The band is the brainchild of Cicely Taylor, a Latin percussionist and vocalist who has travelled and studied across South America and Africa – travels from which the orchestra emerged as the perfect culmination of Cicely’s passion for street theatre, carnival, percussion and brass, combined with a kitsch, anarchic twist.
The ensemble formed in Brighton with the support of Kemptown Carnival where the group made its debut performance in June 2012.
The group was gathered from the pool of professional jazz and Latin musicians living in Brighton, brought together by a shared interest in creating original brass interpretations of music they loved: cumbia, gaita, salsa, mambo, Afrobeat, ska, New Orleans jazz and blues tunes, with a heavier, hip-grinding feel: “I have always loved groups that had lots of brass and lots of percussion,” Cicely said.
“We were in Irleand in 2011 with another band, and I saw a group that really inspired me. They were a brass band that had such a sense of performance about them. They also had a clown with them, a mime artist, and I loved that idea of bringing in more theatrical stuff.
“The personality of our group is very interesting. We have got a lot of really strong and Latin musicians, but there is also a British anarchic punk personality in the group. We wanted something that was quite British.
“We wanted to have an original twist to the music we were doing. It really came together by just talking about it all enthusiastically for about six months to various people and just by starting to gather people together.
“I gathered lots of playlists together on YouTube and Spotify and lots of imagery. I did lots of research and development around the music and the costumes and the look. I was really interested in being quite playful with it all.”
The initial criterion for a tune to be considered was whether it had the words ‘voodoo’ or ‘love’ in it – or was closely related to it (zombie/ death/sex etc) but this has since been extended to any tune which the group love to death, Cicely says: “There’s a particular interest among the group that has developed in the dynamic, polyrhythmic compositions of Lucho Bermudez, as well as the Colombian response to Cuban salsa created by 60s group Fruko y sus Tesos, which has a heavier, more rough-around-the-edges sound.
“Brighton has been the perfect environment for an ensemble like this to flourish, with its huge creative community, healthy disregard for societal norms and party atmosphere. The group teamed up with dancers and make-up artists to explore different approaches to styling and costume.”
The band’s style has ranged from a kitsch 50s-style Voodoo look to more raunchy, leopard-skin love themes, as well as exploring the formal fashion of vintage big bands to, most recently, a modern zombie-rave styling for their Zombie video.”
The 20th Chilli Fiesta is being billed as the hot summer destination as sizzling salsa and Latin bands line up to entertain over a three-day programme (August 7, 8 and 9, 10.30am to 11pm, Sunday 9pm).