On my radar: Moses Boyd on his cultural highlights

The jazz drummer on the podcast, album and local vegan cafe that helped him through lockdown. Plus, a properly geeky YouTube series

A breakout star of the new London jazz scene, Moses Boyd was born in Catford, south-east London, in 1991. He started playing drums at 13, and a few years later joined Tomorrow’s Warriors, the pioneering programme for young jazz performers (Shabaka Hutchings and Nubya Garcia also developed their craft there). Boyd has won two best jazz act Mobos (one for his duo, Binker and Moses, with saxophonist Binker Golding, and one solo). His debut solo album, Dark Matter, was released in February, and his new single, Stranger Than Fiction, is out now.

1. Documentary

The Upsetter: The Life and Music of Lee “Scratch” Perry (2008), directed by Ethan Higbee and Adam Bhala Lough

Lee Scratch Perry on stage
Lee Scratch Perry: ‘He has created a persona to deal with fame.’ Photograph: Paul Bergen/Redferns

There are extroverts and colourful characters in music, and then there’s Lee “Scratch” Perry. He’s often dismissed as a bit of a joker, despite being one of the best producers in music, whose work has constantly evolved. You think of his work with Coxsone Dodd, then the Wailers, Junior Murvin, the Congos in the 1970s… I mean, what a CV! I found this film interesting because it shows how he’s helped create that persona to deal with fame, and work around people who have tried to exploit him. I loved the footage from his Black Ark studios, which he built himself behind his parents’s house, and his Secret Laboratory studio in Switzerland.

2. Podcast

Shaun Attwood’s True Crime Podcast

Shaun Attwood and podcast guest
Shaun Attwood and podcast guest. Photograph: You Tube

I’ve felt the need to get into a different kind of reality during lockdown, and this might be a weird way to do it but it’s definitely helped! Shaun Attwood is a British stock trader who moved to Arizona in the 1990s, where he became a kingpin drug trader before getting caught, of course. In jail he started a journal, and since his release he’s become an advocate for prison reform, committed to exposing corruption in the criminal justice system. He interviews former prisoners who tell detailed stories of their real experiences. You’re given this very holistic picture of how the system works around them and against them.

3. Food

Vital NRG, Bellingham, south-east London

Rice and stew from Vital NRG
Rice and stew from Vital NRG. Photograph: Instagram/@vital_nrg

This cafe’s been giving me a sense of normality this summer. It’s a local institution next to the station: vegan-based, doing fantastic West Indian patties, rice boxes and smoothies, which I’ve grabbed when I’m out walking. It’s managed to keep going as it’s so small, only about four feet across – it operated like a takeaway normally anyway. Other places haven’t been so lucky. We have to keep supporting independents. They give so much to our communities.

4. Album

Græ by Moses Sumney

Moses Sumney on stage in 2018 in Rotterdam
Moses Sumney on stage in 2018 in Rotterdam: ‘He creates a different universe with every album.’ Photograph: Dimitri Hakke/Getty Images

I’ve been playing this record constantly through lockdown – it’s so beautiful. I first got interested in Moses because, well, you don’t get many musicians with my name first of all. Also, he reminds me of Björk. It’s as if he sits down to create a different universe with every album he makes. The production on this record, the second half of which came out in May, is incredible: it’s clear he’s worked so hard on his ideas and orchestration over all 20 tracks. His voice is also very beautiful, high, full of soul.

5. Book

Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver

Eldridge Cleaver addresses students in Los Angeles in April 1968
Eldridge Cleaver addresses students in Los Angeles in April 1968. Photograph: Bettmann/Bettmann Archive

Eldridge Cleaver was an early leader of the Black Panthers, and this is a collection of essays, thoughts and letters of his from the mid-1960s. He was a complex character in the history of the Black Panthers: a lot of people didn’t like him, and he fled the cause later in the 1960s. He writes very honestly about the time, of sex, and of his behaviour [in the book, he admits to being a serial rapist in his youth, and later coming to terms with the inhumanity of his actions]. It’s good to read books like this in and out of different political climates. It still has a lot to say about the age we’re living in.

6. YouTube

Mix With

the Masters

Derek Ali beside mixing desk in recording studio
Derek Ali: ‘Engineers and mixers are so important to creating sounds.’ Photograph: Samuel Whitworth/No credit

This is properly geeking out, sorry! It’s a series of interviews with the people we forget when we’re listening to the records we love: the producers, mixers and engineers. The episode on MixedByAli (Derek Ali), who works with Kendrick Lamar and Jay Rock, is fantastic, and there’s a great one with Leslie Brathwaite, on how he made Pharrell Williams’s Happy. I’ve done so many sessions in my life for myself and other people, but didn’t think about how important these people were to creating those sounds. This series makes me want to go back in time and be nosier, and start moving microphones around!


Jude Rogers

The GuardianTramp

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