I am a part-time folky-pop singer, flute player and song writer, performing with two Edinburgh-based bands, my own band folk-pop band, Jelephant, and artist and saxophonist, Mari Jones‘ jazz-ceilidh band, Saxofolk. In 2020, I won a Bursury to attend Moniack Mhor‘s Songwriting course (Scotland’s premier Creative Writing Retreat Centre), to be held in January 2022.
I originally trained as a flautist, attending the London Guildhall School of Music and Drama jazz summer schools as a teenager and Pimlico School Special Music Programme, London. I then completed my BA Music and Media Studies at the University of Sussex in 1999. During this course, I studied flute at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and contemporary composition with Professor Julian Johnson, then of Sussex. I later took singing lessons with Hannah O’Hora.
International Folk and Pop Music
During my degree, I followed my passion for folk and pop music and its’ ability to bring people together and break down cultural barriers, by taking part in international summer music camps in Rääkkylä, Eastern Finland (performing at the Kihaus Folk Music Festival), Haapavesi Festival, Central Finland, and at the International Voluntary Service (IVS) rock music camp for young musicians from the east and west of Europe in Weissensee, Berlin, Germany. With friends, I later established two international youth music and arts projects. The first was an IVS camp at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Isle of Skye, Scotland in 1999, where attendees learned Gaelic music, and delivered the opening concert of Fèis an Eilein (South Skye Festival). The second ran from 1999-2001: Belarus Youth Theatre Exchange, a British Council-funded bi-lateral youth arts exchange between young actors, musicians and artists from Brighton, UK, and their peers from the Belarusian NGO, New Faces, Minsk, Belarus.
The Anthropology of Music and Performance
In 2000-2001, I followed my Nordic heart to Reykjavík, Iceland to research my masters thesis for an MA Anthropology of Europe (University of Sussex) on the country’s music and national identity. I originally planned to research and write about the Icelanders’ national pastime of singing in choirs as a way of performing and reinforcing a sense of national belonging. However, on realising that back then, choir members were almost exclusively ethnic Icelanders singing in Icelandic, without any trace of the growing multicultural and migrant populations of the city, my research took on a new direction.
I decided to look at musicians based in Reykjavík who used musical performance and songwriting to challenge traditional and/or negative nationalistic stereotypes of women, migrants as outsiders and the LGBTQ+ community. I conducted a narrative, interview-based study of three musicians: feminist opera singer, Ásgerður Júníusdóttir, and her performances for the Women’s Party of Iceland, Joe Guthrie, an Irish migrant guitarist and singer, and Iceland’s first public figure to come out as gay, and publicly challenge homophobia, singer-songwriter Hörður Torfason. A copy of my dissertation still lurks in the vaults of the library of the University of Iceland somewhere.
As a sideline, I performed in several concerts at the Icelandic Opera House, singing three songs as solo folk singer with a backing band and played flute/whistle in several groups at an Irish/Icelandic Folk Music Festival (IRIS). The concerts were broadcast on Icelandic Radio.
Between 2000-2004, I worked as a freelance reporter for two BBC music radio programmes, Radio 3’s Music Matters and the World Service’s Music Review (no longer transmitted), creating and voicing features, and one full length programme. I reported on music and culture across a wide range of topics: music and politics in Belarus, Icelandic contemporary composers, the singing tradition in Iceland from Viking times until the 2000s, Maltese brass bands and festas, ethnomusicology in Northern Ireland, contemporary Finnish music, and Saami reindeer herders’ joik singing.