By Monk and David O’Neill

Poster for Immersed Festival 2021It is coming up to a year since the ÜK live music industry went into virtual shutdown, thanks to the ongoing global pan(dem)ic which has swept through the Überverse and decimated so many lives. With seemingly no light at the end of the tunnel, at least for the foreseeable future, and no sign of any form of “normal” shows, as we once knew them, returning any time soon, artists and bands have had to find new ways of engaging and interacting with their audiences, and promoting their product – never mind selling it and thus keeping a roof over their heads and allow them to plot a course into the future. While some of the bigger, more established, names have had the wherewithal to re-invent their communication and promotional channels, perhaps hardest hit have been what we can perhaps best describe as the next generation… the new breed of young, up-and-coming artistes who would have relied on blagging an invaluable support slot on a bigger bill to spread their message and showcase their talents to wider audiences… which brings us neatly to the subject (sic) in hand…

Enter the students from the University of South Wales, and particularly the campus’ school of Popular and Commercial Music. Last year, with the full support of their collegiate staff, and the professional support of a number of venues across the Welsh capital, they ‘Immersed’ themselves in organizing their first ever festival, showcasing the best up-and-coming young musical talent, not only from the university and its ranks, but the wider region as a whole. It was one of the last major musical events to be held in south Wales before the beer bug swept into town and closed everything down overnight.

However, like so many others in the music industry, and despite having only dipped their toes in the water, the students were not put off even such a cataclysmic turn of events, and set about building on the initial success of, and lessons learned from, their debut venture and set about turning the tables on the crisis around them. Yes, like so many others in the sector, they took the 2021 iteration of Immersed online, using a combination of the university’s own world-class facilities, home recordings – and even some of the venues which, all things being equal, would have staged the various gigs and showcases. And all done within the guidelines of the ongoing restrictions as laid down by the Welsh government.

While the eclectic nature of the artists concerned meant that many of them fell outside ÜR’s remit, our support for rising new talent is well-known, as so we asked our “Valleys Correspondent”, David O’Neill – himself a lecturer at USW – to check out proceedings over the course of the weekend, and give us a brief synopsis of each and every act showcased over the weekend… So, let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

Friday night’s Unity stage was all about diversity.  From rap to jazz fusion and solo blues singers, it was all there – including Welsh lyrics. There was a lot of talented artists on show.  All the recordings were COVID-19 secure and some were filmed from the artists’ own homes.  However, none of this detracted from the quality of the recordings or the video that was played for each one.

  • Deenio: A British-Trinidadian RnB hip hop artist, singing to backing tracks, with a nice tone to his voice.
  • KingKhan: An RnB/rapper singer performing to backing tracks to harmonize on the slower tracks. Again, a nice tone to his voice. Whilst this is not my cup of tea, I’m sure there are many who like it. And a good quality video recording.
  • Ellice has a very nice, bluesy sound to her voice, complimented by the lighting effects of the cultvrlab Whilst she was singing to a backing track, she could really use a blues band to give her the sound she deserves.

Suleiman Atta

  • Suleiman Atta has a very distinctive voice, singing to an acoustic guitar. They really need to write more tracks, as they only had three to perform, but they made a hell of an impression with this voice.  Really should go far given the opportunity.  Very impressed.
  • Luke RV: another rapper from South Wales, recorded by the artist from home, with a nice soft focus on the camera giving good blurring of the background, and a good quality recording on both tracks.
  • Eadyth: Welsh electro-soul delivered a very professional video recording from some of the sights of Cardiff for her first song in English, which was recorded prior to COVID-19. It was unusual to listen to this style of music in Welsh; however, it didn’t alter the fact that the track displayed her voice very well. Unfortunately, not being a Welsh speaker makes it difficult to comment on the content. This was followed by a very ethereal mix recorded using a keyboard and mixing desk, manipulating the controls very adeptly whilst still singing.  Eadyth had some very professionally recorded videos for her set.
  • Dirty Alex: hip hop jazz fusion from Cardiff. They kicked off with rapping jazz fusion about Miles Davies, and really picked up the mood of the festival after the earlier solo rap artists.  Some really nice trumpet and rhythm section work.  Probably very good value in a truly live show. These guys would go down well on the Jules Holland Show
  • Mace the Great: another rapper from Cardiff, and again recorded in Cultvrlab, who did three tracks. Typical rap style to backing tracks.
  • Skunkadelic & Mr Woodnote (doing the instrumentation): there is a nice warm tone to Skankadelic’s voice that reminded me of Bill Withers when he sang rather than rapped. Mr Woodnote is obviously a very talented multi-instrumentalist who kept the music, rhythm and everything else going.

This was followed by two hours of MC, which is not my scene, so I left at that point.

Highlights of day one? Dirty Alex, Suleiman Atta, the Cultvrlab lighting and the organization of the stream, which was really slick with no delays, unlike a real festival where you could spend ages trying to get from one stage to the next and end up missing the artists you wanted to see.

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