NENEH CHERRY

Neneh Cherry flits from punk, rap and pop to dance and funk. Next month she lands in Launce­s­ton to con­tinue her soul­ful mu­si­cal flight

Mercury (Hobart) - Magazine - - UPFRONT - WORDS TIM MARTAIN

The much ac­claimed Swedish singer is on her way to Tassie for Mona Foma in Launce­s­ton.

Suf­fer­ing through the early stages of a Lon­don win­ter, Neneh Cherry is re­ly­ing on Tas­ma­nia’s sum­mer to thaw her when she vis­its Launce­s­ton for Mona Foma 2019. “I’ve just come back from vis­it­ing Swe­den for a few days and now I’m back in Old Blighty in the rain,” she laughs. “So yeah, the very thought of an Aus­tralian sum­mer is sav­ing my life right now!” The Swedish singer and rap­per has a ca­reer span­ning over three decades, cross­ing gen­res from punk, rap and pop to dance and funk, and she will head­line sum­mer’s MoFo when the pop­u­lar mu­sic and arts fes­ti­val is held in the North for the first time.

Mov­ing to the UK as a teenager, she started per­form­ing with punk bands and dee­jay­ing, even­tu­ally start­ing her solo ca­reer in 1982. Her break­out hit, Buf­falo Stance, was re­leased in 1988, the main­stream ex­po­sure mak­ing her a house­hold name. Some of her other hits in­clude 7 Sec­onds (1994), Woman (1996) and Kisses On The Wind (1989).

Her MoFo show, on Jan­uary 19, will fea­ture a bit of every­thing. “Most of what we are do­ing will be from the new al­bum Bro­ken Pol­i­tics, which came out this year,” she says. Prob­a­bly 80 per cent of the show will be new stuff and then there will be a few golden oldies as well.”

The 54-year-old singer laughs at her­self when she re­alises she is re­fer­ring to her own work as “golden oldies”.

“I know, it’s a bit strange, but it re­ally is get­ting to be like that! Right about now it is 30 years since Buf­falo Stance came out. It’s weird, I dunno how I feel about that. To be per­fectly hon­est, feels like it was just yes­ter­day, not that long ago, but it’s on pa­per! It was 30 years ago. And I was preg­nant at the time and that child will be 30 in March, so I can’t deny it.

Her ear­li­est hit, Buf­falo Stance is still prob­a­bly her most recog­nis­able song, and while very much a prod­uct of its era, it is still pop­u­lar among the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of retro-lov­ing young peo­ple. “The fact that peo­ple still know it is just one of the most up­lift­ing things for me. That song in par­tic­u­lar has this ex­tended um­bil­i­cal cord, it has these waves when it resur­faces and kids re­dis­cover it. It’s nice when some­one in their 20s can still get some­thing from that. I don’t know that I ever go out of my way to de­lib­er­ately make some­thing that is time­less, I don’t think any artist re­ally does, but it cer­tainly is the dream, it’s in­cred­i­ble when it hap­pens.”

While Cherry’s mu­sic has al­ways been in­flu­enced by what is pop­u­lar at the time, it also tends to tran­scend the pop­u­lar styles and gen­res, cross­ing over into less con­tem­po­rary styles, such as re­work­ing old soul clas­sics or in­cor­po­rat­ing world mu­sic.

She says her mu­sic is con­stantly evolv­ing.

“I’m not try­ing to fit in to cer­tain trends or to adapt my­self to what is the ‘cool thing’ or the sound of the mo­ment. I guess I just try to rein­ter­pret what I’m in­flu­enced by, what’s hap­pen­ing around me. I come from an ex­per­i­men­tal back­ground, be­ing born into the fam­ily that I was. My dad was a jazz mu­si­cian, mum was an artist, so I grew up in a very ex­per­i­men­tal en­vi­ron­ment.

“So I think I will al­ways be at­tracted to that idea, of be­ing non­con­formist rather than re­peat­ing my­self, try­ing to push that boat out and take risks, not play­ing things too safe or get­ting too com­fort­able or set­tled. Mostly I feel like I’m al­ways learn­ing and feel­ing like there’s still so many things to do.”

Her cur­rent al­bum, Bro­ken Pol­i­tics, is a de­lib­er­ately po­lit­i­cal and provoca­tive record, lament­ing cur­rent world events and serv­ing as an out­let for Cherry’s frus­tra­tions.

“It’s soul­ful and def­i­nitely re­flec­tive and a lot of the lyri­cal ma­te­rial def­i­nitely res­onates with the ef­fect of things I’m soak­ing up that are hap­pen­ing around the world. In mak­ing this record I think we made a con­scious choice to take a lot of those feel­ings that were com­ing from con­fu­sion or anger or frus­tra­tion or heart­break and mak­ing some­thing beau­ti­ful with those feel­ings and ex­pres­sions.

“It is nat­u­ral and or­ganic and gen­tle but still turn­ing things on its head oc­ca­sion­ally. It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek as well, you have to have some play­ful­ness in there.”

Cherry’s con­stant rein­ven­tion and ex­per­i­men­tal na­ture makes her a per­fect fit for Mona Foma and she says she is look­ing for­ward to ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the fes­ti­val for her­self, hav­ing heard about it from oth­ers who have per­formed there over the years.

“I’ve been to Aus­tralia be­fore but never Tas­ma­nia. I was in Aus­tralia about three years ago with my last al­bum and we did a few fes­ti­vals, in Mel­bourne, WOMADe­laide and then to Perth.

“I’m go­ing to be in Aus­tralia for a few weeks over sum­mer. As well as MoFo we are do­ing a few shows in other parts of the coun­try, so as al­ways it’s a visit that’s crammed full of sched­ules and shows, but it would be nice to be able to spend at least a few min­utes look­ing around Tassie and just en­joy­ing be­ing there.”

Neneh Cherry is per­form­ing at Mona Foma on Jan­uary 19, 9pm, on the layk­ila Stage, In­veresk Precinct, Launce­s­ton. Her per­for­mance is in­cluded in the Three Day Fes­ti­val Ticket or Day Pass. Visit mofo.net.au for more de­tails and book­ings.

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