If you don’t know the Rory McLeod and the Familiar Strangers band, which plays the Rye Arts Festival (RAF) on Friday September 30, then you need to! This gig is set to be a rare treat, as it features one of the most talented and certainly most interesting musicians ever to have graced the 45 years of the Rye Arts Festival (RAF). To borrow music-loving politician Ken Clarke’s comments, Rory is a musician with a hinterland, a very big one indeed! Rory is, in essence, a folk musician, but his influences are enormous!
This concert is a game of two halves. The first session features Rory on his lonesome but with a host of musical instruments that he plays, including guitar, trombone and his own custom-built stomp box. After the half-time break, for the audience to grab a slice of orange and a cold sponge to cool down, or something a bit stronger, Rory will come back on stage with his three compadres who comprise the Familiar Strangers – Bob Morgan on clarinet and sax; Diego Lavendre Rojas on the Columbian harp and Richard Sadler on double bass.
Rory McLeod was born in London, the son of a Glaswegian shipyard worker who was politically active. And politics, with the rights of the suppressed, disadvantaged and exploited, has been at the heart of Rory’s life. He has criss-crossed the globe for four decades helping the “small person” in their struggles along the way and playing music.
Living the life of the medieval troubadour, Rory’s travels have been global. He started out as a fire-eater and, for a period, a circus clown in Mexico, joining a troupe that toured the Pacific coast performing in remote mountain villages and tobacco plantations.
He has played in and swapped tunes in places as varied as Cuba, China, central America, Afghanistan and Germany. And he has soaked up influences as he has travelled, so his music contains flamenco, calypso, blues, Celtic, reggae, ska and Eastern European references.
Rory has been described as globalist (but not a supporter of globalism) humanist, for whom music crosses all boundaries in the same way as he has crossed borders since the early ‘70s, when he set off overland via Iran to Afghanistan. He has also been described as a one-man soul band, but as well as playing with his Familiar Strangers, the list of greats he has shared a microphone and stage with include Ali Farka Toure, Kathryn Tickell, Flaco Jimenez and Michelle Shocked.
Rory McLeod is a legend in many places you’ll never have heard of, so this gig presents an ideal opportunity to see why he is feted all around the globe. Rory truly is the world musicians’ world musician.
Tickets, costing just £12, can be booked online where you can find information on this and the other 60 events that comprise this year’s RAF, which runs from September 17 to October 1.
Photos: courtesy RAF