Jazz maestro David Lyttle says fans attending a gig at Bennigan’s Bar this Sunday will be able to hear how his style has changed after a recent trip to Morocco with Nerve Centre’s Head of Music, Martin McGill, its new Musician in Residence, Marty Coyle and singer/songwriter Glenn Rossborough.
The Armagh-born MOBO nominee was in Morrocco to take part in a five-day intensive workshop with young international musicians through a visit organised by British Council Morocco in conjunction with the Nerve Centre.
The ‘Pop Up Studio’ programme was held in Youssouifia for 25 young semi-professional musicians and focused on learning and skills development in the music industry.
Over the five days, the Northern Ireland delegation worked with them on all elements from; song-writing, recording and production to event management and marketing, with David teaching the young musicians about song-writing and how to get started in the music industry.
David said: “This is the second time I’ve been to Morocco with the British Council; the first time was in 2012, when I went out with London Jazz Musician Sowoto Kinch to play the Gnawa Festval in Essaouira and it really opened my eyes to a new and really beautiful kind of music.
“This time I was able to build on that knowledge and work with some really talented young artists. They were really good and did a lot of experimentation by rapping in Arabic and we were able to record a few things together as well as perform a concert on the final day. The whole town came out to see them perform and it was something really special to be part of.”
For David, the trip was very inspirational, but also frustrating.
He said: “Sometimes I don’t think we know how lucky we are here in the Northern Ireland music industry. Out there it is really tough – there’s no such thing as record labels, no method of redistribution and no radio royalties – all the things we take for granted.
“As musicians in Northern Ireland we’re very privileged by what we do – yes, it’s hard, but compared to over there, making music here is relatively easy.
“Our music culture is all based around alcohol – and they just don’t have a structure like that. For an emerging artist here, they start off at open-mic nights in pubs and go on to play events sponsored by large drink companies.
“There’s no real scene whereas in Morocco – and it’s difficult to change that as you only get a festival gig there if you’re big – mid-range artists just don’t exist and if you’re smaller, there’s no chance of a look-in.
“We hope through this visit that we can inspire the young people out there to start something themselves on their own initiative. It would be great to go back and see something starting up there.”
The music however was the real highlight for David.
He said: “I really love Gnawa, which is traditional folk music with roots in ancient African tradition and a fascinating combination of poetry, music and dancing.
“It’s has a relentless, hypnotic, heavily rhythmic sound that has the power to send its listeners into a trance and features just three instruments: heavy iron castanets called krakeks, the human voice, and the bass rumble of the three-stringed ghimbri.
“The music has really affected my style, but without me really noticing. I played a gig in Sheffield recently and a guy could actually hear me playing the drums in Gnawa manner. I hadn’t realised as I thought the song was influenced by carnival music, so it’s definitely affected me more than I thought!”
David also had time for a bit of fun on the trip and was able to soak in the local culture.
He said: “I had a lot of fun riding mopeds there too. There are loads on the streets, some very cool old models. Word got around quickly that I was a big fan of them and I was given about five in the short time I was there.
“For me, the most memorable parts of trips like this are when even if you and someone else can’t speak the same language, you can share wonderful moments together – whether that is sharing food or enjoying great music.”
David will play Belfast and Derry this weekend, but he also has plenty to keep him busy.
He said: “Apart from my current tour, I’m doing some writing and recording, so we’ll see where that takes me – I’m just trying to absorb what I’ve learnt and work out a way to get the best of out this experience.”
“I’d love to do something with the song we recorded out there – but just need to find a way to make inroads into the Moroccan scene.
“I’ll be going back that way in November, but just for a holiday this time, I want to soak up the culture and explore a little more.”
The British Council work with artists, bands and creatives from across the world. To find out more about the work we do visit http://nireland.britishcouncil.org
David Lyttle Trio play the MAC, Belfast, on September 24 at 8 pm and Bennigans, Derry, on September 25 at 5pm.