Blowzabella are Andy Cutting – diatonic button accordion; Jo Freya – vocals, saxophone, clarinet; Paul James – bagpipes, saxophones; Gregory Jolivet – hurdy-gurdy; David Shepherd – violin; Barn Stradling – bass guitar; Jon Swayne – bagpipes, saxophone.
Blowzabella is a genuinely unique band that makes an inimitable, driving, drone-based sound played with a fabulous sense of melody, rhythmic expertise and sheer feeling. They compose their own music which is influenced by English and European traditional dance music.
All the band members compose and many of their tunes are “standards” in the modern British/European folk repertoire and are played by people all over the world. Bands across Europe who experiment with folk music often cite Blowzabella as a major influence. Much loved and respected, there is no one else quite like them.
Blowzabella, c’est un son inimitable et immédiatement reconnaissable ; une musique à bourdons toute en émotion portée par des mélodies envoûtantes et des rythmes terriblement efficaces ! Leur répertoire s’inspire des musiques traditionnelles à danser d’Europe et bien-sûr d’Angleterre. Nombre de leurs compositions originales sont d’ailleurs devenues des standards du répertoire folk actuel et sont jouées partout à travers le monde. Blowzabella est une influence majeure pour beaucoup de groupes folk à travers toute l’Europe.
Die Gruppe hat ihren ganz eigenen, mitreißenden, auf einem starken Bordun basierenden Sound mit sagenhaftem Gespür für Melodie und Rhythmus und mit viel Gefühl. Sie spielt Eigenkompositionen der verschiedenen Bandmitglieder, die von der englischen und europäischen traditionellen Tanzmusik inspiriert sind. Viele ihrer Stücke gehören mittlerweile zum Standardrepertoire der modernen britischen bzw. europäischen Folkmusik und werden weltweit nachgespielt. Viele progressivere Folkmusikgruppen in ganz Europa erklären, dass Blowzabella sie maßgeblich beeinflusst hat.
De band heeft een geheel eigen, opzwepende, van bourdons doordrongen klank gespeeld met een fantastisch gevoel voor melodie, ritmische expertise en pure feeling. Ze schrijven hun eigen muziek die beïnvloed wordt door Engelse en Europese traditionele dansmuziek. Alle bandleden componeren; veel van hun nummers zijn inmiddels “standards” in het moderne Engelse / Europese folkrepertoire en worden gespeeld door mensen over de hele wereld. Bands in heel Europa die experimenteren met volksmuziek noemen Blowzabella vaak als belangrijke inspiratiebron.
La banda tiene un inigualable sonido basado en los bordones de gaitas y zanfona, con un sentido del ritmo y de la melodía muy característico. Música original influenciada por la música de baile de tradición inglesa y europea. Todos los componentes escriben nuevos temas, considerados “standards” en el moderno repertorio del Folk Europeo y son interpretados por muchas otras bandas de folk en todo el mundo. Muchos de los grupos europeos de folk consideran a Blowzabella un referente y una de sus mayores influencias.
Blowzabella propongono un inimitabile sound basato sulle sonorità degli strumenti a bordone, realizzato con un fantastico gusto melodico, ritmicamente coinvolgente e di grande impatto emotivo. Il repertorio è formato da brani di nuova composizione del gruppo stesso, fortemente influenzati dalla tradizione Inglese ed Europea. Molti dei loro brani sono divenuti “standards” nel moderno repertorio folk e sono eseguiti da musicisti di diverse nazionalità in tutto il mondo. Blowzabella sono spesso citati dai gruppi di tutta Europa che sperimentano con la musica folk come un’importante fonte di ispirazione.
WHAT PEOPLE SAY
” Then Blowzabella introduced a set about “death, and things going wrong … but we do play happy tunes too, honest!”: the folk legends’ Saturday-night headline slot was original and enjoyable. It also offered the rare opportunity to witness the versatility of a hurdy-gurdy in the skilled hands of Grégory Jolivet. The British and European traditions that Blowzabella blend brought a welcome but all too rare foreign accent to the music. With so many nations shaping our past, present and future, where were the musicians who can enrich English folk with their mixed heritage? Review of Blowzabella’s headline set at Folk East, August 2016. Imogen Tilden. THE GUARDIAN
“If ever a band was overdue a lifetime achievement award it is Blowzabella. Not only have they written a stack of what have become standard tunes in sessions on both sides of the channel, but they have also been largely responsible for reviving English Bagpipes and hurdy-gurdy, instruments that played a foundational role in traditional music.” Andrew Letcher. SONGLINES.
“Musically I’m inspired by all sorts: a lot of electronica, like Autechre and Funkstorung, and pop music and bands too, people like David Bowie and The Ramones, and these weird folk records like Blowzabella.” Joseph Mount, aka METRONOMY.
“I’m a massive fan. Huge. All my life I’ve loved Blowzabella and have watched you all live loads of wonderful times. I emailed you years ago, and we spoke about how children seem to love Blowzabella’s sound. And I just thought I’d email again now I have children of my own. A daughter and a son. I can now confirm that your music is still a firm favourite of the next generation. We love you. Always have, always will. I just want to say thank you.” Beth
“Blowzabella deliver that rare beast – a live album that somehow manages to capture the rampaging spirit of musical freedom that first marked them apart from all other bands… and has never been replicated since.” Colin Irwin. fROOTS.
The band prefer to play where people can dance but they often do concerts for people sitting in rows of seats. At a typical Blowzabella gig there are songs, dance music, and songs you can dance to. The variety of the arrangements and the mixture of unusual and more usual instruments provides plenty to enjoy whether you’re out there dancing or lying under a table listening.
Blowzabella play dance music composed and arranged by the band for a variety of English and European traditional dances. The dances are easy to pick up and you don’t have to be an expert to get involved, just have a go. Many people choose not to dance and come along to watch and listen – and that’s fine too. The band have done gigs like this for donkey’s years so you’re always in safe hands.
Dance Workshop: Jo Freya & Dave Shepherd – with the rest of the band providing the music. Some great English traditional dances and some of the European couple dances that Blowzabella have popularised over the last 30+ years. The aim of the workshop is to help people get the most from a Blowzabella gig. All ages and abilities welcome. There’s plenty for experienced dancers to learn too.
Folk Big Band: Paul James & Barnaby Stradling. Using simple, catchy folk dance tunes as a starting point, this workshop is about working together as a team to make a mighty big band noise that is more than the sum of its parts. Suitable for all ages, abilities, any instrument. No prior knowledge of folk music necessary. The aim is to create imaginative arrangements – using harmonies and riffs, textures and dynamics – that are interesting and fun to play, dance and listen to. You need to be of a standard where you can play a simple folk tune through at the right tempo, either by ear or by reading music. The Folk Big Band will perform at the evening dance.
Instrument & singing workshops
Diatonic button accordion & melodeon (G/D). Andy Cutting. Suitable for intermediate and more advanced players. The basic standard required to get the most from this workshop is to be able to learn a simple folk dance tune by ear and play it at the right tempo with others.
Bagpipe Workshop (bagpipes in G). Jon Swayne. Introducing participants to English bagpipe repertoire, both traditional and recently composed, working mostly by ear, but music is available at the end. Work on technique and ornamentation relevant to that repertoire can be included. If time allows and the appropriate instruments are available, the workshop can enjoy playing polyphony with two, three or more lines, a form with which Jon has considerable experience. Suitable for conical bore mouth or bellows blown bagpipes in G (for example, border, Flemish and French pipes).
Hurdy-Gurdy. Gregory Jolivet. Gregory is an experienced hurdy-gurdy teacher both in the traditional techniques and repertoire of central France and in more contemporary and improvisational approaches to playing the instrument. The basic standard required to get the most from this workshop is to be able to learn a simple folk dance tune by ear and play it at the right tempo with others.
Fiddle. Dave Shepherd. Mostly English traditional tunes and tips on rhythm and style. The basic standard required to get the most from this workshop is to be able to learn a simple folk dance tune by ear and play it at the right tempo with others. Some music is available on the day.
Singing. Jo Freya. Taking traditional songs and singing them in harmony as a group. All ages and abilities welcome. No need to be able to read music. The emphasis is on creating a great sound by arranging beautiful songs for the voices there.
Andy Cutting started as a drummer and percussion player, at 16 he discovered the diatonic button accordion and quickly progressed from local ceilidh bands to joining Blowzabella in 1988. Since then he has worked with many others including Chris Wood, June Tabor, Martin Simpson, Kate Rusby, Roger Daltry and played on over 200 records. Most recently he has a new band Topette with Barnaby Stradling and a trio, Leveret, with Sam Sweeney and Rob Harbron.
Jo Freya started playing at a very young age with the Old Swan Band – who put the ‘English’ back in folk music in the 1970’s – and joined Blowzabella in 1986. As a professional multi instrumentalist, singer and writer she can be seen with Coope, Boyes and Simpson in shows with Michael Morpergo and in her new trio Moirai with Mel Biggs and Sarah Matthews. Jo is a highly experienced workshop leader having worked with adults and young people across the UK and Europe where her unique style of delivery immediately puts everyone at their ease.
Paul James plays bagpipes, saxophones and whistles and has been playing folk dance music since he was a teenager. He joined Blowzabella in 1980 and has been organising their activities ever since. Paul also plays new music inspired by European traditional music with his band Evening Star (with Patrick Bouffard, Luke Daniels, Carlos Beceiro, Victor Nicholls & Gigi Biolcati) and traditional English folk dance music with the Playford Liberation Front. Paul has composed music for television, radio and the theatre and appears on albums by other folk, world music and rock artists.
Gregory Jolivet is a french hurdy-gurdy player and composer based in Châteauroux. On his alto electric hurdy-gurdy, he experiments and develops different techniques (tapping with one or two hands, effects, loops…) to create his very own music. He joined Blowzabella in 2004 and has been playing for twenty years in various acoustic and electric bands as La Machine, Alt’o solo, Le Grand Barouf and Rue Pascale Quartet.
Dave Shepherd learnt to dance with Grenoside Morris in his native Yorkshire and started playing fiddle as a teenager after moving to London. He joined Blowzabella in 1982 and developed a wide repertoire taken from various European fiddle traditions as well as English fiddle music and is an acknowledged expert in traditional dance from England and France. He has played in a duo with Becky Price (Boldwood), currently plays with Belgian accordion player Simon Gielen, and has begun researching the English dance tradition in a duo with Anna Pack to present dance workshops and play for dancing.
Barnaby Stradling has played bass guitar with Blowzabella since 2006 who he joined after years of international touring with the Chipolatas and the Eliza Carthy Band. Much in demand, he still plays with Eliza Carthy as well as Jim Moray, ‘Dark Northumbrian’ with Steven Malley, Cath & Phil Tyler, Lucy Farrell, Mary Ann Hampton, Alasdair Roberts, Aby Vulliamy and Seth Bennet and leads his own Anglo-French band Topette!!
Jon Swayne, with a background in classical flute and piano and big-band saxophone, started playing folk and traditional music while studying instrument making in the late seventies, when he was a founder member of Blowabella, with whom he plays bagpipes and saxophones. Since then he has made a career as a leading maker of bagpipes, whistles and flutes. He founded the bagpipe trio Moebius and later the seven piece bagpipe orchestra Zephyrus, for which he writes all the music, both of which have performed widely. He also plays in a duo with accordionist Becky Price, who have recorded the album of English bagpipe repertoire, Love and a Bottle.
Phone +44 78 87 94 88 53 / UK 0788 794 8853