Grand Wa Zoo (GWZ) are a North-West London-based group making waves in the the UK Hip-Hop underground scene. Jay, Ryo and Lili make up the majestic, soulful vocals of GWZ, whose first live show together was born out of their success in a competition to support Mike Skinner at the The Nest in Dalston. Collaborating with their trusted DJ and producer, Jamurai, elder brother of Ryo, who masters the turntables in their live performances, their first mixtape was released last year; Lost for Dayz, accompanied by two music videos for their tracks ‘One Time’ and ‘Von D’.
I asked GWZ what were the fundamental pillars that makes up their group.
“The main thing that you need to know is that we are fans of MUSIC. Hip-hop is the medium in which we use to express ourselves, as it is what we relate to the most -but we listen to and are inspired by all genres. Hip-hop itself was born from every genre that came before it, you hear it every time you listen to it. Jazz, Soul, RnB, Blues, Rock – the list goes on. We could list thousands of people as our influences but there are too many names.”
Snaps taken by Red Rotkopf
With their second EP dropping on the 26th August, it’s humbling to witness the innovation and talent of young artists that seep through the cracks of this big old city I live in. However, there are issues within London independent music venues, with persistent efforts to shut them down. It’s becoming more and more difficult for aspiring talent to be heard by the public. Since 2007, 185 of the 430 music venues that operate in London have been closed.
GWZ performed on July 10th at Passing Clouds, a unique double-storey venue just off Kingsland Road in Hackney, East London. Passing Clouds is more than just your average bar/nightclub venue that one may stumble across on Resident Advisor while after a last-minute plan of action for a party in London at the weekend (or a mid-week session). It’s part of Hackney’s history, originally occupied by the Hackney Gazette Printworks.
To really understand how unique this venue is, you have to go and experience it for yourself while you still can. Walking into Passing Clouds for the first time gave me a wave of nostalgia of the boudoir tents I’ve stumbled across in the vast fields of UK festivals such as Glastonbury and Gottwood. You are immediately greeted by a sense of escapism, a rabbit hole filled with hand-made décor and chill-out areas. They’re run by devoted, friendly staff who contribute to the local community, hosting a weekly People’s Kitchen, an initiative that utilises surplus food donated by local businesses and people to make meals for 30-100 guests every Sunday.
There is music on both floors, which can be filled by international, local bands and musicians, with a vast range of music genres and tastes – You can find yourself dancing to Afrobeats one week, and to Hip-Hop on another.
#PASSING CLOUDS FOREVER – Passing Clouds are not going down without a fight – an insight to the décor ‘n’ packed dance-floors of Passing Clouds
Passing Clouds has found itself at the brunt of the harsh property climate that continues to escalate within inner city suburbs. As more and more independent music venues are becoming victims to London’s harsh, corporate property conflicts. Passing Clouds was bought by land-hold developments in November through a transaction referred to by local newspaper the Hackney Gazette as a ‘secret sale’.
The Goodman Restaurant Group are the corporate take-over culprits. They plan to turn Passing Clouds into the Burger and Lobster restaurant chain; the very same chain that is in the process of replacing the Silver Bullet in Finsbury Park – another independent music venue of the same callibre as Passing Clouds.
However, not all hope is lost for Passing Clouds. Mark Davyd, CEO of Music Venue Trust, an industry devoted to the preservation of independent music venues such as Passing Clouds, has given his support highlighting and highlights the platform such independent music venues provide for emerging artists. Also, the relentless work of Lizzy Bishop – campaign manager for the opposition of the closure of Passing Clouds – has pushed for the continued operation of events. She has raised more than £25,000 in support of Passing Clouds.
The inspiration, innovation and raw talent of acts such as GWZ has been one of the focal points for the support of such venues staying open. They’re backed by the newly anointed London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who has pledged his support to grassroot, independent venues in London that give this city its character and reject the gentrification of inner-city London underground venues. Khan himself has described the London club scene as “iconic”.
The closure of independent music venues and night clubs across London has left a sinking feeling in thousands of people that are in tune with the European party scene. However, the resilience that these closures has inspired has brought likeminded creatives together, turning a dark cloud into a Passing Clouds, that gives way for a ray of sunshine in the London clubbing scene.
In a similar way, the closure of Trouw, Amsterdam, was closely followed by the opening of De School – a venue that filled the vacuum left by the closure of Trouw.
Let’s hope, Sadiq Khan can inspire a similar movement in London, and across the UK, defying corporate take-overs and the very people that neither understand nor appreciate the youth subculture that should be able to thrive and be a major part of London’s culture.
• Written by Dre•