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The Original Jay Sean: Chasing Soul and Substance

Fifteen million records sold, five consecutive Top 40 Billboard singles, and over a decade of international success, the UK’s finest R&B artist, Jay Sean, is back in the UK promoting his newly released mixtape The Mistress II. I caught up with him ahead of his release for an exclusive interview!

Jay-Sean-THE-MISTRESS-mixtape-cover-2After being signed to Cash Money Records for six years, with whom he released two highly successful albums, All or Nothing, featuring hits Down and Do You Remember, and Neon, Jay made the shocking announcement in October that he was to leave the record company.

Explaining his decision, Jay said, “It got to the point where I couldn’t be at that label anymore, I couldn’t stand all the weighting and the lack of support. We had a great amount of success together, we did big things, we created history but in the end, I just sat down with them and said I need to go and do this, this is where I’m happier.”

His new album is a clear shift back to his musical roots and harkens back the original UK urban style, which gained him the attention that launched his career. A reflection of a sound on his earlier albums such as Me Against Myself, Jay’s new singles Tears In The Ocean, Jameson and All I Wanna Do showcase his renowned R&B style.

“I wanted to set the tone with Tears in the Ocean. I wanted people to understand what this project is about. Of course I can do the fun up-tempo party songs but that’s just one side of me, at the core, this is what I do.”

The Mistress

Explaining how he came up with the idea for The Mistress II, he said, “When I was writing my last album Neon, with Cash Money, I was struggling to inject enough soul and substance and passion into it to be honest. I knew that it had to be commercially viable; it had to have something that would sell because when you’re with a record company, they’re investing money in you. They want stuff that radio will play and that’s the difficult thing about being an artist signed to a label.”

Jay made it clear that he is happy with his decision, despite R&B becoming a “niche” now. “I find more joy and satisfaction out of this kind of music, then writing two minutes of a song that will be here today, gone tomorrow.”

The theme throughout the new album is adultery, which is often considered a taboo subject, particularly in Asian culture. Jay’s response was, “There’s been films about it, so why not an album? With Mistress, I basically made a movie in my head, about a guy who is married to a girl and he falls for someone else. In the beginning, its fun, playful, risky, an adventure and he feels alive but then there is the guilt that comes along with it, pain, lying, deceit, all of that and that allows me to write songs about everything.”

The Real Jay Sean

images-1Turning the question on to him, does he practice what he preaches? “No absolutely not. I’ve actually always been a very loyal boyfriend. If I knew it was coming to the point where I was going to mess around, I always ended the relationship. Because of this, I’ve actually managed to stay friends with all my exes.”

The music industry can often make or break artists in a blink of an eye. Yet Jay has always remained true to his beliefs. “I have always been who I am and have always stayed true to myself. I’m too firmly grounded and I think that’s the reason why I’m able to make the crazy decisions I do. People think I’m crazy for leaving medicine, for leaving Virgin Records, leaving Cash Money Records but it’s because I just know what I’m worth, I know my value, I know what makes me happy and if I’m not getting all those things, I leave.”

“I never got into any of this for girls, drugs, to be a superstar. It never meant anything to me. What has always mattered to me is credibility, respect, and dignity for my work.”

A few fun facts you didn’t know about Jay: Julia Roberts is his favourite actress, he would pick Etihad above any other airline, if you ever catch Jay at a bar, buy him a Vodka Soda, New York definitely over London and, of course, his favourite restaurant is Nandos!

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The Man Behind The Harmonica

‘Busking is pure. If you can get people to like you in ten seconds, you’ve consolidated all your practice in that one moment’

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Philip Achille is not your average busker. He’s the kind that shatters every expectation. You may have heard him modestly playing his harmonica on the London Underground, possibly playing an impressive rendition of Bach’s Violin Concerto in A minor on… yes a harmonica, to London’s commuters.

The British harmonica player, from the West Midlands, is in fact a Royal College of Music graduate whose list of talents is endless. The bass, saxophone, violin and piano are just some of the other instruments on which he experiments his jazz and classical styles.

Playing music is “something I feel like I have to do”, he tells me. Adding to the history of the harmonica is his mission and he says he achieves this by busking. “That’s the great thing about busking, I get an intense personal enjoyment out of it as well as the financial gain. Especially busking in London, the exposure and ability to connect with other people, the sheer volume of people that you end up playing to is quite amazing. For me, it’s been a great tool to get myself out there in a way.”

Philip shot to fame last month after a video posted by the jazz pianist John Turville went viral, featuring on the Huffington Post and on social networks. The reception of the video has compelled Philip to take his music to another level. He is currently raising money to fund a recording album, of which he has gained significant support.

Some of the musician’s proudest achievements to date have included playing the introduction for Jon Bon Jovi’s finale of the Royal Variety Performance in 2007 and playing at Andrew Lloyd Webber’s birthday celebration in Hyde Park in September 2008.

The classical player’s pure and graceful style is owed much to his mother, he explains, who ensured that he was given a wealth of opportunity as a child. Searching for a music teacher for the saxophone at nine-years-old led him into the hands of the only harmonica teacher in England. “So I just thought let’s give this a go. It turned out to be the greatest thing that ever happened to me.”

Only in his twenties and Philip has already won numerous awards, including National Harmonica League Player of the Year 2005, World Youth Solo Chromatic Harmonica Champion 2005, World Open Harmonica Champion 2005, Birmingham International Jazz Festival Young Musician 2006 and Eurovision Young Musician of the Year Finalist 2008.

The talented player began busking at sixteen years old in his hometown of Solihull. Since then, his ambition, passion and charm have allowed him to become a regular on one of London’s sought-after busking pitches. “It’s an amazing thing for a busker to know you’ve got a spot. I’ve met loads of cool people, got some cool gigs, recording sessions from it. The system definitely works as well because you don’t have to pay anything for it and you get to busk in the greatest cities in the world.”

For Philip, he says he tends to do really well with commuters. Providing background music is what he likes doing. He emphasises that with busking you cannot get disheartened. “As a busker, you’re always thinking about the fact that people are there to get on a train and not to hear you play. I don’t think people actively ignore you; they’re just in a hurry. The idea of good background music is that it doesn’t get in the way, but at the same time, it enhances the experience so people still enjoy it. For me if someone stops, I just appreciate it even more.”

Often perceptions of buskers are usually quite negative, with many people not taking them seriously. Addressing this view, Philip says, “The more people expect something the harder it is to actually impress them. When you’re busking, because people expect very little, they have no preconceptions. So when I go there, I give the best possible show I can, which means that many people listen in a pure sense.”

What has he learnt from busking? “Having done busking, it’s changed the way I play and teaches you how to hold a melody. It is quite a high level of performance because you’re trying to convey something to someone who will judge you based on the ten seconds it takes him or her to walk past you. Busking is pure. If you can get people to like you in that ten seconds, it’s almost as if you’ve consolidated all your practice in that one moment.”

 

Top 10 Twitter handles to follow for Islington

islington-ward-map-1Islington has increasingly become more trendy over the last decade, with so much to do and see, its hard not to feel like you’re missing out! Here is (quite a varied) Twitter list that will keep you in the know on different topics and things happening in Islington and may even provide you with some possible leads.

1. @MPSIslington

For every borough, there is a robust police force. Islington’s police are equally as robust on Twitter, providing updates directly to users almost every hour. It’s good to check in with this feed for follow-ups on stories published in the local papers, policing and meetings.

2. @IslingtonLife

This feed gives you news that is otherwise not featured in the local papers. With an impressive following, it’ll keep you updated with views and events in the area.

3. @Islingtongztte

Of course, this is a must-follow twitter handle that every journalist scouting the area should have.

4. @IslingtonBC

This is a great place to search for news as the Council regularly updates the feed with events, announcements and new policies that are being enforced.

5. @creat_islington

Creative Islington is a network organisation for the arts and creative industries in Islington. Visit to find education, arts and cultural issues, events and interesting things in the area.

6. @nosey_islington

Though not entirely trustworthy, this feed is perfect for getting in on community gossip, reading reviews and finding opportunities in the area.. (which all could possibly lead to a news story.)

7. @1stofN1

This quirky group is a place where you can find a list of  ‘firsts’ that have originated in Islington and the surrounding area. They constantly update this with new ‘firsts’ (so keep a look out – it may be in your patch!).

8. @IslingtonInside

IslingtonInside keeps you in the know by providing you with a birds eye view of what is happening in the borough.

9. @IslingtonPRS

If you are looking to write about any issues related to housing, Islington tenants provides information, support and advocacy for all Islington residents renting in the private rental sector (PRS). It definitely highlights the gap between the rich and poor in Islington.

10. @IslingtonTrib

Had to put this here – another great newspaper where you can find follow-up stories.

For the full list, click here

 

A new generation of aspiration, passion and commitment

Inderneel Singh

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Inderneel Singh is well conversed with luxury and all things five-star. Being son of a renowned hotelier, his new role comes easily. In February this year, Inderneel was appointed as the General Manager of the five star Mayfair Hotel, which is part of the longstanding Edwardian Group, founded in 1977 by his father Jasminder Singh.

With a reputation of legendary high standards and impeccable service, Mr Singh’s role will be more of maintaining it, with a subtle touch of new expertise. Expressing his delight at becoming General Manager and satisfaction with his staff, he purports to keeping Mayfair “fresh and in competition”.

Mr. Singh’s background is not dissimilar from many other young upcoming and ambitious entrepreneurs. He graduated from Warwick University with a 2:1 in Management Science and pursued a career in accountancy with KPMG. However, after five years, he joined the Edwardian group as an accountant in both Audit and Advisory, stating that he always regarded the hospitality trade as a “major part of my life” taking into consideration that his father was at the centre of one of the biggest managements in London.

Inderneel had the perfect teacher in his father to teach him the fundamental basics. “He has always given us valuable advice when it comes to business and how to empower employees and ensure a great culture within a business. I took that learning with me when I went to university.” He further emphasised his father’s importance in his life by calling him his greatest inspiration.

Asking whether he ever felt pressured to join the family business, Inderneel responded, “It was some- thing that my siblings and I always wanted to be part of and never something that was forced. My father would never give anyone a position they didn’t merit or have proved their ability to have or show the passion and commitment and that is the same when it comes to family.”

The hotel business is a people-facing business and no doubt is wrought with challenges. Inderneel explained that in today’s world, guests have a much larger and active voice, which means that staff need to be agile to their needs whilst remaining confident with the hotel’s values and business vision. “One way we succeed in being nimble, is with in-house resourcing – such as with our construction team and interior designers. It means we can quickly make decisions to improve our product offering to guests. Another way is our constant investment in IT for both our operations and guest experience. It is also vital to move with the times and respond to guest demands in a responsible way – for example, at Edwardian Group London we take our commitment to the environment very seriously and we consistently adhere to responsible best practice.”

mayfair

With a new role comes a new vision. “The current vision is to continue on the principles of the Group which is to be opportunistic in seeking growth but maintaining a strong balance sheet. As a group we are focussing on the Leicester Square development where we’ve appoint- ed award-winning international design firm Yabu Pushelberg to work for us on the concept. We really do see this project as transformational for the whole of Edwardian Group London going forward.”

Extending some wisdom to other aspiring entrepreneurs out there, Inderneel said, “I think it’s important to keep having those aspirations to achieve your dreams with both passion and commitment. It is important to be able to be mindful of the bigger picture and keep knock-backs or issues in perspective.”

Nice to meet you

My name is Tanveer Mann and I’m a freelance journalist, currently studying a Masters in Newspaper Journalism at the highly-reputable @CityUniversityLondon. I set up this blog in the depths of an undergraduate English Literature degree, with too much time on my hands & a clear lack of motivation. Now, well into a Masters raring with enthusiasm, yet almost no time on my hands, the idea of blogging has cast its spell on me once more. Here you will find a little bit of everything and some things in between (with a gentle focus on News, Food & Fashion, which I try not to make too obvious!). If you have any topics you would like me to blog about, comments or suggestions, you can contact me on: tanny_mann@hotmail.com xoxo

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