This Thursday, the doors of the Underground Venue on Dame Street will open to welcome anyone looking for a night full of music from all around the world. From newcomers to established artists, we met with the stars of the event.
Any event under the sign of multiculturalism will need a diverse range of artists: this is what transpires the most when looking at the line-up of Babylon’s latest multicultural event, happening this March 5 at 8pm. Yet despite their differences, all these artists will share the same stage, the same audience and for a few hours, their love for music.
Those that are acquainted with Dublin’s underground international music scene can expect to see some familiar faces like Kiruu, a multi-instrumentalist and singer, influenced by the sounds of East Africa and Europe, Ines Khai, a Dundalk-based musician shares her love for her native Guadeloupe through her voice and her guitarist, or Brew, who will share his 70s New York influences with a Dublin audience he holds close to his heart. New acts will also grace the stage of the Underground Venue, such as Keeley, a dreamy new Dublin-based project, and Castle Arcade, a mysterious new indie band playing their exclusive first live performance on the night.
We talked with each of them in a conversation tackling subjects as varied as the importance of travelling for musicians, the joys and difficulties of navigating an ultra-connected world as an artist, their relationship with Dublin and Irish audiences, and of course, what they’re expecting from Thursday’s gig. Read on to get to know them, and don’t forget to get your tickets for this truly unique night.
Babylon: You all travelled around quite a lot throughout your career. How international do your audiences tend to be? Do any of your listeners follow you through multiple locations?
Kiruu: It depends on where I am. In larger cities in Europe, it is often a mixed crowd at the type of gigs I play, due to my music being “intercultural” or “fusion”. But I also love playing in more culturally homogenous settings. I actually get tired of the cosmopolitan/multi cultural/globalised vibe sometimes. It is what I grew up with as a European of mixed descent being raised in East Africa. “Global” culture is fascinating, but it sometimes runs the risk of being bland and McDonalds-like, or lost and unrooted. I find trying to engage in a more routed, traditional spaces just as interesting.
Ines Khai: I have been travelling a lot, mostly when I was singing in theater plays. When it comes to my personal work, I have been performing mostly in France, Guadeloupe and Ireland. The really good thing with the internet is that people who are interested in my music can kind of follow me by seeing what I post on social media and then be aware when I come to perform close to them. Even if I am in Ireland right now, I still get support from people in different parts of the world. It makes me want to travel more to connect with them.
Brew: I tend to mainly perform in the UK and USA when outside Ireland. And luckily for me I would get regional audiences but would relish having a stalker fan follow me from city to city like some big bands have.
Babylon: This show is under the sign of novelty and renewal for many of you. Brew, you have been playing as part of BLUESUN for a long time, but this time, you’re playing your own music. What made you want to make the move towards a solo career?
Brew: Well, a lot of my mates are singer-songwriters and thus solo artists when they perform with or without a band, and I was always kinda curious about how they got on with things. Then there was always the other side of the coin where those same mates would say, out of concern for me when they witnessed the antics I put up with in a band situation, “Would you not consider just going solo and ditch the egos so you can actually get on with the music making as opposed to constantly trying to inspire screaming monkeys to go up a hill with you?” They had a major point, or ten [laughs].
Babylon: Kiruu, you also have experience both playing as a solo artist and as part of a band. Does it affect the way you approach your music and your performances ? And conversely, do audiences react differently depending on who you’re playing with ?
Kiruu: I’m not actually on my own for this gig,, I’m playing with a small 3 piece band. However, it’s a good question. I sometimes play solo, and I sometimes have a band of varying size depending on the gig. Each set up is different. With the big band set-up, the set is way more lively and for dancing, and you have several parts (Brass, Rhythm, Percussion, Lead instruments, etc.) that you can play with, so the songs can be changed about. The solo set starts slow but often has people grooving by the end. The approach is completely different for a big band show, a small band show, and a solo show.
Brew: The key difference to me at the moment is that it’s my name in lights as opposed to a band name, but I have always been a solitary figure within a band being the main songwriter but I would never promote my own name, so maybe that’s my ego problem. Another key difference is having sole control artistically as well. You’re not trying to convince 3 other people about a given song’s worth. On this breakthrough single, the producer and the players heard the huge potential of the song and just got on with it by playing exactly what the song needed without me having to dictate what to play which seems to be a feature characteristic of solo artists. For me, I think audiences will find it hard to distinguish me from BLUESUN hence taking this new record/song into a whole “new direction” sound wise.
Babylon: Ines, you have a precious ability that many Babylon readers relate to: multilingualism. Do you use language in the same way in your daily life than in your music? What role does it play for you?
Ines Khai: I mostly speak English outside during the day. When I’m at home, I go from French to Creole talking to my family.
To me, English is the language of everyday communication; it helps me connect with a wider number of people. Since a few years, I have also started reading in English. I really like going to a bookshop and taking my time to pick a book, so I had to switch to English for reading.
French is another communication language, as I grew up hearing it outside, when at home; my parents and family were speaking Creole more. This is the reason why Creole is closer to my heart. This is the language of my family. I have a more emotional relationship to it. I feel like my authentic self when singing in Creole.
Babylon: For some of you, this is an especially important show. Castle Arcade, you guys will play your very first live show on Thursday, and we can’t wait to discover you. Keeley, it’s been a while since you played the Underground, and we’re all wondering what you’ve been up to. Can you talk to us a little about your respective projects ?
Castle Arcade: We all met in college last year and started playing and writing music together around the start of last summer. Yeah we’ve all played in different bands up to this so we have a little bit of experience but this is our first time playing together so we’re definitely looking forward to getting out of rehearsal rooms and onto the stage on Thursday!
Keeley: We’re basically a completely new band! I recruited two new members – M on bass and Peter on drums, and Marty (who was previously playing bass) is now playing keyboards! And we have a whole new set of material. And we’ve developed a new sound, which we’re looking forward to showcasing the first fruits of on Thursday. On a personal level during this time I’ve been writing my first book, which has taken up a lot of time, with revising and editing the text, producing numerous drafts and conducting interviews and research. In addition, I’ve been working on my blog The Keeley Chronicles, which I publish every month, and I founded a new blog, one dedicated to music, titled Power, Corruption & B-sides. I’ve written many new songs during this time too. As well as this, I’ve been recording the debut Keeley album with my terrific producer Alan Maguire, which is now nearing completion after 9 months work – recording demos, recording the album proper, mixing etc. And I’ve been working on various pieces of artwork for the band and working on a video for the first single from the album, the release of which is imminent. And I’ve managed to fit in a lot of travelling as well during this time, mostly in relation to my work on Inga’s (Inga-Maria Hauser) unsolved murder case which means everything to me.
Babylon Radio: This is also an introduction to a completely new audience for both of you: what kind of response are you expecting ? Do you think you’ll see some familiar faces from shows you did with previous projects, or is this really an entirely new start ?
Keeley: It is very much an entirely new start for us, I haven’t sung onstage since the Dublin Bowie Festival in January 2019, and I actually haven’t performed any of my own material onstage for 18 months. And as mentioned above this is a completely new band, with a different set, a different sound, a different everything!
Castle Arcade: We’ve been working on our music for the last few months so we’re looking forward to seeing how people react to it, hopefully people connect to it and we make a new fan or two!
Babylon: And now for the obvious question: What is it about Ireland? What sets playing here, in Dublin, apart from other cities?
Kiruu: Ireland is very special because of the small scene. It’s the community and that feeling of being part of something graspable and understandable. Ireland’s smallness is my favourite thing about it. But Irish people are not small-minded, and Dublin audiences are some of my favourites in the world.
Ines Khai: I love playing in Ireland because I feel like the audience here is very open minded and wants to discover different things. I always get great feedback when I share my culture and my favourite things about Guadeloupe. I like to see that music is something we share no matter where we are from. Even without understanding the lyrics, it can make us cry, dance or dream.
Brew: Ireland for me was a happy accident. It was never in my plan to be based here long term, let alone play here, even though I was a massive U2 fan – the early U2 that is! But since being based here I must admit being able to visually stick out as a performer sets me apart and I was always mindful or rather reminded of that in a good way. The last time a black guy fronted an Irish band was back in the Thin Lizzy days but now with the multicultural Ireland we live in it’s not a novelty anymore. For me though, playing here feels like belonging to a scene and there are days I wake up and say to myself “holy cow, I’m playing in Europe tonight” even though it just might be some Dublin dive. But to me as an American who for the most part was never recognised for my musical talent, it feels like vindication. The doubters are still stuck in their lame lives back home whilst I’m rocking out in Dublin.
Babylon: And last but not least: how excited are you to play the Underground Venue this Thursday?
Kiruu: I can’t wait. I’ve played the venue a couple of times before with different projects and I’m looking forward to the night immensely.
Keeley: Very! It’s a little daunting in a way, but exciting too. The only thing I am ever anxious about where playing live is concerned is getting the sound right, which to be honest is the single most difficult and most elusive thing in music, or so I find anyway. So I hope the sound will be okay, or even better, good! There are so many things I find exciting about it though. The prospect of playing with this new band of brothers for the first time is one. The prospect of showcasing a whole new set and a whole new sound is another. But most of all, having a new opportunity to do what we’re trying to do, namely, to perform a set of songs composed entirely about, and in tribute to, a murder victim (Inga-Maria Hauser) is something that has never been done in music before, period. So it’s very much a brave new world for us. And I would imagine, will be for the audience as well.
Ines Khai: I am very excited to play the Underground Venue on Thursday. Firstly because it will be the first time for me in this venue and firsts are always memorable. Then also because I have recently changed the way I perform. I have added a looper and a chacha (Caribbean small percussion). It went very well the first time I used them on stage (last week), so I can’t wait to do it again. And lastly because my new album Pitit a Lanmè is now available online and I am proud to present my new songs.
Castle Arcade: We’re absolutely buzzing to get going and to see all the other great acts playing on the night! Massive thanks to Babylon for having us open the night!
Brew: The Underground and I go back over 20 years when it used to be located where Club Lapello is today. Back in the day the Underground always had a variety of bands and was packed with a member from every Dublin band in attendance, so it really was a scene venue where bands supported each other. It’s like you were going to see the next big secret, and you can ask any famous band today, they will always cherish their earliest gigs before they became famous. But me being me I would continue playing underground because you get the die hard fans, it’s accessible to everybody financially and performances tend to be more personable and I like that interaction with a crowd. Of course, I would love the chance of playing an arena but my heroes have all complained they can’t see the audience’s’ eyes and feel a disconnect from the audience. Furthermore, I am so privileged to have been asked to perform and the night’s overall theme is something I am happy to be associated with. Roll on the gig!!!!
Longtime fan of these artists, intrigued by their musical styles or simply looking for a good night out ? Then join us this Thursday at the Underground Venue on 64, Dame Street ! Tickets are 8€ on Eventbrite or 10€ at the door. Doors will open at 8pm for a night guaranteed to please music lovers of all backgrounds. And if you can’t make it, tune in to our website for a live broadcast, or follow our Facebook page to learn more about the artists’ newest projects.