A conversation about the culture that has shaped our lives
Episode 9: Sacha Dhawan
“Failure can be a blessing”
Our latest episode is a conversation with stage and screen actor Sacha Dhawan about how the last year has been destructive, turbulent, uncertain and… a blessing. The discussion touches on resilience, adaptation, discrimination, not being so grateful and of course songs and films that shaped his life.
\\ Two Songs:
Abalonia by Talvin Singh
His first way into how music can give confidence and help him get into character. A time-machine of a song that takes Sacha back to a place to rediscover his own identity.
Bye Bye Blackbird from the musical The History Boys
He reminisces about an incredibly emotional and inspiring two years of his early career performing The History Boys around the world, on stage and in film.
\\ Two Scenes:
The Warrior directed by Asif Capadia
This film came into Dhawan’s life at a critical time of self-reflection and at a crossroads. It helped clarify his personal identity and highlight the path in film he was destined to take. Epic storytelling, deeply spiritual and culturally specific but not defined by race it is a film filled with message and meaning, but very little dialogue.
The Namesake directed by Mira Nair
The first film that he said held up a mirror to himself and held parallels to his experience and his parents experience coming to Britain from India. For the first time he was represented on the big screen in a story that he could relate to.
Sacha can currently be seen in Channel 4 / Hulu comedy-drama The Great. Written by Tony McNamara (The Favourite) the story follows Catherine The Great (Elle Fanning) as she plots to murder her husband the Emperor of Russia, Peter (Nicholas Hoult). Sacha plays ‘Orlo’ who is Catherine’s right-hand man and advises her throughout her scheme to kill Peter. The series has been commissioned for series 2 which will start filming soon.
Episode 7 - Leah Wood
"Nobody kisses Prince"
Listen to a conversation filled with many remarkable stories of music, culture and arts with activist, designer, musician and mother Leah Wood.
In between fantastic anecdotes involving earrings from Prince and a cigarette end from Slash, Leah shares her advice on how we can overcome anxieties and challenges: don't take life too seriously and give life all you have got.
\\ Two Songs
Purple Rain - Prince
Fountain of Love - Ronnie Wood
One of her dad's early songs, Fountain of Love from the 123 album. It is the piece of music that makes her happy and reminds her of the better years. The song is also a reminder of how much she has progressed.
\\ Two Scenes
A film that showed us all the pressures and pleasures of youth with an incredible soundtrack. Especially the scene where the group goes shopping to a petrol station convenience store and dance with complete freedom and abandon.
The Color Purple
Cried her heart out to this film when she first saw it in her teens. Especially the incredibly emotional scene where "Ms. Celie's Blues" scene where the song Sister is sung by Shug to Celie, and portrays the romantic and sexual relationship blossoming between the two women.
Episode 6 - Gaia Weiss
Episode 6 of That Scene, That Song features a conversation with actor and model Gaia Weiss who has featured on screen in Judy, Vikings, Mary Queen of Scots and The Legend of Hercules. Practicing ballet from the age of four, and drama from 7, performing and being on stage was always in her blood. Through a career that she says 'just happened' is thread of tenacity and doing the hard work.
Live and Become - a film that Gaia describes as a lesson in humanity. It is the story of Christian Ethiopian mother who saves her son by sending him to Israel, where he is adopted by a family in Tel Aviv and must acclimate to his new life while guarding the secret of his past. The particular scene that moved Gaia was where the mother implores her son to 'go, live and become'.
Cold War by Pawel Pawlikowski is described as an impossible love story in impossible times. The film is a passionate love story between a man and a woman who meet in the ruins of post-war Poland. With vastly different backgrounds and temperaments, they are fatefully mismatched and yet condemned to each other. Set against the background of the Cold War in 1950s Poland, Berlin, Yugoslavia and Paris, it’s the tale of a couple separated by politics, character flaws and unfortunate twists of fate.
Jerusalem by Alpha Blondy with an inspiring message of community and meaning of togetherness; something we can all take some inspiration from these days.
Tezeta by Mulatu Astatke that joins Gaia whenever she needs to recharge from the frenetic nature of life. If you have nothing left, you can't give anymore. This song will fill your soul. Gaia discovered it under extraordinary circumstances: she was at Sting's house in Tuscany listening to Mia Moretti sing a captivating song that caressed her spirit. She Shazam'd it, and we get to listen to it today.
Episode 5 - Nitin Sawhney
Episode 5 of That Scene, That Song features musician, producer, composer and living breathing medicine man for the soul, Nitin Sawhney.
The fascinating conversation follows Nitin’s life and musical journey as well as two indispensable pieces of advice for anybody struggling with identity, direction or motivation
\\ Don’t let anybody tell you that it’s not enough to just be you.
He emplore us to believe that you are enough as you are.
\\ Be process orientated, not goal oriented
Expectation can be the enemy of happiness, so enjoy the process and you will never be far from happiness. When one focuses on goals, things can go one of two ways. It might be that you don’t achieve your goal and the you will be disappointed. And even if you do achieve it you will not have enjoyed the process and the satisfaction may be fleeting.
He goes on to share two films and two songs that have had a profound impact on his life.
\\ Two films
By director and master filmmaker Satijit Ray and music by Bandichi Ravi Shankar who sat for 11 straight hours to create the score.
The film is the first of the Apu Trilogy and Nitin finds it to be one of the most emotional moments in film history. Filled with sparse and simple scenes creating using a single, static camera that leaves space for imagination and emotion.
And specifically the final "Tears in Rain" monologue scene with the late Rutger Hauer as a replicant passing away. An extraordinary speech highlighting the ‘otherness’ of the replicants; exploited and turned into slaves. Perceived as less than human struggling only to survive and to be perceived as equal. Mirros todays stories of refugees and immigrants - of so many people that have been repressed by cultures and nations.
Hauer is expressing his last moments and wanting to share his experiences.
\\ Two Songs
Mustt Mustt, the Massive Attack Remix, by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
This remix by Massive Attack captured everything that was going in with the dub scene and was the first high-profile band to mix an incredible Maestro of cavalli sagrams
What’s Going On, Marvin Gay
Featuring sadly prophetic lyrics, and a question that Nitin asks himself every morning looking at the news. How is this happening… this crazy dystopian nightmare that no one can explain to me.
Episode 4 - Timi Dakolo
That Scene, That Song is a conversation about two songs and two films that have shaped Timi, his outlook on life or work, or that have profound personal meaning.
\\ The star
Episode four stars Nigerian singer Timi Dakolo. Hailed as “the golden voice of Africa”, Dakolo’s soulful tenor is intoned with a melodic West African lilt. In 2007, a friend encouraged him to audition for the inaugural season of Idols West Africa, offering to split the cost of travel. Dakolo emerged winner, his victory scoring him a recording contract with Sony BMG.
Fresh from releasing his debut UK album Merry Christmas, Darling, 38-year-old Dakolo talks creative authorship. Christmas songs, he says, are “the hardest songs to sing” because a sense of public ownership creates pressure to deliver them “word for word, pronunciation for pronunciation, rhythm for rhythm.”
For Dakolo, sharing the experiences that shaped him is the essence of being an artist. “You can’t give what you don’t have,” he says. “I don’t believe in ‘fake it till you make it’. I have to define what music is to me. To me, music is the sound of my emotions.”
The Idols winner caught the singing bug aged 14, freestyling with friends during lunch break. His peers were listening to Chaka Demus & Pliers, Brian Adams and Phil Collins, but at home it was reggae records that were played on his uncle’s turntable. His grandmother “loved morning prayers” and her hymns were the young Dakolo’s alarm clock.
“If you grow up with an old woman, you become an adult at a very young age,” says the singer. “My grandmother loved education so much… She would say: “If you don’t want the life, if you don’t like what you see, all these men, if you don’t want to be them, you have to read, because that’s how you escape.”
\\ The scenes
From the world of cinema, Dakolo selects the finale of Bryan Singer’s 2018 Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, starring Rami Malek. Here, Dakolo muses on the idea of songs as communal experiences.
“At the end, when the crowd are singing ‘we will, we will, rock you…’” says Dakolo, “I’ve watched it five times and I’ve cried every time. I’ve cried because it’s not just the words. It’s not just the pictures. It’s the experience they share. The ability to exchange experience. Your pain is my pain. Your truth is my truth.”
Up next is Bradley Cooper’s 2018 directorial debut A Star Is Born, helmed by Lady Gaga. Talking about troubled singer Jackson (played by Cooper) deciding to quit music, Dakolo reflects on what can happen when the noise of the industry overcomes the craft itself.
“One of the big take-homes for me in that movie is how you can be so talented and yet miss it,” he says. “If you wish to do music, every other thing is secondary. He left what made him him to do everything else.”
\\ The songs
Hearing Dakolo break into an acapella rendition of Can’t Give Up Now by Mary Mary is something special. “There will be mountainsthat I will have to climb/ And there will be battlesthat I will have to fight/ But victory or defeat, it's up to me to decide/ But how can I expect to winif I never try,” he sings.
The track has been a tonic for Dakolo during difficult times. Here he uses the song as a springboard to discuss what talent can cost us, as well as the serendipitous nature of success.
To close, Dakolo selects an original song sung by his grandmother, a signal in his youth that there would be no food for dinner. Dakolo’s grandmother, a petty trader who sold in-season fruits and other goods, was
Episode 3 - Eddie Kadi
What We Seee Presents Episode 3 of That Scene, That Song featuring Eddie Kadi.
That Scene, That Song is a conversation about two songs and two films that have shaped Eddie, his outlook on life or work, or that have profound personal meaning.
\\ The star
Episode three sees award-winning comedian, presenter and actor Eddie Kadi in the hot seat.
Born in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and raised in London, Kadi was “the life of the party” from a young age. Whether he was singing in the school choir or playing the keyboard, performing gave him “a sense of belonging”.
Kadi describes his parents, both from the same tribe, as instilling in him an understanding of “the power that my country has”. Fluent in French and English, the importance of speaking his mother tongue, Lingala, stays with him.
It was while studying media technology at Kingston University London that Kadi made his first steps into comedy. Hosting a talent showcase for the African Caribbean Society, his impersonations were a hit with the audience.
Gigging as a comedic host turned into appearances on the stand-up circuit and it wasn’t long before Kadi was winning accolades from the likes of Gina Yashere. In 2002, four years into his comedy career, Kadi was awarded Best Comedy Newcomer at the Black Entertainment Comedy Awards.
Today, 36-year-old Kadi’s whip-smart routines remain rooted in his Congolese heritage. “Yearning to teach people about my culture put me in a different lane as soon as I got into stand-up,” he says. “I was telling a story that not a lot of people around me were telling.”
\\ The scenes
From the big screen, Kadi chooses Frank Darabont’s 1994 penitentiary epicThe Shawshank Redemption, which he describes as his cinematic “national anthem”. “Every time you watch it, you see things you’ve not seen before,” he says. “Such a beautiful journey of strength, friendship, loyalty, redemption.”
Up next, a 1990 action movie gets Kadi talking about the joy of returning “to the things that defined your childhood”. Describing A.W.O.L // Lionheart, which stars Jean-Claude van Damme as a paratrooper legionnaire, the comedian says: “Our house was obsessed!”
“The sound track is demonic – it was created to make you cry,” continues Kadi. “It made me fall in love with Jean-Claude van Damme. I saw him beyond the films.”
\\ The songs
Kicking off the music selections is Eau Bénite, a track by the late Congolese artist and poet Simaro Lutumba, who Kadi is currently making a documentary about.
“This guy was one of the best lyricists to come out of the Congo,” says Kadi. “He performed this song with his band live for me and I was near tears.”
Up next is Speechless, a gentle, under-the-radar 2001 track by Michael Jackson that has become a tonic for Kadi in times of stress. The comedian likens the sound to gospel, saying, “Whenever I felt anxious, I played this song, and for some reason it always calmed me down.”
\\ The summary
Kadi’s comedy is underpinned by an acute interest in philanthropy. Whether he’s talking about the strength of African women or the backstories of “the roadmen” in Netflix series Top Boy, he returns to the human condition time and again.
Along the way, he ruminates on the cultural stigma of “being a clown” in his native country, and the lack of space in British comedy for black comics to hone their craft.
Talking about his musical cultural keystones, he says: “What makes a s