Don Kipper play the ‘Traditional Music of North-East London’.
Their music evokes the sound of this corner of the city where a vast array of cultures and peoples live. They’re a band bound by friendship and who together explore a love of the music that surrounds them.
Seven Sisters is an album that fizzes with all the propulsive energy of North-East London’s cultural crossroads. From the market traders of Ridley Road, to the hustle and bustle of Jewish bakeries, late night sessions across Dalston’s Jazz clubs, and the charcoal smell of Turkish barbeques as you head up Green Lanes and the Kingsland Road on a Friday night towards Seven Sisters; the birthplace of Don Kipper.
This is an ensemble that draws on many routes and roots. From childhood obsessions with klezmer, to song collecting around the Mediterranean, from grooving to Senegalese mbalax, to marching to the propulsive beat of the samba bateria, the band bring their assorted histories and inquisitive minds to the traditional music of southern and eastern Europe. The seven members have had differing musical journeys; some have formal training, while others play entirely by ear, or learnt their songs from Greek grandmothers. They make imaginative music grounded in the living traditions that reflect the songs and stories of people who have lived in this patch of London for more than a century.
Seven Sisters is a mix of traditional and original music. ‘Welcome’ is an original song that echoes with snatches of syllables and a fusion of sounds from both shores of the Mediterranean, a meditation on the perilous journeys so many people are making to escape oppression and violence. ‘Cassenbaumer Sher’ and ‘Opa Ela’ are also original compositions, but ones that take different routes entirely as Jewish and Greek sounds find themselves in new urban waters. In other songs different elements bubble to the surface. On ‘Aroma’, traditional Greek sounds collide with furious intensity, drawing influence from West African music and the kinds of grooves inspired by electronic music that are currently tearing up the UK’s fertile Jazz scene. Elsewhere the power of Dunja Botic’s vocals tell ancient stories, whether in cursing a mother who marries her off to an older man in the fiery ‘Hajri Me Ta Dike’ or channelling the fervour of village festivities in ‘Stamena’, a Macedonian folk song re-crafted in London’s shadow. All these various threads culminate in ‘Gambrinus’, knitted into an energetic piece where each instrumentalist gets a chance to tell their own version of the Don Kipper story in a rollicking 6/8 rhythm, perhaps it’s a Jewish sirba, or should that be Romanian sărba, or maybe even a Bulgarian pravo horo?
This is an album with feet in many worlds, and its diversity is a strength that reflects London at its best, with solidarity and respect across boundaries and borders. These many roots help the band stand taller, exploring new meeting points that conjure up modern London and the ways that people, places, music and technology are interwoven. This is an album that’ll grab you by your very soul and pull you halfway through London before it’s finished with you.