By Ashley Moore, photos by Robert Alexander Malcolm Photography
VoCool, Brixton’s new unsigned talent variety show debuted at the Electric Social on January 20, and the Brixton Blog went along to see how they settled in.
Founder Jeddy Allotey started this rip-roar entertainment hub from a series of musical BBQs held in his back garden in Mitcham. The BBQs carried on for five years, with some boasting as many as 250 attendees and even a performance by pop star Jessie J.
At this point, he decided to up his game. In 2012, Vocool’s first venue was the now-defunct Bec Bar in Tooting, before moving to The Greyhound pub in Streatham. Now in its third year, the event has matured and grown, with their second big Christmas bash boasting the likes of Richard Blackwood on the bill.
Vocool also sponsor a different charity each time they host an event, and tonight they were supporting Silimanjaro, set up by cancer survivor, actor and presenter Eddie Nestor.
Josephine Lacy was the foul mouthed, warm-hearted hostess cracking jokes like a whip; she filled in for the usual presenter Louisa Benjamin. The evening’s first showcase was singer Valentina CX and her singer-song writing partner, Michael. Valentina brought pure elegance to the event. She mesmerized the audience through her jazz ability to play on the melody of Michael’s samba-infused classical guitar style.
The next act was “rapper with a cause”, Ryan ‘Ragz-CV’, an Irish-Jamaican MC who donated part of his album proceeds to Alzheimer’s research, inspired by his grandmother. Ryan’s first verse was performed acapella; about people’s need to ask him about his race: “What are you?” His sobering answer is “a human being.” This was the start to a short but powerful set about digital slaves and losing our human connection. While the audience came away with something to think about, he left the stage with a cheeky “make sure you follow me on Twitter though…yeah!?”
Poet and singer Reena-Li suffered technical difficulties at the start of her debut set, which probably made her even more nervous. Then, as soon as the cool and calm track opened, her Trip-Hop talking vocal style oozed out and she had the wild, heckling audience in the palm of her hand. The next act gave the audience belly laughs. Michael Odewale, a young black comedian from Hackney whose topics included racist math questions, chickens, girls and the notion of a black James Bond.
The third showcase was the act of the night. Courtney Winston is a model, actor, spoken word poet, documentary maker and a motivational speaker. He has had small roles in 24 and the Bill as well a lead role in the 2015 film The Antwerp Dolls. He burst on to the stage with an electric undercurrent running through his body. He grabbed the mic and presenter as if he was going to throw them through the roof. His charm and charisma exhumed his stage presence and even if there wasn’t a rigid structure to his act, it wouldn’t matter because you couldn’t take your eyes of him. His frantic slot started with stand-up and moved onto a spoken word piece about impressing women with sexual positions. He revealed that he had bought a copy of the Karma Sutra from Brixton’s Electric Avenue.
On last, and headlining the event, was presenter and comedian Aurie Styla, who performed at the BBC UK Black Comedy Show in 2014. Aurie also presents a radio show on Bang Radio and starts a UK tour in March. At this point, drinks were flowing and the audience were on their feet. They howled at Aurie’s moves as he performed different dances to music genres from Afrobeat to Garage.
As the last joke finished, we were asked to clear the chairs. The lights were dimmed and the event turned into a club night with the audience dancing and drinking the remaining hours of the night away.
A lack of variety in Brixton’s night life is noticeable, but with VoCool speculating on whether to keep the Electric Social as its regular venue, it might not be so in the future.
A Vocool app is due out soon on Android and IOS.