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British bard L.A. Salami muses on terrorism, Brexit and the lost generation

By Alison Hird

Our guest on this week's edition of World Music Matters is British singer-songwriter and storyteller L.A. Salami. As he embarks on a European tour with his latest album The City of Bootmakers he talks to RFI about unpicking the "Isis crisis" and why Bob Dylan still rocks.

London singer-songwriter Lookman Adekunle Salami is of Nigerian descent but his musical roots are firmly Anglophone and mainly from the 60s and 70s.

"For me it's the most ambitious period of music.. stuff in the charts the masses listened to and it was feeding your mind" he told RFI.

Neil Young, John Lennon... "George Harrison made the best solo album of [all the Beatles]: All things must pass".

But Bob Dylan remains the reference.

"[He] inspired me most to play music, otherwise I'd be fantasising about punk bands. Dylan was extremely powerful and the power came from the poetry. He combined [music and lyrics] seamlessly and effortlessly."

"Dylan was an artist, not just a musician... Whatever I'm doing, writing, painting, drawing, I'm interested in being an artist."

L.A. Salami chills at RFI RFI/HIRD

Dylan's influence was clearer on L.A. Salami's 2016 debut album Dancing with bad grammar. He occasionally picked up the harmonica as well as accoustic guitar. The City of Bootmakers, with his three-piece backing band, is a bigger sound. But the propensity to let his mind wander on some the day's big issues such as immigration, discrimination and gentrification is ever-present.

He unpicks radicalism on Terrorism - The Isis Crisis, Britain's ills (not least Brexit) on England is Unwell.

The energising Generation L(ost) explores how the generation born after the late 70s is both socially and mentally more fractured despite the connectedness offered by internet and social media.

"There's an abundance of satisfaction but we're more depressed than ever. We've sort of disemboweled the idea of God but haven't filled up the space with anything constructive, simple and universal," he says.

If it all sounds a bit glum, the listening experience is anything but. Salami sticks mainly to major keys, with defiantly jolly melodies and occasionally blasts us with a manic guitar riff lest we become a little too comfortable.

"If you’re gonnna talk about England is unwell - about quite a dark topic - it's like listening to a musical like Oliver," he explains, delivering a snippet of Fagin's 'you've got to pick a pocket or two' by way of illustration.

"It sounds nice to dance to, but it eases the listener in to listening. I personally don’t think everything has to sound moody. It depends on the song. If the song sounds jolly I guess then I didn’t think it needed to sound darker than it is."

L.A. Salami plays Point Ephemere, Paris, 2 May. Keep up with him on facebook.

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