South Tottenham’s new jazz age

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Mark Professor swings into a local jazz night at Balabam in South Tottenham and finds himself impressed by the music – and the venue


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My curiosity was piqued when I was asked to go a venue named Balabam.

I pride myself on knowing the local musical hot spots but I had never heard of Balabam, which opened last year. I was pleasantly surprised to see it was a lovely venue in a location that was previously a pub.

Balabam on Tottenham High Road. Photo by Stephen Furner.

The mere thought of being in a place that once provided entertainment to a community which was not subsequently being turned into flats made me hopeful that I was in for a good night… and I was not disappointed.

Ray Carless and his band were on point; playing reggae with a jazzy feel. The band started without him for their introductory number.

Ray Carless on the Sax. Photo by Stephen Furner.

When Ray joined, they came off the bat with a great track which was a fusion of two classic reggae instrumentals, ‘Real Rock’ and ‘Stalag 17’. This laid the foundation to a great night of cover and original songs.

A track entitled ‘Tribute to Usain Bolt’ was one of the stand out original compositions of night.

As an added bonus, our amazing host Melanie Whittaker joined in for a number. As well as being a stellar vocalist, she is also the organiser and the host for the event.

The host, Melanie Whittaker. Photo by Stephen Furner

Melanie was recently awarded the 2018 Unsung Women’s award for her works in the local community. Melanie performed a great version of the Delroy Wilson 1969 classic ‘I Don’t Know Why’ more commonly known as ‘Movie Star’.

Ray and the band kept the tunes rolling in and performed a number of songs, including ‘Yellow Bird’, a traditional Caribbean song. We were treated to an impromptu performance by singer Camilla Marcel, who was in attendance and was encouraged to sing. She did a great version of Billie Holiday’s ‘God Bless The Child’.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable night which will be happening every first Thursday of the month from 6pm. Get yourself a front row seat.

Words by Mark Professor

Photos by Stephen Furner (Tottenham Photography Club)

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Balabam, 58-60 High Road, Tottenham N15 6JU

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