream. Whether that is in her mind- or she prefers to be where she is- you can just see her commanding the decks of a popular station like 6 Music. There are a lot of great D.J.s in London- I am a fan of Hoxton Radio especially- but few can rival Smalls’ captivation, charm and personality. I am not sure what the rest of 2016 holds for her- whether she is making plans for new music or has any plans- but I know she get bigger and more popular- she already has a loyal band of social media followers behind her. What we have is a multi-talented young woman with a lot more to offer.
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Duke of Wolves
The London band have only been playing for a matter of months but are already shaping up to be one of the most exhilarating and snarling bands in the U.K. Their love of Queens of the Stone Age, Led Zeppelin and Rage Against the Machine comes out in their explosive, fists-in-the-air tracks. Songs It’s Real and Hollow are to-the-throat smashes: songs that make you want to take to the floor and lose yourself in their potency. Hard-hitting percussion and solid bass link with ferocious, swaggering guitars- all topped-off by Jim Lawton’s impassioned and gripping vocals. The quartet is making their first steps but already have confidence and ambition. With the gigs mounting and praise coming through: that patronage and experience will make the material even sharper and more incredible. It will be fascinating to see an E.P. from them- a four/five-track record that shows just what they are made of- and more gigs. The gang will be performing on the Hard Rock Stage at the Isle of Wight Festival. That is quite an honour for such a new band- not really a shock when you hear their material; let it blow you away. Once all the dust has settled- it will be a crazy, exciting summer for them- they will be looking to new material and audiences: expanding their horizons and thinking big. With the talent and ability they have in the camp- they are an act you can see hitting the big-time.
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Music has few characters as bold and memorable as Lola Coca. The Portsmouth-born artists is a colourful, cheeky and intoxicating human- guaranteed to make you smile inanely. Previous tracks Bad Girlfriend and Love Songs showed what an innovative and compelling proposition Lola Coca is. GQ- perhaps her finest song yet- looks at suit-wearing businessman and a smarminess that pervades. Walking down the street- eyed by these well-oiled types- you can hear her disdain and disrespect. She has just played- and throughout loved- the Chill-Out Festival in Istanbul: people around the world have fallen for her music, hard. Blending ‘90s Rap/Hip-Hop- Missy Elliot is someone you can detect in the music- and around Pop-cum-Ska avenues: you get a balance of laid-back groove and tight beats; swirling, jagged electronics- commanding vocals and stand-in-the-mind lyrics. Sassy, witty and in-control: Lola Coca is a class of her own. As is common- as I have done with other artists in this feature- I am curious to see whether an E.P. is coming out. Songs like GQ and Bad Girlfriend have captured the imagination and have connected with her fans and followers. Clearly on one hell of a roll: this year very much belongs to Lola Coca.
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Meat Loving Vegans
With bits of The Clash; little elements of Jazz and Experimental: Meat Loving Vegans is an act that does things very different. On paper, they could have rubbed shoulders with the likes of The Clash and The Buzzcocks. Front-man Dexter Krenal formed the band from his South London bedsit in 2015. Having had a tough upbringing- raised on a council estate; he turned to a life of crime and misbehavior- he started again and built from scratch. Reaching out on Facebook: the band started to take shape. It has not been the easiest ride, but things are starting to blossom. Performing in a number of venues in the capital: the quartet are working on their second album. Their first L.P. - Lost in Fiction- is one of the most extraordinary albums I have heard in years. You get short, sharp Punk jams; longer more introspective numbers: songs that look at weird characters and gritty neighbourhoods- there is romance and hope among the dirt and grime. Coming away from the band- after hearing their music- you, somehow, feel better. There is an odd medicinal quality to the sound- few artists can provide that.
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Reni has just released her new single, I Thought You Were Gay. I was fortunate enough to review the song. What amazed me was the detail, story and quality of the lyrics. So much humour and comedy in a track that emanates from a rather embarrassing scenario- misreading romantic signals from her gym instructor; thinking he was gay. As Reni admits it: her sexual compass is perhaps not the most accurate of things. This awkward encounter has gone into a brilliant song that has gained a lot of praise and effusiveness from the online community. Putting her everything into music and the pursuit of her dreams: you get that feeling Ina Reni will be a mainstream star of the future. If you want to support Reni and her music career: there is an online crowd-funding campaign- https://vimeo.com/162746942. By donating, it will afford her the chance to make videos and launch her music: afford her more opportunity and development. There are few singers and musicians that have her determination and talent. A varied and extraordinary songwriter: it has been quite an eventful and productive year for her.
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This stunning redhead has had a varied and busy career so far. Not only is she a songwriter and dancer: she appeared in a production of Last Night a D.J. Saved My Life- appearing alongside David Hasselhoff. Just yesterday, a cryptic picture of Welcome to the Show (her album) appeared by a B.B.C. Radio 1 microphone. It seems that some pretty impressive airplay is about to arrive for the young musician. Little Secrets is an insight into a very special and assured songwriter: someone who can put so many emotions and dramatics into a song. Given her theatrical background: Gray already has an advantage over many of her peers. A natural and consummate performer: this all translate into her songs; they are some of the most direct and beautiful around. A few days ago, Gray performed at Pride in London: there will be more great gigs and new coming very soon. Now is the time to familiarise yourself with a British talent who is getting a lot of attention and focus. You can sense her career is about to take-off and explode.
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The Vim Dicta
This American trio is touring the U.K. at the moment and seducing the crowds here. Having arrived from the U.S.: there was the expectation they would only be here a few weeks. Their live performances and incredible music has enthralled audiences- leading to increased demands and new tour dates. Their ‘Psychogroove’ music brings together multiple genres- from Grunge and Punk to Alternative- in a fiery, wonderful combustion. An extremely tight and memorable live act: if you are in the area (they are due to appear) I suggest you get down and see them. Cori Eliot, Matt Tunney and Chris Infusino are on a noble charge right now. Alongside their U.K. dates; the guys are looking to release new material in the future. If they can find time to get into the studio- they might be here for the rest of time!- they will also want to take a breather- it has been a hectic and busy last few months. There are few bands that can arrive here- without much of a foundation and support here- and go down a storm. The Vim Dicta will give impetus to other (American or international) bands that have trepidation about coming here. The audiences are out there, and as The Vim Dicta have shown: you get the music right and the people will clasp you to their bosoms.
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The Updraft Imperative
My favourite Australian band is another who has had a very busy year. Pieces of My Past was released a little while back and showed how consistent they are. Since Chair (their debut released a few years back) I have been longing for new material from the Christian-Rock band. They are tight-lipped about a future album- only that one will come down the line- but there is likely to be plenty of demand. The fact Chair is being talked-about so long after its release: it goes to show their messages and music transcends the borders of faith and religion. They are not your archetypical Christian-Rock band. In addition to rocking as hard as any out there: their lyrics apply to a larger world; they tap on universal themes and pains; imploring uplift and spirit in the face of adversity. Away from the music, the chaps are fun-loving and funny- perhaps fitting into an Australian stereotype- but this only heightens their appeal and effect. Let’s hope the band come back to the U.K. - they were here a while ago- and play a few gigs around the country. I know there are audiences waiting for them- perhaps the sheer expense is restricting their itinerary. Few bands- Christian-Rock or not- promote ideals of togetherness, bonding and brotherhood- they seem a juxtaposition to the state of the world. For that very reason; we need to embrace The Updraft Imperative: a rare group that are hugely inspiring and influential.
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The gorgeous American pretty much exudes allure and fascination. Mama is her latest track and is already notching up the YouTube views. With a combination of Amy Winehouse’s soulful, whiskey-soaked voice; Alicia Keys’ soothing beauty- we have an artist that is causing ripples and excitement. Over 40,000 Twitter followers! It is clear the Florida-born star is made for bigger things. Consistently impressive, stunning and accomplished: her blend of raw and passionate is a big-ticket draw. Having emigrated from Florida to L.A. - the lure and opportunity of the city beckoned- things are going from strength-to-strength. Once more- I will say this a lot- I would love to see her come to the U.K. as often as possible. There is no doubting she would have a residency in London: there are plenty of clubs and bars that would house her. Alexandra Amor oozes star quality and sensuality; a confident and determination to succeed- the confidence in every song she releases. Her songs reflect on personal struggle and stories- moving to L.A. and overcoming hurdles- in addition to misjudged love. If that insatiable and staggering voice does not sweep you up: the lyrics and composition surely will. I am hoping to get to the U.S. sometime this year: I will be sure to come to L.A. and see Amor play live.
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My final inclusion- for this part- is the half-Colombian, Vanessa Forero. Her mother was abandoned in the Colombian jungle as a child- where she was raised by monkeys- and that is only part of Forero’s extraordinary background. The Brighton-based musician- until recently she lived in Yorkshire- released the album From the Uproar: a stunning album that unites her heritage (Colombian percussion and pipes) with a more tradition Folk/Indie core. Forero is a one-woman-band that wants to encourage girls to pick up percussion: becoming more involved with instruments that are commonly seen as boys’ toys. An inspiring human who can melt hearts with her incredible voice- take a listen to her music- the next year-or-so will see her rise and conquer. With comparatively modest social media numbers- someone who deserves a lot more people her way- she is a very rare artist. Deep, busy compositions- instruments from around the world- score gorgeous vocals and thought-provoking songs. There are few musicians as individual and special as Forero. After such an amazing and unbelievable background: it is amazing how grounded and level-headed Forero is. She has come a long way in a short time: for her, acclaim and stardom awaits…
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