"[The new album is] heavier. Much bigger sound, more representative of our live sound. It was mostly recorded at Abbey Road Studios."
It's always a success story when refugees end up creating music and becoming known both nationally and internationally, these are people who have stories to tell and they might not always be positive (think Somali-Canadian hip-hop artist K'naan who speaks out at the violence in Somalia [song: Soobax]), but when they are you have bands like The Scorpios spearheading it. The Sudanese-British formation have been grafting hard at their second album which is to see light sometime this year, Autumn time is the aim. With the lockdown we're in, they have been using this time to draft up ideas and form (so far) half of their 3rd album... Global Mainstream Arts decided to interview them about their past, their opinions on Heavy Metal and their future plans.
Adam Bulewski was happy to talk to us on behalf of the band.
For those who have not heard of The Scorpios, could you give us a brief history of the band? What does the band name mean?
"The band consists of five Sudanese musicians who have played around the Horn of Africa as well as Arab states. The main singer Regia Ishag comes from a musical family which includes such greats as the guitarist from the 70's Sudanese band The Scorpions. The other four members have been playing in traditional settings for many years, such as weddings and religious festivals. They left Sudan in the 80's when the situation became very bad, so when they initially came to the UK they were refugees. The music they are influenced by is old traditional songs, 60's songs and 70's pop songs, which had reggae, funk and soul as well as Latin leanings. The UK guitarist Adam Bulewski got to meet some musicians via some community work he was doing in London with the local Sudanese community and began recording sessions.
It was a musical project to reduce stigma around mental health. One of the percussionists became a very good friend and through him he managed to assemble the beginnings of the Scorpios. At present the Sudanese members are supported by an international backing band of guys from Jamaica, Poland, Japan and the UK. The music was put on YouTube and picked by Fredrik Lavik, label owner of Afro7 records ,who asked the Scorpios to do a whole album. So they did. It was recorded in a deliberately rough and raw manner, very live. So much so that some people thought they were original recordings from tape from the 60s. The Scorpios relates to Scorpions in the desert and also the star sign Scorpio.
Now half of the band originated from the Sudan, can you tell us what it was like growing up there and when was your first taste of music and rock music?
"In the 60's and 70's a lot of music came to Sudan via the West. Funk, reggae, psychedelic rock. I suppose key rock outfits would have been Hendrix and Santana. This was mixed with traditional forms and out of all the Horn of Africa countries Sudan has always been the most open to the influences. But most of the Sudanese members would have grown up with traditional songs about love, war and religion."
What are your perceptions of Heavy Metal music?
"It's heavy stuff. Some of the band members are into it but more older stuff like Black Sabbath. Sabbath has a lot of groove in there especially as the drummer and bassist came form a jazz background which we can relate to. But some members of the band find it too much!"
What were the challenges (if any) you faced when you moved to London? Surely you must be happy to see how vibrant the music and cultural scenes are?
"Being refugees it was getting work, somewhere to live etc. Sudan has a very strong relationship with the UK and the Sudanese members of the band find it very easy to love in the UK."
How is the new album coming along? What is different with the new one compared to your previous album?
"It's heavier. Much bigger sound, more representative of our live sound. But still has the moisture of big funk / groove tunes mixed with a couple of sparse traditional songs. It was mostly recorded at Abbey Road Studios."
What traditional instruments do you use and can you tell us what sort of sound they produce? Are they easy to play?
"We use traditional darbukas but also specific bongo / tabklas hybrids which are home-made in Sudan. They consist of three rather than two drums joined together."
What are your plans for the rest of 2020 and into early 2021?; what plans were cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19?
"We have nearly finished the second album which should be released in Autumn this year. given the COVID-19 situation, with the time we have it has already given us ideas for half of the third album which we will probably record at the end of this year or early next year."
Do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, family, fans etc?
"Yes. These are trying times but music and art can lift you up and keep you strong."
The Eurovision Song Contest 2019 may be over, but there is still time to catch up with a host of entries to find out how how they felt, what their immediate plans on and to reflect on the artists themselves. Here Danish entry Leonora was more than happy to talk to Global Mainstream Arts about her journey from the Dansk Melodi Grand Prix to arguably music's biggest stage, the Eurovision Song Contest; this time held in Tel Aviv, Israel following Netta's win with 'Toy' last year.
Denmark has a rich history of winning the song contest having won it three times, the last win being 'Only Teardrops' by Emmelie De Forest back in 2013, so was the pressure on Leonora?
"Of course! They [Faroe Islands] should be in the competition, just like Iceland and the rest of the North."
Leonora, firstly how did it feel to be representing Denmark at this year's Eurovision Song Contest?
"First of all, it’s been overwhelming winning the National Final, and that part was my first goal. It’s amazing how much wonderful support I’ve been receiving, both from friends, family and the entire team I have behind me – as well as from fans all over Europe. So it’s been an amazing, and I think Eurovision was the biggest moment of my life. Thank you so much!"
Denmark last won with 'Only Teardrops' back in 2013, what would it have meant for Denmark and yourself to add a fourth win?
"Well, I hoped so. But I’m very proud of my self and my whole team behind me. And I’d never thought I would make it to the final. It was an amazing experience. And come on – 12! It’s kind a cool, when you don’t expect anything. ;)"
Eurovision always throws in some way out-there artists, this year arguably it's Iceland - what are your thoughts on Hatari? Have you got any Eurovision 2019 songs you like?
"Well, I have talked to the guys from Hatari, and they are the sweetest. I think it’s nice to be who you are, and take a chance for once in a while. And just rock this great show! They are truly good guys. My favourite song this year is Czech Republic – (and they are sort of my friends too, hope it’s not cheating?) and Mikis ’La Venda’ always makes me dance!"
Your song 'Love Is Forever' is unique in itself being multilingual, are you fluent in German and French alongside your native Danish?
"No, unfortunately not – we have German and French in Danish schools, but not fluent. But I really like that the song i multilingual. It shows everyone that we’re all equal and Love is forever and for everyone! I believe we all have to appreciate the differences in the world, and we should treat others with the same degree of respect, as we would like to be treated ourselves. We should embrace our differences, not be afraid of them."
You're also an award-winning skater, what was it that made you take a step back? Ice skating has it's own choreography, with Eurovision did you look back at your ice-skating for inspiration? Or where did your ideas come from?
"That’s true. I had a hard time finding the motivation, because I started spending a lot of time on music. Also, it’s very common in Denmark to stop competing when you’re 18. Well, both disciplines feel like natural extensions of who I am, and I feel comfortable with both. Skates quite literally serve as extensions of my legs! They are a tool that allows you to do a lot of technical moves and tricks, but, more importantly, they allow you to dance on the ice and do choreography, which is the side of the sport I love the most. My ideas comes from all over, my family, people I walk by, something I see in TV – anything. "
Would you agree that Eurovision offers escapism for everyone worldwide, free from politics, heartbreak and bad news we face everyday?
"Without a doubt. Eurovision is a singing competition, not a politic statement."
The Faroe Islands have long tried to participate, would you welcome the Faroe Islands into the contest?
"Of course! They should be in the competition, just like Iceland and the rest of the North."
Now Eurovision has finished, what are your plans? Will you be looking to record an album?
"Afterwards, my plan is to record a new album with my own songs, and treat myself to a very long vacation! I’m already craving some relaxing downtime at home."
Do you have any greetings to send out to friends, family, fans etc?
"Thank you so much for all your support through this journey of mine! Remember: Love is forever and for everyone Lastly, I’d encourage everyone to always be kind to one another – love is forever!"
For fun what are some fun Danish phrases people should know and use in their daily life as well as at (any) Eurovision?
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