This book includes a plain text version that is designed for high accessibility. To use this version please follow this link.
55 f J


ames was riding the crest of the wave of openness to all kinds of music and its interconnection with all sorts of cultural expressions, like art and dance and fashion, which he’d jumped on at Hull. There, as well as the sublime Motorhead gig, he’d staged shows by Heatwave, KC and the Sunshine Band, Deaf School, and Martin Carthy: “Silly Wizard, a brilliant Scottish party band, played at the Christmas ball. It was amazing. A time when music was less sep- arated. People wanted to hear such a wide range: Northern soul, prog rock, punk, folk, reggae… you name it.” By the time he arrived in Hull, James’ personal taste also included the rock-blues of Little Feat, jazz-pop courtesy of Steely Dan, the art- punk of Pere Ubu, and of course Bowie.


A friend of his at Hull had a boyfriend at Oxford called Stephen Pritchard, who was on the team of the Bristol Recorder with Thomas Brooman et al. (fR413). Pritchard asked James along to the first meeting re. an idea called ‘Rhythm 82’, which was to incorporate music and dance from all over the world. “It became the first WOMAD. My role was to be tour man- ager for The Drummers Of Burundi.”


As they arrived during the summer holidays, James was able to take two weeks off work at ULU and meet them from the plane. “We supported The Clash at the Brixton Academy. We had a huge entourage, but the rider was six cans of beer and a couple of sandwiches. I was about to go out and buy everyone chicken nuggets and chips when Joe strummer popped his head round the door and said ‘Is that all you’ve got?’ and brought The Clash’s rider into our dressing room. Joe and Mick Jones stood in the wings and watched the drummers. He (Strummer) came to Womad a lot subsequently…”


That there were subsequent Womads after that brilliant inaugural but financial- ly fatal gig is in no small part due to James. Another friend, Michael Morris, “was doing this thing called Rock Week at the ICA whilst I was at ULU. He promised me a Rock Week.” James, realising that Womad’s name was mud, knew they need- ed to get it back in currency. Instead of curating Rock Week he proposed they put on a proper Womad line-up at the ICA (which included Kanda Bongo Man’s UK debut and Jah Wobble), and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.


That history continued in part to be shaped by James. During his four years at ULU he helped Womad and, in ’84, The Smiths’ tour of Ireland. The following year he moved to Bristol to work full- time for the festival. “I’d got the bug with the Drummers Of Burundi. I thought they were one of the greatest bands in the world.” His role was essentially to bring in the rock and pop artists and facilitate the connections between them and the artists from the rest of the world, from backstage football games to on- stage collaborations.


From the outset this was successful, as


the release of Zimbo Live, (the B-side of Echo and the Bunnymen’s The Cutter), showed. When The Bunnymen’s drummer Pete de Freitas invited the Drummers Of


AJ and Karlo – Yu Fe Danse Sound System


Burundi to perform with them in 1982, he presaged in a way the later Real World recording weeks.


Living in Clifton Village and immersed in the emerging ‘Bristol Sound’, James hooked up with Karlo Smith, the son of a reggae promoter, to form a DJ outfit, Yu Fe Danse, playing African, Latin and reg- gae music. They landed a show on GWR radio and on the pirate Emergency Radio station on 99.9 FM. “Grant and Mushroom (Massive Attack) had a show and John Sta- pleton had a hip-hop show. We were all on the same circuit.” In Bristol then, as in Lon- don and Hull before, James found no seg- regation when it came to music.


In his DJ incarnation James travelled the world and supported artists such as the Bhundu Boys and Thomas Mapfumo, whilst playing regularly at Womad, with he and Smith becoming the house DJs. “It was brilliant. We’d play reggae one night, house the next, the Whirl Y Gig crew would join and there’d be after hours at the Rivermead Centre and now it’s the Big


Red Tent.” Although James hung up his headphones in the late ’90s, he brought them out again when Pete Lawrence asked him to DJ at the Big Chill, which he did for about ten consecutive years, play- ing folk, ambient, and film soundtracks.


The late ’90s DJ hiatus coincided with James accepting a job at the Midlands Art Centre (MAC) in Birmingham. Though lov- ing life in Bristol, a more formal training in arts funding beckoned. In Birmingham he began Sounds In The Round in a 400-seat open-air theatre in the park. Along with shows by Ali Farka Touré, Olodum and Oumou Sangaré, James staged multi-disci- plinary events, featuring various combina- tions of music, dance, comedy and theatre whilst honing his fundraising skills. These also enabled him to produce large-scale sound and art shows that included taking artists into the landscape and creating/curating installations in local parks. “It was nice,” he says, “to come back being able to programme a venue with a culturally diverse music agenda.”


Thomas Brooman, Kanda Bongo Man and Alan James in Paris, 1983.


Photo: Chris Rydeleski


Photo: Mireille Gastaldi


Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68  |  Page 69  |  Page 70  |  Page 71  |  Page 72  |  Page 73  |  Page 74  |  Page 75  |  Page 76  |  Page 77  |  Page 78  |  Page 79  |  Page 80  |  Page 81  |  Page 82  |  Page 83  |  Page 84  |  Page 85  |  Page 86  |  Page 87  |  Page 88  |  Page 89  |  Page 90  |  Page 91  |  Page 92  |  Page 93  |  Page 94  |  Page 95  |  Page 96  |  Page 97  |  Page 98  |  Page 99  |  Page 100  |  Page 101  |  Page 102  |  Page 103  |  Page 104  |  Page 105  |  Page 106  |  Page 107  |  Page 108  |  Page 109  |  Page 110  |  Page 111  |  Page 112  |  Page 113  |  Page 114  |  Page 115  |  Page 116  |  Page 117  |  Page 118  |  Page 119  |  Page 120  |  Page 121  |  Page 122  |  Page 123  |  Page 124  |  Page 125  |  Page 126  |  Page 127  |  Page 128  |  Page 129  |  Page 130  |  Page 131  |  Page 132  |  Page 133  |  Page 134  |  Page 135  |  Page 136  |  Page 137  |  Page 138  |  Page 139  |  Page 140  |  Page 141  |  Page 142  |  Page 143  |  Page 144  |  Page 145  |  Page 146  |  Page 147  |  Page 148