Marcina Arnold Interview

Marcina Arnold Interview

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Marcina Arnold is a secret of talent living in the heart of Central London, Stockwell. I went to meet her in her flat, but before hand she showed me the shrine of the recent shooting of Jean Charles Menez, of which she wrote a song about for her EP on Counterpoint Records called ‘Introducing…’. I was supposed to be writing an article about Marcina Arnold for one of the Straight No Chaser Magazine issues, the one with James Brown on the front cover but some how they decided it would be more fitting to put unknown Cinematic Orchestra front man Jason Swinscoe, didn’t make any sense to me? Then, it closed down so my piece is just for my blog. “The deal is in a process, as in a sense, I’m working with these guys, they liked the music and that’s the most important thing. That they are willing to invest money accordingly to help people hear the music, I think Jake had heard some of my music through a DJ friend of his called Nick The Record. Initially my first contact with Jake was when he invited me to do a gig in Hastings, which is where he’s based. I went up with a five piece and did some tracks from the album and played some new material that I’d written, he liked it and proposed a deal” said Marcina Arnold sitting by her black piano. Her front room, was filled with African instruments, and cultural objects. I could see her vast record collection of ‘Grace by Jeff Buckley’ to Hugh Masekela and so on. She continues, “The vinyl deal is very different from your standard deals. Jake believed in the music and frankly, the position that I was in, I was like, I need to get this music out, people need to hear it, so let me just go with this, ride the waves and see what other fish come up. The EP is more of a compilation, two tracks have been taken from the ‘Twisted Blue Folk’ album, which I recorded but Jake had heard that and the live things, so he put a proposal together for the EP”

“Eska Mtungwazi and Heidi Vogel got invited down to the studio but people where showing up at different times of the day. I intended to record four tunes, which is really quite a big deal, for the amount of time that we had. It’s very live, it’s not over mixed and it is what it is. It’s like a back in the day kind of recording” says Marcina Arnold. “That’s how ‘Forefathers’ came about, it was written about my first trip back to South Africa, which is where my fathers from, I met all my family out there, and realized I’d been having a bit of an identity crisis. Growing up in London, I’m surrounded by a lot of culture, and multi-racial people, but yet not really understanding where I sort of fit in but in the scheme of it all I realized it’s actually about who you are, and not where you’re from or the colour of your skin, but ultimately I’m from Britain. It was great to go back and meet my forefathers, or my four bears, and where they came from, what my forefathers background are like, and also, to discover why I’m here today” Marcina Arnold remembers when she first wanted to sing, “I knew I wanted to sing from the age of seven, it was always very clear to me but how I was going to do it, if it was going to happen, was a dream that I had as a child but somehow it manifested itself in the right way for me. I call it grace, the fact that I happened to be exposed to so much music at such a young age and to such a variety of music. Especially the folk music scene, growing up I went to Scotland a lot because that is where my mother is from, I was introduced to Chinese folk music and Japanese folk music”

And which artists influenced you while growing up? “I had been influenced by African artists like Miriam Makeba; also being exposed to African drumming and things like that, they all influenced me. I call it Gods grace, in his beneficial ways. I mean, why is it that I was born into a family of musicians? I could have been born into a family of tailors, or a family of scientists, or God help me a family of politicians (laughs)” Marcina Arnold is very much apart of the up coming London jazz scene, artists names include Jason Yarde, Heidi Vogel, Julie Dexter, and many many more. She reflects, “I’ve had the chance to work with some of them, were very much all the same, we hang out together, we grew up doing the same rounds. People like Jason Yarde, Wylee Kyat, Eric Appapoulay, and the whole thing. Going through that schooling, and then going on to doing our own things, we all have expressed in our writing the infliction of Quite Sane (our jamming band back in the day), which was musically directed by bass player Anthony Tidd, and how we’ve been influenced by jazz music. Also me coming out with the South African influences, I was into artists like Eugene Skeef, Hugh Masekela, and South African Gospel singers. For me music is like my big family, whichever genre that I happened to be exposed to, be it folk music, jazz music, soul music, or R&B music. My Aunties a traditional folk singer, she sings laments, I grew up being surrounded by a lot of Celtic music, so I’m into that as well. I think with that space in music, is probably why I took so much interest in Indian classical music but my thing for the CD player now is Femi Temowos album ‘Quiet Storm’”

For me, Marcina Arnold reminded me very much of Anita O’Day, she says, “Oh yeah! I know her music, one thing that I heard was the ‘Live In Newport’ album where she sings the song ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’, she’s got a lovely voice, I grew up listening to her but I wouldn’t say that she’s been my main influence. A lot of the time I get compared to many people such as Sade or Randy Crawford, but because of the schooling I had, I can use my voice like an instrument, I can do a lot of different things with it and create a lot of different sounds” Due to Marcina Arnolds education in music, and understanding of the voice, she often uses it as an instrument. She says, “I’m into scatting, I’ve always been really into that, the voice is malleable, it can mimic, it can do things and growing up I used to do all the R&B licks. After a while it became clear to me that it wasn’t about doing those things. It was about doing me. Doing my song, my voice, and how I’m going to phrase this lyric or can I keep doing me or am I going to have to go the American styles?”

Marcina Arnold gives advice to those who are interested in learning to sing or pick up an instrument. “When you’re young someone needs to show you everything; it’s the same in music. As we get older I think we can take for granted knowing that we have the capacity to be intelligent and to be creative. We start to feel that we own it but we don’t. The older we become the more we’ll forget, but we have to let it all go, we can’t take everything with us. Whatever I do, it’s coming through me and I just feel very grateful for the people that have influenced me. All the jazz greats like Billie Holiday, Nina Simon, Sarah Vaughan, and all those people. All the blues women, Bessie Smith, Memphis Minnie, then Dinah Washington, Aretha Franklin, all the great Jazz and R&B singers. I’m a musician so I’m going to like good music, and being introduced to all these genres such as South African music, jazz music, Asian music, you know, I love it. I’m born in the 20th Century so I can’t help but be exposed to all these genres, I’d be interested to see how Marshan music sounds, if any ones got any recordings from Mars, send them my way” How do you get through every day life — “I have a teacher that helps me get through life and its many twists and turns, he makes me aware of my breath and what a gift it is to be alive. To have a breath we couldn’t see, to have the breath we couldn’t hear, we couldn’t feel, we couldn’t work or play. I’ve actually written a song about that, which I’m going to record soon” And lastly — what is your biggest source of inspiration Marcina Arnold says, “The biggest source of inspiration for me is the infinite humility that you have to have for life. That I’m still learning, I’m still growing, I’m still a baby (as a singer) but put me in a room with one of the younger ones and I have to be a mamma. So for me, my inspiration is life itself, the ups and downs, and the journey of it”

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