Culture Talks

Culture Talks… An interview with Henry Wu

For the latest instalment of our ‘Culture Talks…’  interview series, we caught up with London-based producer Henry Wu.

Coming to prominence as one-half of Yussef Kamaal with one of 2016’s standout albums ‘Black Focus’, Kamaal Williams, better known as Henry Wu continues to bring a renewed attention to the contemporary world of Soul and Jazz. Whether it be through his solo work on the likes of Rhythm Productions and Eglo, or when teamed up with Yussef Dayes as part of the Yussef Kamaal Trio, whose live performances have brought some well-deserved attention over the past year. 

We caught up with Henry Wu a couple of days after performing at the Grenfell Tower fundraiser, to talk about his role in the community, bringing attention to some of the most slept on musicians, and the Jazz revival.

Earlier this month you hosted a night at the Jazz Cafe to celebrate the music of Jaco Pastorius with Tom Driessler amongst others. Could you tell us a little bit about how that came about?
Whilst Jaco is a big influence for everyone who plays an instrument I’m sure, this show was just as much about bringing Tom Driessler to the centre stage. He’s played on some of my records as well as playing on Black Focus and is an incredible talent. We did the Freddie Hubbard show in January with Yelfris Valdes and again he is a musician who has such a unique energy on stage and I wanted to emphasise on the contributions that other musicians have made to my journey.

How important do you think it is to expose the music of people who have influenced your sound to a new audience?
It’s just as important as exposing the talents of the musicians who I work with who maybe haven’t got as much attention. I think a new generation of music lovers are emerging and it’s great that people like Lev at the Jazz Cafe are open to doing projects like this with me whereby we can curate events like this and pay homage to the legends and bring forward the young talent we have here in this country.

“The shows will come and go… but the records will outlive us all”

Do you have any further plans for nights that showcase the music of your influences?
Myself and IG Culture will be putting something on in October…… keep your eyes peeled!

You have a strong association with the London community and local scene – with that in mind, you played a fundraiser last Thursday for the Grenfell Tower at Dalston Rooftop Park. Could you tell us a little about the organisation behind that and a little into what role you see music playing in the local communities?
I used to go to Latimer Road a lot to visit Richard Samuels’ studio and home, where I recorded a lot of my early music – Richard, by the way, engineered and helped produce the Black Focus album. I have a strong connection to West London and have always loved the energy up there especially during Ramadan, there’s always been a strong sense of community there for me. Music definitely brought a lot of people together in that area and of course is the home of Acid Jazz and Broken Beat. No words can describe how I am feeling right now about that whole situation, all I know is that the least we can start doing is getting involved and helping those who are in need. We all know people who had relatives in that block and my prayers and thoughts are with everyone in Grenfell right now.

You’ve just come back from Barca and Holland playing Best Kept Secret Festival – how did each of those go down?
Secretsundaze throw parties there every year and it was a nice vibe, chilling with some OG’s – Joe Claussell, Marcellus Pittman, Fred P and Funkineven were tumpin’ up the dance! Best Kept Secret was wicked, my new trio are absolutely tearing it up at the moment – Out to Josh Mckenzie, Pete Martin and Tenderlonious!

Have you any favourite cities to play in?
Tokyo, Paris, Xiamen, New York and I must say… Birmingham 🙂  Hold tight the Bruk Up crew.

There’s been a real jazz revival movement that’s been boiling up for a few years now on both sides of the Atlantic – what do you think has brought the genre back to the limelight and sharing stages with electronic music artists at festivals like Farr and Sunfall?
Jazz has always been there, it’s just people and the press are starting to give it more attention than before. I wouldn’t even call what I do jazz in the traditional sense because in the 50’s in America Jazz was something completely fresh and innovative. So in that sense I guess it is Jazz, but it’s more true to my story and what I have experienced as a Londoner.

Any insights into future releases or events from you?
The shows will come and go… but the records will outlive us all. Another album soon come.

Henry Wu will be playing a number of dates around the UK and Europe this summer, including Sunfall Festival on Saturday 12th August in Brockwell Park, London.

Head here for tickets: Resident Advisor – Sunfall Tickets 2017

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