3 Minutes with Mellow Baku
Mellow Baku is a sensational singer- songwriter whose compositions blend elements of Reggae, Jazz, Blues, Funk and Soul to uplift and inspire audiences from London’s Barbican to New York’s Knitting Factory. She talks to us about her roots, grooves, and the freedom of music.
What 3 words (would you say) best describe you?
Mellow Harmony Baku
My mum gave me Mellow and Harmony as my first two names, and they pretty much fit my sound. A couple of years ago when getting my original project together I took Baku, which is my father's Rastafarian name (Shango Baku). Baku is the name of a learned and scholarly African tribe, also an island in the Middle East and a Japanese dream-guarding dragon.
How would you describe the relationship between your music and spoken word?
It gives me more freedom. I've always wanted to do more than just sing songs. I started live spoken word through accompanying artists like SureShot and Jean Binta Breeze. As with all artforms, music and spoken word are about making space and shape. Music and word have an obviously natural kinship and it frees me from the normal song writing patterns.
Tell us about one of the pieces you're doing at the ‘London Liming’ at Kings Place Festival
I'll sing, because it's how I express my words. It will be stripped down vocal and guitar. I have a couple of new spoken pieces, one is a chanted vocal piece called 'Bigger Than That' about how God is perceived, and 'I said Maybe' is a bit of a comic rant about the music industry today.
Have you enjoyed doing ‘Liming’ spoken word in the past?
I loved its intensity and having a listening crowd who are ready to hear! It felt like there was a quiet buzz in an intimate room with short artist sets crammed into the time. Great to hear and meet the other performers too.
What would you say are the special aspects of the performance and arts scene in Leicester compared to other cities?
There a 5 new medium to large size venues opening this year in Leicester, and over the last few weeks we've had the Mela, Caribbean Carnival, and the Summer Sundae Festival has just finished. Lots of new bands and jam sessions springing up. Spoken word has had a strong footing in Leicester with monthly events like Word and yearly festivals like The Lyric Lounge and Leicester Comedy Festival. There are a lot of Asian and Indian influenced events.
What's the best aspect of the career you've created?
Connection is probably the most enjoyable part of practicing art and performance. Collaborating and improvising with other artists. And when solo, one is collaborating with the audience.
What's the most important piece of insider knowledge you have as a performer?
At the same time as you live and breathe your art, and put everything into performance, it's good to have a balancing voice inside that says: It's only music/poetry/a gig - life is the thing. Then you can have some fun.