The Brixton Pound's got rhythm

Idris Rahman and Robin Hopcraft

Idris Rahman and Robin Hopcraft of the Soothsayers

The Soothsayers are a Brixton-based band whose music fuses dub, afrobeat, jazz, funk and West African rhythms to produce a distinctly urban sound. Uncut magazine called them “one of the finest slices of a Anglo Caribbean fusion since The Specials in their prime”. At the core of the Soothsayers are Robin Hopcraft and Idris Rahman who started playing together twelve years ago, on trumpet and sax respectively. They collaborate and perform with a wide range of talented musicians, including Johnny Clarke and Maxi Jazz, who are jointly known as the Red Earth Collective. Their latest album, Red Earth Dub, includes an instrumental track called ‘The Brixton Pound’ that was inspired by the launch of Brixton’s local currency.

The Brixton Pound interviewed Robin Hopcraft of the Soothsayers about the band and their attachment to Brixton.

Brixton Pound: How has your music been influenced by Brixton?

Robin Hopcraft: I’m not originally from London, but I moved to Brixton in 1983 from Worcester to study at Goldsmiths University. I used to go to Brixton Library a lot to borrow records. I was influenced by the people and cultures of Brixton and seeing Jamaican and African music at gigs. I was also influenced by the general atmosphere of Brixton in the Eighties, a time usually remembered less positively in the history books, but when the music scene was really buzzing.

B£: Why did you make a record about the Brixton Pound?

RH: The Brixton Pound song is really trying to encapsulate the atmosphere of Brixton and people moving around the streets. The beat is frantic at times, maybe evoking Brixton Road on a Saturday. It’s a little bit dark in places to convey the different elements of Brixton, both the positive and more edgy. The strong reggae rhythm has a dub undertone, giving it a more urban feel. It seemed to make sense to call it The Brixton Pound. It’s really a double entendre that also refers to the pounding beat on the track. I love the idea of the Brixton Pound. Local people spending money locally just makes sense.  In Brixton you can always find something different. In the market there are things you won’t find anywhere else. I’m sick of the Tesco domination. High streets nowadays just look like they’ve been bought out of a catalogue.

B£: Do you make a conscious effort to ‘keep it local’?

RH: The Soothsayers play in lots of local venues. We have sessions in The Effra [Hall Tavern] and Mango Landin’. The local music scene is really picking up with things like Plan B reopening. There weren’t many venues a few years ago but now it’s becoming reminiscent of the Eighties when venues like the Hootenanny were a real draw. Our latest album was also produced in Brixton in Sonica Studios on Acre Lane.

B£: What’s next for the Soothsayers?

RH: We’ll be touring around Europe this summer. Our first stop is the Czech republic – not so local! But our next gig in The UK will be at Rich Mix in Bethnal Green on 11th July. We’ll be playing as part of their Afro Cup Festival to celebrate the South African World Cup. The Soothsayers will also be performing at a few festivals around the UK. And no doubt we’ll be back in Brixton soon.

The Soothsayers’ latest album ‘Red Earth Dub’ featuring ‘The Brixton Pound’ will be available at from the Brixton Pound stall at various events this Summer including Lambeth Country Show and Brixton Splash.