INTERVIEW: BUBAMARA | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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I like to call this album music without anxiety. In today’s society that’s the healing pill everyone needs.”

Darlington based ‘folk exotica’ band Bubamara have channelled their unique European-inspired sound to explore various compelling themes within their new album, Hash Houses Of The Holy. I spoke to band members Ivor Pop and Dave Hartley, who shed light on their fascinating and highly impressive musical processes.

The title of their new album was inspired by Led Zeppelin’s album Houses of the Holy; Bubamara desired to make reference to the hash houses of Greece, which arose in the 1920/30s. Ivor explained: “They played this fusion of music brought in by this displaced community of migrants. We wanted to celebrate this underground music and reflect the great folkloric themes of love, death, drunkenness and of course, joy.” Dave added: “When you bring the tracks together you can hear there is a drive in the consistency of the songs. They all work together nicely.”

We wanted to celebrate and reflect the great folkloric themes of love, death, drunkenness and of course, joy

The band’s excitement and openness for cultural influence is harnessed through a desire for community and inclusivity. The development of Hash Houses of the Holy involved many varied influences from around the world, which is apparent through the album’s diverse genre flexibility. Yet, the beauty of Bubamara is in their vast life experiences; as an avid rock ‘n’ roll instrumentalist, Dave implements this into particular musical styles, either from scratch, or by reinforcing any rock elements already present. For Ivor, in many respects the album is a continuation of his extensive past journeys around the world: “I basically circumnavigated the whole of the Northern Hemisphere with a guitar on my back. I busked wherever I could and just hung out with people.” It’s these approaches that create the band’s complex genre crossovers, which veer from a Turkish tune set to karsilamas rhythm on Cafe Shohor; the bluesy Hangman, which delves into the lives of Lebanese farmers; Little Apple, a Russian/Ukranian satirical folk song which the band adapted with their own lyrics; the traditional Italian folk of Lu Core Meu and Liberta, a simple Calabrian tune adapted from the il Canto Malavita – the music of the mafia.

Developed during the lockdown periods, the album’s powerful qualities are designed to be shared in a live setting. One of the most important aspects of live performance for Bubamara is their connection to the audience. This is something they intrinsically strive to establish in any gig they undertake, particularly now live music is so poignant. For Ivor, he views music as “a profound form of alchemy, and if we can trans-mutate it into people dancing, that to me is the purest form of magic”. As a group known for their audience captivation through joyous performance, it isn’t difficult to believe that creating a sense of affinity is at the heart and soul of their music. Dave reinforced this stating: “we create the initial energy, then if you have the right audience they relay that energy back to you which gives a real connection.”

As a collection of tunes that aim to depict the great themes from various folk traditions, Hash Houses of the Holy does so through exhilarating instrumentals, exquisite precision and intricate rhythms. It’s safe to say the album truly embodies Ivor’s description of “music without anxiety”.

Bubamara release Hash Houses of the Holy on 11th March 2022. They play The Globe, Newcastle on Saturday 12th March.


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