Interview with Sheila Maurice-Grey from ‘KOKOROKO’ ahead of BAN BAM festival
Sheila Maurice-Grey is a London based trumpeter and visual artist. She plays with a number of groups and is currently touring the UK as band-leader of KOKOROKO. We chatted to her about the current music scene, what inspires her, and about her up-coming appearance at BAN BAM.
Who or what inspires you at the moment - be it in music, arts, politics or your personal life?
At the moment I’ve been listening to a lot of Fela Kuti’s music. His music inspires me in terms of what he stood for politically, and just how vocal he was about money issues and the cultural issues in Nigeria and West Africa…it has a lot of resonance for me when you hear his lyrics and what he’s talking about. I think he stands for a lot, his national identity...all his music has some relevance to what was happening at his time, and also what’s happening now with America. He provides a lot of vocalisation on what’s been happening in politics, for me it carries a lot of weight.
There is an obvious gender imbalance in the music industry, but especially so in jazz. What do you think can be done about this? How do you see this changing in the future?
I always find that an interesting question, because while yes, that is very true, I feel like the generation that I’ve grown up in, in terms of what I saw growing up, I haven’t experienced that gender imbalance, and I think that’s just because I’ve been in an environment where that hasn’t been allowed to happen. The different groups I’ve been involved with haven’t necessarily made being a female jazz musician a big deal, so I think that normalising the fact that women play jazz is the way forward.
What do you think of your current local jazz/experimental scene? Who are your favourite artists/ ones to watch?
I think that the current scene in London has something special happening, in the whole of London in terms of music. Not just in the jazz scene, or just the underground scene-there’s a whole load of acts coming out of London and putting it on the map. Ones to watch, from my kind of scene, I’d have to mention Seed Ensemble who I know are releasing an album soon, there’s also Oscar Jerome, Shirley Tetteh, Ahnanse, Eddie Hick and Nubya Garcia.
Can you tell us about a seminal experience, project, or encounter that had a significant impact on your career or life choices?
Well apart from music, I am an artist as well, so I went to art college. I went to Camberwell College of Arts and I also went to Goldsmiths University to study fine art. For me that was one of the most important times in my life, exploring myself through art, and a lot of my art has to do with my identity, and what that means: ‘identity’. My time studying art was very important, but I love what I do now.
What does being part of an event like BAN BAM mean to you?
Well, first of all, I’ve never been to Ireland, so I’m super excited to visit Ireland! I also think that it’s a great festival, and the fact that you guys have recognised us, Kokoroko, I feel very honoured that you would want to share our music with people in Ireland. I’m very excited, I feel that BAN BAM is great for female musicians. There are three women in Kokoroko, and I think it’s important to normalise that.
Are you working on anything new at the moment? What do you have lined up for 2018?
Yes! So we’re currently working on our next EP, and we’re hoping to release a new single before the end of 2017.
Catch KOKOROKO at BAN BAM this Saturday 25th November! TICKETS here