"Singing has a relaxing effect on the body"
Did you know that singing can be therapeutic? This is a short extract from Tracey Thorn's book Naked at the Albert Hall:
"We form choirs, to sing either hymns and classical pieces, or vocal arrangements of rock songs" and continues: "like meditation, singing has a relaxing effect on the body, lowering blood pressure and thus helping us along the path to a longer, healthier life."
London choir master Kayo Anosike knows about the health benefits of singing - in this interview she shares her experience and how she founded the London House Cats Choir.
Paola: Tell us about the London House Cats Choir.
Kayo: "I'm growing a choir, it's a new project in every way. I need the choir to sound as one and to understand the concept of house music and dance music. So 50% is professional vocal training and 50% is vocal practice, vocal lessons, and building up the vocal strength and building up the power of harmonies and the house music way of thinking."
Paola: What's different about the house music way of thinking to other forms of choir singing?
Kayo: "House music is dance: the choir has to produce a dance feel and a dance sound. And dance music can be highly syncopated, it's electronic dance music, it has come from being sampled, lyrics can be chopped up and you don't often get that in gospel: you would get a flow of lyrics and a meaning."
Paola: Would this be a lifelong project?
Kayo: "Yes. It's not a course, it's not a 10-week course, it's a community choir. Singing in general is so good for your mental health, for your well-being. Particularly, communal singing is good for mental health. It's also the actual communal activity of bringing you out and meeting people, so if you are depressed and you do something like singing, there are striking benefits. At the end of every session my participants are so highly uplifted, it was a shock for even me. I remember being like that when I went to gospel choir and I had forgotten. After every session the joy levels are just so extraordinary that it affects me."
(Source: Confidence and the choral singer: the
effects of choir configuration,
collaboration and communication by Michael John Bonshor; also: Professor Graham Welch started a singing programme in schools and found that students had a more positive attitude and better social inclusion)
Paola: Do you ever feel stressed or under pressure because you are directing the choir?
Kayo: "I would say yes, I am under pressure, I need to deliver, I'm very focused, I know what I want to hear. I am also developing the tracks, the songs and the content. But also I want my participants to enjoy it and I am enjoying it because I do what I love: if I don't love it why would I be doing it? I've gotten to the point now where I've done a lot of singing, I've toured the world, I've stood on stages in front of hundreds of thousands of people: what can I give back? I think it's not necessary for me to be in the limelight now, it's for me help people shine and help them enjoy; let's do this together, let's enjoy ourselves and give pleasure to other people. And it's something fresh."
Paola: This is a London choir: do you see any avenues for taking this concept to other places?
Kayo: "I am looking a lot in the direction of the London Community Gospel Choir because I know Basil Meade. I look at his different structures he's implemented in his choir and they are good, sound business structures. There will be opportunities if we really grow strong, so I'd do things like 'train the trainer', I'd train my participants to then be able to go out into places and train others. I'm also looking out to take what I'm doing into schools and the community. There is absolutely no reason why kids can't do it too: in fact we have some young kids that come and love it and they wish it was in their schools. We can work with the curriculum.
There is a lot of pressure behind the scenes: how am I going to bring this to fruition, how am I going to develop this from where it is now to where I want it to be with producers, with live musicianship, live djing. It's a big project but you got to start somewhere and so far we have started strong.
This is a project that seeks to collaborate with other house music projects for live performance and releases. It is tailored to the house music sound. I would like the choir to perform at dance festivals around London and the UK, if they are ready for us: we are something refreshingly different."
Kayo Anosike is a DJ, singer, songwriter and choir master in London. She has toured extensively and has played DJ sets at the Miami World Music Conference.
She is the founder of the London House Cats Choir, an innovative concept combining house music and choir singing. The choir is working with DJ and producer Yam Who.
The London House Cats Choir is open to experienced musicians, producers and singers. The choir meets at 7.30pm from Monday 14th September 2015 at the Bernie Grant Centre in Tottenham, London www.berniegrantcentre.co.uk.
Get in touch if you would like to collaborate with the London House Cats Choir:
London House Cats Choir on twitter: https://twitter.com/LondonHouseCats
London House Cats Choir on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LondonHouseCatsChoir