17th February | SWX

Neneh Cherry has a deep connection to Bristol music. Back in the early 80s, she was the singer in the post-punk, free-jazz melée of Rip Rig and Panic, and was even married to, and had a child with, drummer Bruce Smith – who founded the band with Gareth Sager after the dissolution of the original Pop Group.

Part of the Bristol underground, she worked as an arranger on Massive Attack’s first album, Blue Lines and met and eventually married songwriter and that album’s producer, Cameron McVey (Booga Bear), who also produced her first album, 1989’s Raw Like Sushi, and her next three subsequent albums. Massive’s 3D and Mushroom also contributed to Raw Like Sushi.

Born in Stockholm, Sweden, Cherry comes from strong musical stock, her birth father being musician Ahmadu Jah and her stepfather being the late American jazz trumpeter Don Cherry. After a period living in the US, she moved to London in her teens in the 70s, immersing herself in the punk scene and briefly being part of The Slits and New Age Steppers before the Bristol connection, Rip Rig and Panic and then their follow-up, Float Up CP.

The image of Cherry performing her hit single ‘Buffalo Stance’ on Top of the Pops while heavily pregnant with her second child in 1989 is one that caused ripples, along with the sassy, eclectic, hip-hop/trip-hop pop of the album it came from. Subsequent albums have made small but substantial marks, with Cherry’s insistence on blending all manner of influences from hip-hop, jazz, dance, and R&B. She’s worked with an impressive array of artists, had a massive worldwide hit in 1996, with the single 7 Seconds with Senegalese superstar Youssou N’Dour taken off her third album Man. Geoff Barrow of Portishead contributed to her second album, Homebrew.

Her latest and fifth studio album Broken Politics – the only one not produced by McVey – sees Cherry in a more quiet and reflective mood than before, the social and the personal still intertwining, but a mood that still begs to be listened to, grooved with and enjoyed. And live, back in Bristol, this is quite essential.

See the video for ‘Kong’ here: