2018: A Year In Food
In 2018, my gym coach assigned me to keep a food blog so he could track my meals. Through developing healthy eating habits to satisfy all of my nutritional needs and a rigorous exercise programme, I lost the 21 kg between January-August 2018 I'd gained on anti-depressants.
I wanted it to be somewhere more private rather than being shoved down people's throats (literally) through Instagram/WhatsApp. Hence I've posted my culinary creations here.
Being vegetarian and/or vegan always presents a challenge in terms of hitting the protein target so this was particularly the most interesting challenge for me.
I made a conscious decision to stop food blogging in 2019 (due to time restraints), but it's useful to have a year's diet documented as a reference and a source of inspiration!
Outhouse Ruhabi @ RFH Clore Ballroom
Outhouse Ruhabi is an ensemble consisting of 2 tenor saxophones, bass, drums and 4 Gambian Wolof percussionists. Led by drummer, Dave Smith, the group started in Africa, and its members are spread around the world. Their sound is a juxtaposition of traditional Gaba drumming from Gambia, West Africa, and contemporary, avant-garde jazz... Well, not so much a juxtaposition, but more of a reconciliation; the project truly acknowledges and embodies the African roots of jazz. Saxophonist Robin Fincker described how when the band were touring in Africa, and playing in the villages, the entire population of those villages would come out to watch, and they would recognise their own rhythms and practices integrated within those of the jazz drummer - it is their own rhythms that have permeated jazz and popular music throughout the Americas. The ethos of Outhouse Ruhabi is effectively a reconciliation of the old and the new, the African and the American, the one informing the other in a generational dialogue that transcends time and space - a musical and cultural 'time warp'. The project is a evolutionary frontier, and a breaking of the boundaries, for it returns modern jazz back to its motherland.
The music was extremely spiritual, combining static, saxophonic chordal applications, revolving around crackling percussive layers, fractured by violent ruptures, and occasionally heightened by repeated, call-and-response, polyphonic vocal refrains. The saxophones seemed to float weightlessly at the surface, providing a smooth, airy contrast to the rumbling, wavering percussion. The spine-tingling, intricate, popping rhythms tickled the sinuses of my soul, and moved me in a way that I felt transfixed, lest anyone else know how intimately I was experiencing them.
While I have some knowledge of Afro-Cuban rhythms, my knowledge of West African rhythm is somewhat limited, so forgive me for incorrectly applying Cuban terminologies to a music that through lifelong study I would barely scratch the surface. The hierarchical layers of percussion added a three-dimensional quality to the music, and played an elastic yet robust rhythmic groove, which morphed seamlessly through different feels and tempos; sometimes a spirited, buoyant 6/8, at other times gnawing and sawing its way through a 4/4 meter, and occasionally a leaping rumba with a 6/8 lilt. The moods were sometimes sombre and processionary, breaking into complex, multi-faceted structures rotating like giant musical organisms; their cyclic hooks compelling you into a state of total absorption and contemplation. During the intense sections, the squealing saxophonic laments of Tom Challenger were egged on by the relentless onslaught of torrential percussion; their cascading tones manifesting themselves in a pure 'flow-of-consciousness' expulsion of the brain, and rippling in a frenzy of wild counterpoint.
The music incited a man to dance alone, which reminded me of the solo male dancer in the Cuban colombia - one of the oldest forms of rumba descended from the African legacy - in which the male dancer manifests himself as the orisha, dancing out the spirit. This man was lost in his own spiritual world, his eyes trance-like, and his mind apparently turned towards the heavens. In dialectic response, one of the drummers positioned himself in front of the stage and performed his own dance at the end, provoking spontaneous cheers and hand clapping from the audience. The percussion 'solo' towards the end was not really a 'solo'; it was a 'soli' yet it was all improvised - or so I understood. It was like your conventional jazz drum 'solo' yet all of the percussionists were improvising together as a unit! This incredibly integrated display, disciplined through generations and years of initiation and practice, is a miraculous phenomenon of human nature that since has manifested itself as a religious, recreational and social cohesive tool across many forms of music.
I only realised half way through the performance that, unlike most groups that I had witnessed in the jazz festival, there was no piano, guitar or equivalent harmony instrument. However, the music did not necessarily need this; there was enough substance to tantalise and tickle the senses, throwing the listener into an open, expansive, inharmonious void. Altogether, it was an energetic, spiritual performance that was very moving and humbling to watch. I have seen some amazing things over the last week that have truly been a measure of the human capability, but it is very rare to be able to simply drift into the Southbank Centre and to be immersed in music of such depth and richness, and to have the luxury of allowing its ripples to wash over you - an experience that cannot be felt at any other place or time.
F-IRE Collective @ RFH Clore Ballroom
F-IRE Collective is an exciting hotpoint of pioneering jazz, which fosters and cultivates emerging young talent both nationally and internationally through a school of like-minded composers and performers, inciting a vivacious wave of creativity bubbling up through the surface of London's jazz scene. I witnessed the F-IRE Collective big band on two separate occasions at the RNCM in 2005 and 2007, and on one occasion I was even lucky enough to play with F-IRE Collective graduates saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and trumpeter Tom Arthurs through the Manchester University Big Band, organised by Graham South. Today, I was fortunate enough to hear Porpoise Corpus, one of their newest ensembles, who incite innovative, electrifying and trailblazing original music; combining a wide range of influences, juxtaposing live acoustic and electronic instruments that crash and burn their way through explosive interludes balanced with languid pools of sustained piano and creamy saxophone, and integrating contemplative, sophisticated sensibilities with grooving material that has a sense of immediacy among listeners. The dissonant ballast antagonises itself between periods of tension and relaxation; swelling outwards, withdrawing inwards, and occasionally giving way to glistening, gleaming, diminished and inquisitive vibraphonic releases. The concert finale offered a glimpse inwards into the milky way, sailing outwards into a vast expanse of stellar, musical horizons.
Phronesis @ Southbank Centre Front Room
Phronesis Big Band mix instruments with vocals in an interesting combination of free jazz improvisation and structured arrangement. Their music has an authoritative, auspicious quality to it, and it almost materialises a fantasy film score with a prophetic undertone, tinged with seclusion, mystery and awe. Its lines ebb and flow with magic, effortlessly interchanging between brass and vocals, and transporting you on a whirlwind ride through a sequence of through-composed, programmatic soundscapes. Structurally, it is loose and free in some sections, whilst in others, the material is tonally and rhythmically centred. Occasionally, it is reminiscent of the music of American composer Charles Ives, synonymously juxtaposing a multitude of layers; liturgical, choral curtains with a stratosphere of sparkling piano clusters and gently spattering percussion - engendering a transcendental texture wherein the past and present seem interchangeable. Towards the end, the integrated clapping textures intermingling with the scatted vocal ostinato patterns manifest the most fundamentally and organically human forms of musical expression, gripping the heart and lifting the soul. This clears the way for mirrors of piano sheen, and flourishing brass improvisations among hissing, rumbling percussion.
Rory spent the first few years of his life in an ice cave, carving out his palace of wonder. He's a bit of a love doll, but he who melts the ice shall have their reward.