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World On Your Street: The Global Music Challenge
Rachel McLeod
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Musician: Rachel McLeod

Location: London

Instruments: double bass

Music: world fusion, classical, jazz, English folk


Listen  Listen (05'33) to Rachel McLeod play 'The Rose Tree' with Boka Halat

Listen to Rachel McLeod in the World on Your Street tent at WOMAD 2003

'I fell in love with the sound of the double bass at the age of eight. This eventually led to me studying at the Royal College of Music.'

How I came to this music:

Even though I don't come from a musical family, I was classically trained and I'm interested in all kinds of music. What triggered all that off was my early school days, when a visiting music teacher left a big impression on me. I fell in love with the sound of the double bass at the age of eight. This eventually led to me studying at the Royal College of Music. Then I became a music teacher.

From 1998 to 2001 I was teaching on a Junior Strings project at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. While there I also got involved with a fantastic quirky big eclectic band called Homelife who are also playing at this year's WOMAD. As a Newly Qualified Teacher in Rochdale I had a very dispiriting experience trying to teach world music for GCSE with very limited materials. So when I came back to London I was determined to do it differently.

I began working in a junior school by bringing artists into the school, just like when I was a kid. During my first term in 2001, I went along to the Windsor Arts Centre when they had world music workshops. That's where I first met Musa Mboob from the One World Band/ Boka Halat.

Boka Halat (Roger Watson, Rachel McLeod, Musa Mboob)He was giving a workshop and it was also a jam, so I took my bass along and soon we were learning these African songs. We realised this music was transferable onto any western instruments. Some time later, Roger from the group phoned to see if I was available for a gig. That's how it all started. I was a full time educator before Christmas 2002, but playing with Boka Halat gave me a taste for playing music full time. So that's what I'm doing now.

Where I play:

We do dance and music workshops in schools all over the U.K. as the One World Band, which is basically four core members of the five or six-piece group Boka Halat ­ it's easier for schools to afford. And as Boka Halat, we play in arts centres and festivals. I also play in an all-black fifteen-woman big band called Femmes Noir.

We've toured all through the U.K. and there's also a smaller group growing out of that. At the moment I'm also rehearsing some jazz-based work as a bass-and-voice duo with a singer called Sue Caller.

And I'm co-ordinating a Youth Music Action Zone (YMAZ) project bringing world music training to Special Schools in the Portsmouth area.

A favourite song:

The Rose Tree is my favourite track from Boka Halat's Tides album. There's a strong Caribbean feel, because of Ray Carless on the sax and me on bass ­ I was born here but my parents are Jamaican. We open our workshops with this song.

Musa Mboob will play his barrawolo beat, and then Iqbal Pathan will bring in a complementary Gujurati rhythm and then I drop in a soca bass line. Then Roger Watson will come in with this English folk song. That's really really crazy, but it all works. People really enjoy it and they get up and dance! What we're about is not separating music but actually uniting different styles to create one sound.

Read about the other members of Boka Halat, Musa Mboob and Roger Watson
Click here for Hande Domac's storyClick here for Mosi Conde's storyClick here for Rachel McLeod's story





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