MIXTAPE: Beccy Owen | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Now then! I’m Beccy. I sing and write as a solo artist and also with my band The Refuge. In 2016 I founded Beccy Owen’s Pop-Up Choirs, an international programme bringing people of all ages, backgrounds and perceived musical abilities together to find connection and courage through group singing. The Changemaker’s Chorus is a brand new online programme for 2021 and it’s for anyone working towards a more fair and equal world – I’m really excited about it. In this Mixtape I’ve chosen songs that are either directly about change or that have changed me in some fundamental way.


Nina Simone – Mississippi Goddam

I was 17 and sat on the National Express bus to Newcastle from Yorkshire. My mate shoved a tape in my Walkman (it was the 90s) and said, “check this out”. It was The Best of Nina Simone and Mississippi Goddam was the first song that played. I didn’t understand what I was hearing at the time but I knew it was important. Shamefully, we’d not learned about the Civil Rights movement at school, so this was our entry-level education. Simone’s impatience for racial equality and her call for immediate, radical change are clear in the fury of her delivery and her frenetic lyrical prowess. She was a truth-teller and a prophet. The song was never captured in a studio, so when you hear it, that’s her performing live in front of a mostly white audience. You can feel the charged tension in the room.

Little Simz – Persons
This came out on Little Simz’s first album after all the mixtape releases. She was technically astonishing from the off. There’s an energy-to-burn, matter-of-fact power when she sings “women can be kings”. Since then I’ve heard her find myriad ways of saying, ‘fuck the patriarchy’. Not least on the song Venom from Grey Area, which almost made the list.

Me Lost Me – When You Were Born
This is one of those songs I’ve known forever, and there’s loads of artists who’ve done it well, but when I heard Jayne’s version on her debut record Arcana this became The One. It’s regularly on a loop in my head, reminding me of the cycle of life and that change is part of nature. The underpinning drone and octave pedal on her voice results in something that’s both unsettling and comforting. I love that kind of circling paradox.

Angelique Kidjo – Once In a Lifetime
More circles: here’s Kidjo returning the Talking Heads classic to its Afrobeat roots. An homage to an homage that brings about a new level of understanding. In fact, she re-did the whole of Remain In The Light. Seek it!

This does something to my entire body. It sets me alight. As a fellow sexual assault survivor, listening to Kristin Hayter’s uncompromising rage has become a ceremonial part of my recovery. An almost daily ritual. I used to be afraid of vitriol, I guess because women are conditioned to ‘play nice’, but this song turns something that feels unwieldy into something that’s artful and vivid. That’s a phenomenal gift. I was gonna include Sinead O’ Connor’s version of Queen of Denmark in this list for similar reasons, but: word count.

Tim Dalling – A Round for the NHS
Tim wrote this last year as the pandemic hit, and there’s a lush
video of it up on YouTube, with Brad Field on drums and John Pope on bass. It’s an ear-worm and it needs to go viral, not least because of the lyrics, printed here for your convenience: “So let’s remember when we get out of this fine mess/And election time rolls round again/Let’s not vote for the free market men/Who didn’t spend enough, made life tough, with no decent pay rises/For the good old NHS“. Preach.

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