Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Can't Get it Outta My Head: Bubbly - Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

This is so not usually my cup of cocoa, but I'm so loving this made for Channel U instant classic - Head Shoulders Knees and Toes (Bubbly). Okay, so the lyrics may be beyond basic (ladies, let me see you go down low, wid the heads shoulders knees and toes), and the video looks as if it's been filmed using a home camcorder picked up at a Currys clearout for £199. But hey, who's watching that? Press play, turn up the volume, and make sure your learn the dance moves before your Xmas family do. Your 15 year old cousins/nieces/nephews will be well impressed...

Monday, 22 December 2008

The Alexandra Effect!

Gosh, I'm still spinning from the excitement of last week's X-Factor finals that I've barely had time to blog...Okay, in truth I've been saddled with yet another horrid flu-ish, bug-ish thing that I've barely had enough energy to run a comb through my unruly afro, yet alone blog. Mmmm, so this conversation may seem just slightly redundant considering the event in question happened over a week ago, but bear with me. 

Yeah, she did it! Congratulations to my girl Alexandra Burke for winning the coveted X-Factor title. For those who don't know, the X-Factor is Britain's equivalent to American Idol which finds 10 eager wannabes battling it out week after week for a £1 million pound record contract. Along with Idol, the X Factor is also the brainchild of Simon Cowell, and a certified ratings winner here in the UK. 

So along with fellow contestant, Rachel Hylton, Alexandra was my favourite from the get go. The North Londoner is a mere 20 years old, but has a vocal maturity that belies her young age (think a little Gladys mixed with sprinklings of Mica and Toni Braxton). Throughout the live shows she gave consistently versatile and polished performances and quickly became the bookies favourite. The final showdown saw Alex compete with runners up JLS and Eoaghn. But after a show-stopping duet between the budding chanteuse and her American "idol", Beyonce, could there really be any other winner? Since claiming victory Alex’s debut single Hallelujah has stormed to the top of the UK charts, marking what I hope will be the start of a successful career.  

I'm not going to go into much further detail but will leave you with these random questions/ observations:

- Now that she's won do you think they'll turn her into another bland, ex-reality pop star that makes soppy, middle of the road music such as Lemar and Leona?

- And speaking of Leona, what's with the comparisons? So they're both young, women of colour, who both happen to sing really well. AND?? They sound nothing alike and have totally different personalities. SO STOP!

- Wasn't it refreshing to see pictures of a young black woman splashed across the front pages of the national newspapers, who wasn't a rape victim, thief, or young single mother who murdered her kids?

- That said, it was equally annoying to witness the whole sexualisation of a black woman in the tabloids, especially considering she’s so young. “Cheryl has banned me from having sex” read the headline in the Sun. On closer inspection Alex merely said that Cheryl advised her to abstain from boyfriends for a while.

- If, like me, your life was on hold for those three hours while you watched the finals, didn't you want to shake/slap/pinch Alex and shout 'pull it together girl' after her mini-breakdown following her Beyonce duet? Honestly, when she was announced as the winner I thought we were gonna witness a live cardiac arrest on national TV. It got a little worrying at one stage.  

Ah well, I guess that's all folks until next year. Here are my fav Alex moments...

Silent Night



Thursday, 11 December 2008

Alesha Dixon's new video - Breathe Slow

Breathe Slow is the second single to be be released from Alesha's new album 'The Alesha Show'. The video was shot in Las Vegas and features the singer roaming the city of that never sleeps in full showgirl attire, juxtaposed against some Flashdance-esq  studio routines. The track is kinda middle of the road bubble-gum pop... would even go so far to say "catchy" even. Have a peek! 

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Stells Covers Stella

Girl of the moment, Estelle graces the cover of this week's Stella magazine, the fashion supplement found in the Sunday Telegraph. The cover line reads 'Why Estelle is the Saviour of British Soul', and features the singer giving her two cents worth about her arduous rise to fame, and the lack of opportunities available to Black British artists. The interview isn't available on the Telegraph's website as yet, but you can take a peek right here. 

Pieces of a Dream Job: Natasha & Semhal from La Diosa

La Diosa is an exclusive jewellery range created by young entrepreneurs, Natasha Faith and Semhal Zemikael. The London based duo travelled the world to seek inspiration for their designs, vising far flung locations such as the Mayan ruins of Mexico, Thailand, Tokyo and Malaysia. The result is La Diosa - a striking collection of hand-made original jewellery pieces.

Natasha and Semhal have also won a string of accolades including The Precious Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2008, finalists of the Cosmopolitan Awards 2008- and voted in the Top 3 young UK Entrepreneurs, LaunchLab UK. They are also sponsors of the Girls! Make Your Mark Awards. Here's their story.

We earn a living by designing statement jewellery that is unique, fabulous and empowering. La Diosa is stocked in Harvey Nichols and an exclusive boutique in Chelsea. Our company is set to launch in New York next year and our whole team is very excited about that! We work hard and it's starting to show.

The moment we knew we wanted to be jewelry designers was when we visited the ruins of Chichinitza in Mexico. The jewellery that these women and men would adorn themselves with was simply phenomenal. I remember standing in a resound silence as I focused on the bead work and detail of some of the necklaces and earrings and I finally had to ask someone, "How and why did they wear such huge pieces of jewellery?" The response Sem and I both received was the turning point of our future, "These women and men would wear each piece with pride and honour. The more striking the piece, the more powerful the individual." At that moment I knew that jewellery in the modern sense could mean so much more than a fashion item, it could portray power, beauty and mystery. These three characteristics are synonymous to a Goddess like the very women who wore this "power jewellery", hence our name La Diosa, The Goddess in Spanish.

Our story on how we entered the industry is a complicated one! We are not your typical designers who studied in a particularly academic way (Natasha). I strongly believe it is not necessary to go to university to become a successful business person. In fact I think in some cases it can damage your creativity and lead you to become institutionalised. So we decided to travel and gain some inspiration and knowledge at the same time. The experience was rewarding in itself, but what we have achieved as result is amazing (Sem).

I would say that the relationship we have is very much like a sisterly one. We argue and love just like family. Because of this we had to figure out a way that we could debate professionally without the other person taking it personally. It took some time to get there but after living in someones pockets for almost a year abroad you learn to respect them. We both understand that the empire we are building cannot survive without the other.

The highlight of my career thus far has been seeing the look on my mother's face when we won Entrepreneur of the Year at the Precious Awards. Before then it would be safe to say that there has been so many highlights that it is difficult to pin just one (Natasha).

I would be lying if I said running a business was easy. We face challenges constantly, meaning we always have to be on our toes and be ready to face the situation head on. The key to dealing with challenges is learning from them! Making mistakes and learning from them are the best lessons you can learn. No business course can teach you that (Sem).

The advice we would give to others trying to break into the industry is just go for it! The hardest part of business is sometimes actually starting believe it or not. So many people wish for their own careers but procrastination and fear of failure are quick to stop them. The fear of failure is a big one, but you need to make a choice.. Will you finally take the risk, challenge yourself and prosper or will spend the rest of your life wondering "what if...?" Just make sure that whatever it is you decide to do it's because you love it more than the money.

Banks can be difficult so we never approached them! The Prince's Trust saw potential in us. We had a good plan, did the legwork and were without a doubt passionate about our venture so they were happy to support La Diosa. When you have a strong business plan funding can become easier to access, however if you have the right people running the business then capital can become even more available. Banks and organisations invest in people more than plans.

Our future ambitions include launching "La Diosa Possessions". Possessions will include a range of statement handbags, sunglasses and shoes. We'll also be launching "Dios", our new jewellery range for men. We also aim to build on our celebrity client list, launch in New York next year and build our brand to become an international powerhouse - so watch out.

For further info visit www.ladiosa.co.uk

Monday, 8 December 2008

Constance Talks About Libel Court Case Victory

For those who have read Constance Briscoe's best-selling memoir, 'Ugly' you have probably been probably been paying close attention to the recent libel case brought against her by her mother. For those who don't know, Constance Briscoe is one of Britain's first black judges. In 2005 she published a memoir revealing the years of physical and emotional abuse she endured at the hands of her mother.

Routinely called "ugly", Constance describes a catalogue of horrors including being beaten by a stick, having her breasts pinched and twisted so severely that she had to undergo reconstructive surgery, being locked in a cellar, and being made to sleep in urine drenched bed sheets. At her lowest point Constance attempted to commit suicide by drinking bleach. Despite the somewhat humorous and nonchalant way in which these incidents were described, it was simply heartbreaking to read. The book caused a stir naturally, and sparked much needed debate about the culture of beating which is still very much inherent in the the black community.

Constance's mother recently took her daughter to court claiming that all the allegations made in the book were lies, and Constance was just a fantasist. Initially I began to feel quite worried about this turn of events. What if we had all been sold a pack of lies? I thought. What if Constance was just abusing her powers of the law and had simply used her poor vulnerable mother as a means to fame and fortune. I pondered.

However, last week Constance won the trial and her mother now faces £500,000 in legal fees, which she has been ordered to pay to Hodder and Stoughton, the publishers of the book. At 74 years old Carmen Briscoe (Constance's estranged mother) could stand to lose her house. Constance however has gracefully requested that the courts ensure that her mother keeps her home and doesn't end up on the streets. Ironic, eh? Such a tragic ending to what already was a sad story. Constance' Read one of Constance's first post-trial interviews here:

Freema Lands Role in Law & Order London

Also popping off the celebratory bottle of champers is black British actress, Freema Agyeman who is currently filming the much anticipated UK version of Law & Order. Freema first came to our attention as the plucky Assistant to David Tennant's Dr Who and has gone from strength to strength ever since, bagging a lead role in Torchwood, and winning a Screen Nation Award for Best TV Female Star and Glamour Award for Best Newcomer.

Freema will play court prosector Alesha Phillips in the 13 part series of Law & Order London, which is expected to be one of the main television highlights for 2009.

Leona: The Serial Record Breaker

Can this girl's career ascend any higher? Leona Lewis has shattered yet another record, with new single Run becoming the fastest selling download EVER. The cover of the Snow Patrol hit has already sold over 69,000 copies in just two days, and has soared to the top of the UK national charts. I happen to really like this track. Leona's voice sounds superb: it's really gentle and controlled in parts, and then spirals into a high powered crescendo that is the stuff of all ballad queens. Apparently record execs were reluctant to release it as a single but changed their minds after her X-Factor performance, proving once and for all that the suits don't know jack. I guess it's safe to say that this surprise No.1 hit coupled with rumours that Leona will be performing at President Obama's inauguration, tops off quite the spectacular year for Hackney's finest.

Live Version of Run Performed on the X Factor

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Cocoa Chat: Eden Rox

Anyone who has followed the British R&B scene over the years, should be familiar with singer/songwriter Celetia Martin. The singer clocked up a couple of underground hits such as ‘Rewind’ and ‘Runaway Skies’ back in the 90's and was a regular performer at live R&B gigs across the country. With her lithe physique and dulcet tones, she reminded me of a British Aaliyah. Things appeared to be on the up and up for her, so I was quite surprised when she disappeared off the radar. A few weeks ago I learned that she was back recording under a new moniker - Eden Rox. As you can see from the publicity shot her 'skater chick' image is a lot edgier compared to the R&B refinery of her ‘Celetia’ days. Her music has also gone through a dramatic transformation. Lead single ‘Crazy’ can best be described as hip-pop/metal, with its frenetic electric guitars, hip hop beats, and in your face lyrics. I managed to catch up with Eden recently to find out what she’s been up to during her hiatus. Read what she had to say.

Hi Eden, many people will remember you as Celetia, the British R&B artist from the 90’s. Can you tell us what you’ve been up to while you were away?

I literally threw myself into song writing, but this time solely for other artists. It was a refreshing change for me as I had only ever written for my own projects... So when my publishers decided to fly me out to Sweden to write with a few pop/rock producers including Anders Bagge and Murlyn (Jjanet Jackson, J-Lo], there was no turning back. It was so cool to hear other artists’ interpretations of my songs. I just knew then I wanted to be a full time songwriter.

Which do you prefer – singing or song writing?

I love both equally... One doesn't come without the other. When I’m writing for someone else I always do guide vocals to show the way I want the song recorded and also when I'm doing my artist thing I always write my own songs.

What it was like to have so much success at such a young age? Was it overwhelming or did you love every minute of the experience?

I absolutely loved it! I had grown up in a very musical family so it was just a natural progression to do it myself. I remember I would break from school half an hour early to go to the recording studios in east London and I would literally do my homework between takes (laugh).

So you’re now back on the scene with a total change of image and musical direction, what brought about the change?

Like I mentioned before, I grew up in a musical family and was exposed to all sorts of music from soul to hip-hop to rock. Artists like Teena Marie, Run DMC and Guns N Roses were all played in my house and I loved them all. So when I decided to write my album I really wanted to fuse all the sounds I liked from an early age into my own personal sound...My image is just me. I like to fuse my style like I do my music.

How do you think your fans from your Celetia days will respond to your new sound?

I have a lot of fans hit me up on my Myspace and have given me some great reactions towards my new material, so all in all it’s been pretty good. I think a lot of people want to hear something fresh instead of the same old music formulas. I most definitely am tired of the same old same old and that’s why I chose the direction I did.

What do you think of the British music scene at the moment compared to when you first came out? Do you think it’s more inclusive of black artists, or has more or less remained the same?

I don't think it’s changed. I think it’s always going to be harder for black artists in this country but, at the end of the day you can’t hold back good music, so as long as we continue to make good music we will always be around. From back in the day with Soul II Soul, to the current day with Estelle, Dizzee Rascal and Lemar, they are all doing their thing right now and in a big way too.

Who are some of the artists you are into at the moment, who gets heavy rotation on your I-Pod?

First of all I don't even have an I-pod (laugh), I know, I’m so late. I listen to everything in my car on CD to be honest. But the artists getting the most plays right now are The Ting Tings, Scouting for Girls, Lil Wayne, MIA and Dizzee Rascal

Are you into music-related reality shows like X-Factor/American Idol? Do you think it’s a good way to enter the industry, or do you more champion the traditional route of gigging and grafting ?

Honestly, I think any way you can get to your goal - get it! It won’t be the same for everyone. I grew up in music and my Mum was in the industry already, so was my uncle, so I had a few hook ups. Whereas someone who doesn't have that in their reach, a show like the X Factor might be great for them.

Finally, what are your plans for 2009?

I plan on releasing my album and touring...I can’t wait! The aim is to build on my fan base and from there the sky's the limit

The video for Crazy

Vintage Celetia - Rewind

About Me

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I am a thirty-something African Caribbean female from South East London. My blog will shine a light on Black British culture offering the best in entertainment, fashion, beauty, community, film & music, with the occasional personal musing thrown in from yours truly. Thank you for taking out the time to peek into the pages of my diary. Now grab a cup of cocoa, relax and enjoy.