East Croydon Cool talks…Croydon Pride (Part 2)

East Croydon Cool talks…is a blog series that explores topics of cultural interest via local area experts. This month we caught up with SILVASTONE, one of three performers taking to the Main Stage at this year’s Croydon PrideFest, for a collaboration with London Mozart Players.

Having started in 2016, Croydon PrideFest is now London’s second largest Pride Festival and has become firmly marked in south London’s LGBTQ+ calendar of events.

Croydon Pride strives for LGBT+ tolerance and equality within Croydon’s diverse communities by staging inclusive events. The organisation receives no core government funding and funds are instead raised in a variety of ways including donations, sponsorship and fundraising events.

Croydon Pride 2019 is taking place on Saturday 13th July and incorporates a Parade through the town centre, PrideFest and an after-party.

Croydon PrideFest 2019 is the biggest and most exciting yet with not one, but two stages. The new cabaret stage will host smaller, more intimate performances. 2019 will also offer the biggest and best line-up to date, including Lady Leshurr (British grime and hip hop rapper), David McAlmont (Croydon born vocalist who has supported Morrissey on tour), SOJU (from RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 11), Danny Beard (winner of Drag Idol UK), Batty Mama (the UK’s largest organisers of black queer club nights) and Asifa Lahore (Britain’s first publicly out Muslim drag queen).

Also on the Main Stage this year is a partnership between London Mozart Players and three Croydon based artists (SILVASTONE, Graver Ekow and Mee and The Band). This will be orchestrated by the amazing Fiona Brice (who’s impressive CV includes collaborations with artists such as Beyonce, Placebo and Ed Sheeran). London Mozart Players is the UK’s longest established chamber orchestra. Known for its unmistakable British roots, the orchestra has developed an outstanding reputation for adventurous, ambitious programming.

Born and raised in Croydon, we caught up with Silvastone in the lead up to his Croydon PrideFest performance. SILVASTONE is one of the UK’s most active Afrobeats artists/producers/songwriters. He is very active in his local community; in addition to running his own professional studios White Hut Studios, he delivers a music workshop programme in local schools that engages young people in discovering and harnessing their creative talents. He also runs the successful Afrobox night at BoxPark.

How did you get into the music industry?
I grew up around music and discovered a natural gift of playing instruments from as young as 5 years old. I later pursued a career in the industry (influenced by my elder brothers – one was a DJ and the other a renowned video set designer/stylist for a lot of famous pop videos in the 90’s). I also have extended family members who were well known musicians including an uncle who wrote the Sierra Leone national anthem. I initially started as a DJ but one night all my vinyls were stolen from the back of my car so I took that as a sign to utilise my gift and get into music production. From there I developed my song writing skills by writing for numerous artists I was producing. In time, I decided to start keeping some of these songs for myself and soon transitioned into an artist too.

Tell us more about your style of music
My style is a combination of my  strong West African heritage coupled with my UK upbringing and international travels. African Beats, UK Streets Sounds plus Global Melodies.

Afrobeats has risen in popularity in the UK in recent years. Why do you think that is?
I think it’s due to many different reasons. The internet has certainly brought Africa closer to UK. We now have easier access to African content and other media outlets have jumped onboard. The second and third generation Africans born out here have also contributed. Many of them are embracing their African roots and proudly showing off their culture through music, fashion and travelling there. In turn – and vice-versa, their friends and other major influential celebrities have also been tapping into this new African cool and thus further amplified the movement.

Who do you regard as the big players in the Afrobeats scene?
The obvious names that spring to mind are Wizkid, Davido, Burnaboy, Sarkodie, Tiwa Savage, Mr Eazi, Yemi Alade, Fuse ODG etc who are all flying the flag globally and doing fantastic things. But, there are many others like me who might be just below that radar who are also breaking barriers, opening new opportunities and taking the sound and culture to new spaces.

We hear you’re also responsible for the incredibly successful Afrobox nights at Boxpark Croydon. How did that partnership come about?
Me and the team identified that despite the large multi-African community in Croydon and rest of South London there was absolutely nowhere for us to go to enjoy African music and vibes. And, when you consider many of the UK Afrobeats and related genres artists are from this area we were compelled to do something about it. Afrobox is very much about contributing to the culture and providing a platform for artists, DJs and those who want to attend a vibeful place and express themselves in great company.

Can you tell us more about your Croydon PrideFest performance?
I am soooooo looking forward to this one. It’s something I haven’t done before. The London Mozart Players approached me with the idea of orchestrating some of my music for this performance. I’ll have a 10 piece orchestra alongside my full live band of 5 and I can’t wait to share the vibe we’ve been working on. To my knowledge, no Afrobeats artist has done this before so it’s gonna be extra special.

What are you most looking forward to about performing at Croydon Pride?
As a Croydon boy myself I love performing in my hometown. I’ve never attended the festival before but I’ve heard great things. I look forward to seeing and vibing with the various members of the LGBTQ community.

Who are you most looking forward to seeing at Croydon PrideFest?
I think it’s a very exciting line-up of talent this year and am proud to be a part of it. I will try catch most of them but I am definitely excited about seeing my incredibly talented friend and former collaborator, Lady Leshurr, on stage. I love her energy. I haven’t seen her in Croydon since we worked together at my studio few years ago.

Apart from preparing for Croydon Pride, tell us what else you’ve been up to lately?
I’ve released my third EP, ‘Affirmation’ and it’s a 7 track celebration of my journey to date. It’s stories of love, tribulations and celebrations. Collaborators across the project include Fuse ODG, Ghana’s Sarkodie, Kwesi Arthur and Bisa Kdei. Nigeria is represented by London-based Ayo Beats and we travelled to Kenya to feature rising star Steph Kapella. I have a video for every song on there so please check it out and subscribe to my YouTube channel to see them all. In addition, I’ve composed music featured on a few films including title-theme music for a major US Box Office No.1 and most recently the Netflix Original series “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”. I’ve also been busy taking my studio, White Hut Studios, into the local Croydon communities via various workshops aimed at young people. I’m proud of my Croydon roots and have shot a couple of my music videos here including this one.

And what else can we expect from SILVASTONE for the rest of the year?
I’m currently putting finishing touches to my next EP which I am very excited about. In between that, I am performing all over the place so look out for me on other stages near you soon and internationally. Follow me on the socials for all the latest antics and updates.

For more information on SILVASTONE, click here.
To follow SILVASTONE on Instagram, click here.
To follow SILVASTONE on Twitter, click here.
To follow SILVASTONE on YouTube, click here.
For more information on Croydon Pride and PrideFest, click here.

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