Monday 22 April 2019

If anyone can wow Waterford, Chaka can in

From Roisin Murphy, Villagers, Fleet Foxes and Chaka Khan, 'All Together Now' is one of 'the' festivals of the summer

The Queen of Soul, Chaka Khan, will perform at 'All Together Now'
The Queen of Soul, Chaka Khan, will perform at 'All Together Now'
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

You could call it a come-back album if you like. Whatever it was, Crack-Up, by Fleet Foxes was one of the most sublime albums of last year. This was not unrelated to the fact that frontman Robin Pecknold described himself on this, their third studio album, as "trying to become a different age or a different person making this record, like I was trying to be the person I always wanted to be.

"There are certain things I don't feel like I nailed on those old albums, so I wanted to make sure I could try those things, whether it's a multi-part song or a certain kind of finger-picking." Intriguingly - given the album references the trilogy of essays The Crack-Up by F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1936 - the Fleet Foxes' Skyler Skjelset added that "there are times on the record when you can hear [Pecknold] losing it. He started pounding [the marimba] with mallets and yelling into the mic. I was watching him lose his shit, crying with laughter in the control room".

If you go along to the All Together Now festival on the August Bank Holiday weekend at Curraghmore Estate in County Waterford you will get to cry with laughter and a whole other smorgasbord of emotions when the uber-folk combo from Seattle, Washington, takes the stage. Other acts liable to have you crying with emotion include, of course, the great Roisin Murphy, the equally great Villagers, to say nothing of Mogwai, Underworld, David Kitt, Mura Masa, Nialler9, across 16 stages of music, theatre, comedy, spoken word and whatever you're having yourself below in County Waterford. I haven't even mentioned compelling acts like West Cork Ukulele Orchestra, New York Brass Band, London African Gospel Choir performing Graceland, Trinity Orchestra performing David Bowie, and the High Hope Choir. I'll also being going along to watch Kevin Rowland's DJ set.

Another personal highlight will be to get to see the Queen of Soul Chaka Khan perform in all her majesty tracks like I'm Every Woman and I Feel For You in such a setting. Born Yvette Marie Stevens in Chicago as the eldest of five children, she has been nominated for 22 Grammy Awards.

The name Chaka, she says, "is a given name. "During the pan-Africanism days in the US," she explained, "everyone was looking for an identity and so I picked the Yoruba culture and religion. We used to do classes, and one year there was an African priest who would come over and he gave me my name. I was also selling newspapers and doing a free-breakfast-for-children programme with the Black Panther party." (Apropos of names, Chaka named her son Damien after Demian: The Story of Emil Sinclair's Youth, Hermann Hesse's 1919 novel.)

Asked once what artists shaped her famous singing voice, Chaka replied that "if anyone in particular did, I'm not aware of it. I wasn't exposed to much gospel music so my only religious singing were some Ave Marias. My mother was into opera and my father was into jazz, so there was a lot of jazz in the house where I grew up.

"I was born and raised in the University of Chicago area and had an uneventful middle-class Catholic childhood. I had a heavy Catholic upbringing and Catholicism is terrible - it's the reason there were slaves. Mass every morning at seven o'clock during Lent. Shit. It was a great relief when I finally realised what I was into and got out of it, and although it may have helped make me the strong person that I am, I hate to give it credit for anything in my life. It's a totally negative, man-made religion. Anyhow, I also hated school so I quit when I was 16 and joined a group so I could make some money."

In 1980, an interviewer posed the pertinent question to the High Priestess of US Funk: Which has been a greater handicap: being a woman or being black? "Being black, definitely," she replied. "And although people might like to think things are changing, I know it isn't so. Racism has become more sophisticated in its execution but it's as prevalent as it's ever been."

'All Together Now', August 3-5, Curraghmore Estate, Co Waterford. Tickets via

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