I remember when, as a kid, I used to listen about Exit festival and performance by Moloko, from my mom’s friend. I didn’t know back then that there was such a band, although after hearing that story I noticed radio and TV B92 couldn’t stop talking about it. What kind of music is that? That, kids, is dance music. Although, not the kind we got used to in the decade before. It wasn’t dance, nor repetitive European pop – this was Funk, this was Disco, this was flirting with Trip-Hop and Soul on the club dancefloor, all over sweaty bodies under the strobe lights. It was led by an angelic, but stern female jazz vocal, who transfused microphone and speakers in the best style of ’60s Bond movies.
Some time has passed, and Róisín Murphy grew into a serious musical figure who spread her wings, releasing herself into the risky flight of a solo artist. What she started back then – there was not a safety net or steady waters. She grabbed the best of the western wave of everything she has ever listened to, filled it with beautiful spices of intentionally exaggerated Tokio fashion, and on top of that she added science. Yes, people – anthropology, biology, cybernetics. These themes pervade throughout many of the lyrics, especially the ones on her first solo album “Overpowered”, which reverberated and took her further than she ever thought she could reach. Actually, I think she knew. Great minds always know what they are capable of.
I couldn’t see her live before. It was either this excuse or that one. This summer, she came to Belgrade, only 10 minutes from my apartment. Beer Fest, an endlessly uninspiring place, where the same serbian bands meet every year, as if they are celebrating an anniversary of the prom night, they are always there and always in front of enough (and same) people. Everyone there is drunk – they came to drink a lot of beer and hear rock’n’roll – and they can always get it here. However, Róisín gave us something else. She brought the world with her, on her two small shoulders she brought everything that this place was missing. That freshness could only compare with the best, strongest multifruit cocktail you’ll ever taste. The one that brings you into the whirl of all colours and happy places. The concert is about to start, and at the same time, you’re at a discotheque on a deserted island, where the tropical birds and reflectors will make you sway forever. It has nothing to do with Beer Fest, I was not in Belgrade then. At that moment, I was in a unique world of smiling Róisín Murphy.
It doesn’t matter which song was first on the setlist, and which the last. Each song performed was equally important and phenomenal. We gathered just before midnight, not expecting for the concert to start on time. Who here starts on time (greetings to the national/local bands that instead at 10pm start their gig at 00:30am)? Exactly at midnight, several people stood on the stage, amongst them one creature in a huge cape/coat (how to describe Róisín Murphy’s costume in normal words?) and white reflectors were aimed at all of us. I couldn’t see a thing. My friend told me to take pictures… but, of who? It wasn’t unintentionally. The creature in cape/coat, with her colleague, played one of the keyboards. The rhythm started taking a form and in one moment, we heard her voice as well. She sang slowly, but she sang as if she was doing it in front of half a million people, and not in front couple of hundreds of superfans. She sang because of us, but also because of her nature… she couldn’t sing any differently… this is something you have to get born to do. To be a performer, an entertainer, an artist, a jazz diva in a body of a disco fairy. She took off the cape and showed herself to us, looking as young as she was fifteen years ago, spinning like a Tinkerbell wearing green and black, with a bit of make-up and plenty of strength. For the next hour and a half, she was jumping around, running, lying on her back with legs in the air, changed her clothes at least ten times, adding numerous requisites that fit into the songs. For example, while performing “Exploitation” she was aimful, letting us wear our own ecstasy, while during “Overpowered” she was in outer space and visually/vocally led us to Mars. The sea of synthetic sounds was powerful enough to sail for days without sails. Colleagues from the band know their job. At one point she took off someplace and left us in their strong hands.
They played the music in the way that I was thrown away, repetitively, disrobed and numerous times changed into numerous fictitious creatures, because, how can you be something terrestrial when you’ve spent an hour already on their planet? They own you now. You are, from the beginning until the end of this concert, that something that flickered inside you for the past twenty, thirty, fifty years. You are free. It was like that up until the encore, after the encore, until the second when they all left the stage, and we stood there, thirsty, desireful, eager for more, caught in the state that we got into without any opiates apart from this beautiful music. They left, and it took us ten more minutes to start taking our separate ways. I didn’t know how to find my friends, I was wavering against myself. It’s not a bad thing: being convolved into dreams and shivers that produce art.
I wish there was more of this here in our country. Not only when professionals like this come to visit us. I remember concerts by Damon Albarn, Little Dragon, or the one that Grace Jones did a month and a half ago. Those are the individuals that create something that you didn’t even know that you needed like water. It does not happen often. I wish I could transmit to you what Róisín transmitted to me. Instead, I will ask every one of you to play one of her songs (it can be random, really), close your eyes and let your body find its real move, movement, path, on its own. I know it’s funny – it’s just something that plays while life is happening. But, art is life. In the right song, there are hundreds of surreal pictures. And in that one picture, thousands of some, only your movies.That’s why there are musical notes. Play Róisín tonight. It doesn’t matter what has happened today or where you will wake up tomorrow, as long as in this moment now you have a twinkle which endlessly holds so much desire and love.
Written by: Ariel Cemović
Photos by: Ariel Cemović
Original in serbian: Kulturni Kisobran
Translated by: Tamara Fijat