Looking back to a cold Wednesday night in Dalston, the roads were busy with traffic wanting to be anywhere but there, cars speeding out the traps letting everyone know just that. The pavements seemed more relaxed than usual, enjoying some brief respite from the working weeks pounding of feet and the weekend evenings liquid pizzas and cigarette burns. Although quiet, there were still a few loyal patrons on the prowl, seeking midweek glory or a drunken fish dinner, or both, if the chips fall in their favour.
Not many had taken refuge in one of the Kingsland drags less conspicuous basements, but those that did were glad for the warmth of its intimate, although mirror lined dance floor and the dim but welcoming pink neon glow of its signage, Club Makossa.
Using Johnny cash’s ‘A Boy Named Sue’ as a ring walk, a short and unassuming gentleman, not from Arkansas but Scotland, steps up and enters the ring. In the blue corner, an attentive audience, hungry for their journeys to be justified. In the red corner, a boy named Tzusan bristles with the anticipation of a fighter about to come out swinging.
And swing he does, the moment his introduction has finished we are thrust into the first round. Our artist jabs with acerbic cynicism and ducks with acute sensitivity, a combination both poised and disarming. After the second track, the room starts to loosen up, our performer relaxes into his rhythm, he finds a steady pace and begins to blend with the beats, entering a flow complimented perfectly by them whilst remaining expertly distinguished in tone and diction, creating a world both rich in texture and abundant in metaphor.
We are invited deeper into the visions of a young man who has embellished even his harshest indictments with a humour at once dry and effortlessly fluid. Even his most blatant fantasies hold a grain of emotion, honest enough to disarm you, sharp enough to slice of a piece from you.
Just as we are prepare to lose another cold cut, the room is thrown into disarray, a change of pace worthy of Muhammed Ali himself. Before we know what has happened, we are being peppered left and right with ‘Andy Stewart’s’ ‘Donald where’s your troosers’ (A hard house edit) An interlude that, once concluded left the room stunned and dazed, but still standing.
Was it intended as an hyperactive advert, selling the Scottish rave scene as a frenetic rehash of its musical heritage? Or as a slice of pickled ginger to cleanse the pallet, the kuchinaoshi between rounds of sushi? Or was it acting as the central head of Cerberus, keeping just enough distance between the other two to stop a ruckus?
Whatever the intention, our artist had managed to reinstate in his fistful of fans a jarful of energy, eyes wide and dry, ready for the next round.
Our fighter reaches to a dark corner of the stage, he pulls out a t-shirt, he must need to wipe the sweat from his brow. “Is anybody a small?” His offer is met with silence. If anyone was wondering whether it was worth a potentially embarrassing squeeze for a freebie, we didn’t hear about it. The t-shirt goes back in the bag, If our artist was upset that his kindness was declined, he didn’t show it. He signalled the DJ to hit the next track, hard and loud he barrelled back into the flow, forehead still glistening.
By this point the mirrors lining the dance floor are causing a prickling anxiety in me. Sick of being force fed my own reflection, I focus on the stage. But I find no respite there, only a compact scot firing caustic lyrics at my weakened convictions, sparking stark reflections on my own brand of cynicism; Does it serve me any more than it serves you? In the past it may have eased the sickly pain of self loathing, a spindly and fragile prop sure to snap under the pressure of an inflated self importance, a sense that grows naturally when dishing out disrepute, when disrespecting that which doesn’t regard you. That which is unaware of your assault, oblivious, defenceless.
But that is not what Tzusan is doing, although there is much derision here, none without good reason. He is not knocking down easy targets for a leg up, he has not adopted this stance as a cold fortress for his vulnerabilities. His need to communicate his contempt is an act of defiance. If not noble, at least an honest accounting of his environments most heinous violations.
The bells ding draws cheers and whoops from our modest crowd. Signalling the end of the show, they bring me out of a reflection both singular and deep enough to realise just how special this young talent is. In the space of a few short rounds, we have been battered, bettered and enraptured on our feet. Kept in the fight long enough to start enjoying the blows, and even ask for more once they stopped.
Although a surprising and enjoyable evening, it was tinged with an unfortunate reality. It was not the less than ample PA ducking the mic intermittently throughout the performance, the presence and humility of our artist more than made up for that. It was not the scant drinking options at the bar, which encouraged your correspondent into a rare and welcome night off the liquor. The unfortunate reality of that evening was how few people were there to enjoy it. This could have been down to the time of day, the week, the month, down to the recent drop in temperature or in disposable income, or it could have been down to the tight lips of the promoter, (your correspondent only heard about this gig a few hours before it started) A word got the wise, if I may; When you have talent this good in town, shout a little louder about it.
Soaking up the album whilst reliving a modest but memorable gig, I feel compelled to question my motivations for writing this at all, Am I piggybacking the culture, do I recognise true talent and want a piece for myself? Do I secretly want to see If I can squeeze into a small, because it was given away, not because I need another t-shirt. Something about this piece of music calls so much of myself into question, for that I thank its creator, a boy named Tzusan. There seems to be no question about his motivations, they clearly stem from a love for the art and a desire to hone the craft. Nobody in it for anything else would spell their nom de plume with silent letters. If this boy keeps going in the same direction, he’ll be a champion regardless.
Communal Rhythm Blog by Harry Hand
Editor: Alex Honey