Chris Wood and Dizraeli at Cecil Sharp House: The Telegraph review
Chris Wood and Dizraeli
19 May, Cecil Sharp House
Review in The Telegraph
Folk and hip hop found common ground in a musical odd couple
Coming offstage at the Larmer Tree Festival near Salisbury last year, the venerated English folk singer Chris Wood was surprised to be accosted by a young man called Dizraeli thrusting a CD into his hand, saying “We do the same sort of thing except I do it in a more urbany way.” He wasn’t wrong, either – as comprehensively shown by this seemingly unlikely marriage of Wood’s folk song and Dizraeli’s hip hop which resulted directly from that initial meeting. Indeed, Dizraeli’s engagingly English and sharply clever and intelligent rap poetry fitted so naturally alongside Wood’s quietly acidic lyricism that the “seat of the pants” experiment didn’t feel remotely contrived and the audience, split evenly between veteran folkies and a younger vintage of rap fans, responded enthusiastically from both sides of the divide.
Wood set the tone with a first half set full of irreverence and edginess, berating everyone from Kent County Council to the BBC, turning William Blake on his head with a stark interpretation of Jerusalem, again exposing the sores of the Jean Charles de Menezes killing on the still potent Hollow Point and gripping the audience with a boldly provocative new song about the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre.
By the time Dizraeli emerged to join him, along with stand-up bass player Nathan Feddo, the more youthful wing of the audience were left in no doubt they were in the company of someone well used to rattling cages and, as Dizraeli exploded into his first rap halfway through Wood’s affecting lament Albion, it was clear here were two highly individual kindred spirits firmly empowered by the obvious rapport between them.
The contrast between Wood’s plaintive singing, lent a jazz-flavoured tone by Feddo’s bass, and Dizraeli’s energetic rhyming was particularly striking when their material correlated, Dizraeli interspersing a Wood love song with a graphic description of a one-night stand; and using Wood’s emotional telling of the traditional murder ballad Oxford City as a springboard for the harrowing story of a modern-day 'honour’ killing.
There are obvious parallels between Dizraeli and The Streets, but his kinship with folk song is ever more pronounced by his big, grandstanding numbers, notably the caustic snapshot of Englishness on Engurland and his disturbing modern parable There Was A Rapper.
It’s not the first time folk song has met hip hop. Benjamin Zephaniah updated the epic ballad Tam Linn on the first Imagined Village album and Bubbz contributed memorably to Jim Moray’s Lucy Wan on his Low Culture album (and performed live with him at this very venue). Yet Dizraeli and Wood take it to another level again, offering a real sense of two apparently alien cultures and genres meeting amiably on genuinely equal terms. As Wood says, “it’s all storytelling.”
By Colin Irwin
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