Neneh Cherry has spent a life shifting with the times, from punk to rap, free jazz to high-pop, chasing the sound of change. Growing up on the road with step-father trumpeter Don Cherry and her Swedish artist mother, after joining punk band the Slits, she formed renegade free-blowing post-punk, Rip, Rig and Panic, with whom she can be seen performing in a rare piece of fan footage. Shot in 1983, the band were on tour to promote “I Am Cold Album” on which her step father was a guest. She recalls it was a strange moment of deja vu for the family:
”My daddy (Don Cherry) was on tour with us as he appeared on the 'I Am Cold' album. It's funny but on that same tour Gareth Sager & I walked down the side of a mountain in Kyoto to find a bar and on the wall in the bar we found we saw a photo which, on closer inspection, turned out to be a photograph of my mum, dad and me (as a young child) on stage years earlier also in Japan. The bar owner phoned the photographer who took the picture and he came to meet us for a drink! Random or what?!”
A strange twist of fate, but typical of a life spent in constant dialogue with other musicians. By the late 1980s, she sang vocals for The The on “Slow Train to Dawn”, becoming part of Ray Petri’s Buffalo artistic collective, before embarking on a solo career that saw her collaborate with Biggie Smalls, Jungle Brothers and Gary Starr. It emerges ahead of new dates at Manchester International Festival with London-based duo RocketNumberNine, brothers who experiment in an intense, experimental sound.
“I am feeling like I have stepped back in time in a way because I am performing with a similar free spirited group to Rip Rig called RocketNumberNine. Back in time yet forward to the future!”
Now she is playing the Manchester international Festival tonight, and below you can check out a previously unseen archive film of an early 80s Rip Rig and Panic show.
Follow Rena Niamh Smith on Twitter here @renathinks