An intimate portrait of East London’s underground music scene
We have never been exposed to so much music. New technology has allowed more of us to create music than ever before. You no longer need an expensive studio set-up – all you need is a laptop or even just a smartphone. It has never been easier to share your music with the world or discover musicians from around the globe, with over 100,000 songs now released each day.
But despite music being more international – and more online – than ever before, local scenes are still integral to music. Live venues, studio spaces, networks of musicians and the creative ecosystems they foster remain fundamental to supporting new artists, developing audiences and catalysing the evolution of new genres.
The Rest Is Noise is a celebration of East London’s music scene and an exploration of the opportunities and challenges that face emerging musicians today. Directed by Francisco Mazziotti, the short documentary takes an artist’s eye view, following three up-and-coming musicians: TIMANTI, a DJ and producer from the UK; QUEEN KALTOUM, an Italian-Moroccan Neo Soul and Jazz singer-songwriter; and multicultural indie rock band Kōya Belharra.
“London is a melting pot of cultures and possibility – there is nowhere quite like it,” TIMANTI explains. “The diversity of people across all communities is unmatched. It’s the only city that I’ve found in all my explorations where you can be completely yourself and championed for it. You’ll always find people that are on your vibe and if you’re open to creating your own wave, there are enough open minds that will be able to relate to it in some way and join that current with you. You can also find the most unusual talents here and everyone has such a drive to create. The energy is inspiring and contagious.”
It would be hard to find a city that has made a bigger impact on the evolution of modern music as London. The British capital’s multicultural mix has helped produce many of its own homegrown genres over the years, such as dubstep and grime, and London remains a vital centre of musical innovation and exchange. In fact, London’s reputation for music was one of the few things that Francisco knew about the city before he moved here from his native Buenos Aires, Argentina, five years ago.
“I settled in Hackney and started experiencing much more live music, discovering genres, artists, clubs and making friends involved in music,” Francisco explains. “London is effervescent and the energy it carries is magnetising. It lives in a state of constant evolution that feeds from people from all over the world. But the thing that surprised me the most is London’s power of reinvention. So many bangers and so much music history has been made here for decades but it’s not over, apparently.”
After making fiction and music videos, Francisco decided that his first foray into documentary would be a celebration of the underground music culture of his adopted home of East London. “I wanted to offer the audience a sensory experience, to witness the eclectic feeling the music scene has in this particular part of the world,” Francisco explains. “It’s filled with pace, rhythm, diversity, it’s thrilling and explosive. London’s music scene can also feel a strange place at times, interconnected in an infinite network so big that you can’t seem to grasp it. But at the heart of it, there are people and their stories.”
QUEEN KALTOUM is a singer-songwriter born and raised in Italy, with Moroccan heritage flowing through their veins. Since moving to London five years ago, they have found inspiration in a vibrant community of musicians centred around East London venues such as The Jago and The Orii Jam at Colour Factory.
“There’s a lot of struggle you go through while living here but that’s the only way for me to feel accomplished and to truly have a clear vision of my career,” QUEEN KALTOUM explains. “The only way for me to stand out is to first of all be absolutely honest with exactly what I want to achieve. Music is engraved in me and it always be part of who I am. But I feel like I have a mission to represent people who look like me: Women, Non-Binary, Black, Italian, Moroccan, etc. That’s something I have in mind everyday. Therefore my job at the moment is to work on who I am as an artist, keep writing songs and be brutally honest and unapologetic.”
QUEEN KALTOUM is hosting their own event called Orii: The Queer Takeover in collaboration with Orii Community in Hackney Wick on November 27. “It’s an event that aims to prioritise and celebrate queer individuals, providing a safe space where they can freely express themselves,” they explain. “With an emphasis on inclusivity, acceptance and a memorable experience, I envision a night that leaves attendees feeling empowered, serene and enriched.”
One of the biggest reasons behind East London’s vibrancy is its openness to a wide range of identities. There has been a lot effort made in recent years to ensure line-ups are more diverse and there are more opportunities for Women, Trans and Non-Binary musicians and Musicians of Colour. But of course, there’s always more to be done to ensure that everyone feels welcome and included – which will add even more to London’s kaleidoscopic musical offering.
“I can only speak from an electronic music stand point and from my own experience but I feel this is an area that still needs work,” TIMANTI explains. “I have seen quite a few initiatives try and change the narrative, such as Sisu Crew; other projects I work directly with such as Hunni Sound and Future 1000; and my own project, Tribelife, which champions marginalised genders. Most of these projects are run single-handedly by artists such as myself (Tribelife), Kiimi (Hunni Sound) and Jaguar (Future 1000), so the projects are limited to our current capacities and without huge funding. It would be great to see more arts funding shared within this sector and also mentorship programs to support artists that might not have access to equipment.”
London has lost 35% of its grassroots music venues since 2007, according to data from the Mayor of London. Affordable practice and studio space is also increasingly hard to find. The work of opening space for emerging artists from all backgrounds becomes more difficult when the number of places to play is shrinking. Many have predicted the decline of London as a musical and cultural hub over the years. But as The Rest Is Noise documents, London continues to be one of the most diverse, innovative and exciting places to make and enjoy music anywhere in the world – thanks to the energy and hustle of its musicians.
“Luckily, music in London seems to be very much alive,” Francisco reflects. “But the rules are changing and I hope that this film shines a light to everyone who can relate to this feeling, as I do.”
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