At Tongue Fu there is only one rule - no rehearsals. Everything that happens on stage, has to happen in the moment, in front of the audience. Risk is the fiery fabric with which we craft each show.
I started the project ten years ago, with bassist, Riaan Vosloo, as a way of facing some fears, whisking away the safety net of rehearsals and exploring writing (mine and other peoples’) afresh, by changing the music and therefore the context, every time. It started as a fun experiment. I remember Riaan saying to me, ‘embrace the chaos’. I couldn’t have dreamed then, that this chaos would see us touring festivals, playing the Roundhouse and Royal Albert Hall, playing nationally and internationally, sharing the stage with some extraordinary writers, performers and musicians. It seems that with risk, there is also reward.
Tongue is a show that puts spoken word artists (think poets, rappers, comedians, storytellers) together with exceptional improvising musicians. Although we have always had a home in London, we work nationally, so for this show I’ve put together a very Bristol heavy line up and band. There is a such wealth of talent hailing from or living in the South West.
It is a very particular type of musician who settles into the Tongue Fu band. They need to have extraordinary jazz chops, draw on a raft of pop and cultural references and have a fleet footed ability to act on instinct, always listening, leading and following, pushing and being pulled. Writers have a different language to musicians, so the communication - both verbal and physical - is always fascinating to watch. Translation, interpretation, improvisation.
Riaan is on bass duties for this show, having recently moved to Bristol. With a PhD in composition, he straddles the world of bassist, composer and arranger. As well as playing bass for Jamie Cullum and Nostaligia 77, he also runs Impossible Ark - a truly independent UK jazz label - that has been releasing brilliant records for a decade.
On keys is another Bristol dweller, Dan Moore, who we’ve played with a number of times over the years. A keen songwriter and composer himself (teaching at BIMM), he has also been sideman to some amazing acts - from the D&B of Bristol superhero, Roni Size, to funk legend, Pee Wee Ellis.
On drums, Dave Smith is joining us for the first time. Considered by some to be one of the UK’s finest drummers working today, as well as being band leader for a variety of acts in the Loop Collective, mixing Senegalese drumming with electronica, he also plays for Led Zep’s Robert Plant.
And that’s just the musicians. With the guests on this bill (Dizraeli, Anna Freeman, Vanessa Kissule and Malaika Kegode) we have an absolutely crackling mix of poetry, stories, rap, singing and stand up.
Each time we’ve played in Bristol, we’ve had such a great time. I can’t wait to come back and bring a little fire to warm ourselves with, this October.
Chris Redmond - October 2017