School years in Barbados give music Caribbean feel


As winners of last year’s Best Jazz Act at the MOBO Awards, Sons of Kemet took the music scene by storm in 2013 with the release of their critically-acclaimed debut album Burn.

Led by clarinetist, saxophonist and composer Shabaka Hutchings, they play the Komedia in Brighton on April 30.

In addition to Shabaka, the band features Oren Marshall on tuba and both Tom Skinner and Seb Rochford on drums – a combination of musicians who already knew each other, explains Shabaka.

“I wanted to get together with the musicians that I felt comfortable with. They are people that just have so many influences, people that listen to tons of music, people that understand a lot of different ways of making music.”

Although born in London, Shabaka spent most of his childhood in Barbados. When he returned to the UK in 1999 he was heralded as a new talent on the British jazz scene. However, he felt the music he was playing lacked the Caribbean slant of his background, and so Sons of Kemet were born.

Kemet is one of the first recognised names for ancient Egypt, and its last Nubian king was called Shabaka.

“I did my high school years in Barbados, and then I came back to England to continue my education.

“But I often think that the music that people grow up with is integral to what they listen to for the rest of their lives. I think that it influences their aesthetic choices. The music of Barbados or the Barbados approach to music has influenced me.

“I think that Barbados approach is that people there make music for the sake of people, not just for the sake of art.”

Shabaka had played with calypso bands in Barbados, but his training in the UK was classical.

“I did a degree at the Guildhall in classical clarinet, but at the same time I was still doing jam sessions.”

Since the band’s debut album, it has all been a bit of a rollercoaster, Shabaka says: “We recorded the album about a year before it came out. When it finally came out, there was an amazing response to it. The band really took off from the stage the album was released.

“Before that, we were known around London, but after that, a lot more people started to hear about it.

“I am writing material for another album now, but I think I would like to get the music into our bones before we record it. We need to play it live, and then we will know when we are ready to record it. We hoping that get a new album out at the end of the year or the beginning of next year, but when the music is ready, we will know.”