BREVIEW: Call Me Unique’s Urban Gypsy II EP – launch night @ Mama Roux’s 05.05.17

BREVIEW: Call Me Unique’s Urban Gypsy II EP - launch night @ Mama Roux’s 05.05.17 / Michelle Martin - Birmingham Review




Words by Ed King / Pics by Michelle Martin & Ed King

‘You’ve always had the power to go back…’

It’s here: the day in question, of reckoning, red letter. Call Me Unique is launching her Urban Gypsy II EP tonight, three years since its predecessor came off stage at The Yardbird, with a smorgasboard showcase at Mama Roux’s – the raw and raucous live music sponge in the Rainbow portfolio. And I’ve seen the running order; I kid you not there’s over ten artists joining Unique on stage, with an average of five minutes to perform and turn around. I’d make a joke, but it’s an important day.

Known for many years as the Girl-With-The-Guitar (and still on some bus routes) Call Me Unique has been frustratingly close to something for some time. Her combination of soul, rap, jazz, verse and scat, peppered with flecks of folk and bonfire laments, has BREVIEW: Call Me Unique’s Urban Gypsy II EP - launch night @ Mama Roux’s 05.05.17 / Ed King - Birmingham Reviewbeen circling the thermals for a while; deserving of adulation beyond this city, whilst gaining some ground in London and Europe (based out of Budapest) Call Me Unique has sorely needed a win. Not a pat on the back, not a friend saying ‘well done’, a win. And the only way this was going to happen, to really happen, to happen in a way that would push this all forward, was the holy trinity: write, record, release.

So, no pressure then.

Walking into Mama Roux’s the first thing I notice are the numbers. Full room – check. Next are the people who make up those numbers – a regular line up of musicians and music professionals, with some healthy creative faces on the periphery to even things out. Then there’s what I can only assume are Mama Roux’s regular crowd or the throng that attend Digbeth Dining Club, with a handful trapped at two iron mesh tables by the front of the stage. I maybe address that one.BREVIEW: Call Me Unique’s Urban Gypsy II EP - launch night @ Mama Roux’s 05.05.17 / Ed King - Birmingham Review

But before anyone can say ‘shall we sit upstairs’ the stage begins, with Unique and guests walking us through the EP that started ‘the Urban Gypsy Experience’ a handful of years ago. ‘Stranger’ is up first, with rappers Trademark Blud and Boy October (aka Christian Deveaux) giving some significant punch to my favourite track from Urban Gypsy I, before trading places with Kezia Soul and Simon Jnr for ‘Here’.

The eponymous track gets Lady Sanity and RTKal up on stage, always good to see, before the pinnacle performance of the first half from Jugganaut and Malik MD7 – bouncing ‘Bombs & Wars’ around the room and back again. So far this is going extremely well. Then Ed Geater and Affie Jam join Call Me Unique to perform ‘Sholow’, with Geater’s vocal leading the song in a memorable Bill Withers moment. It’s not often you see these three on stage without guitars in their hands; wouldn’t mind that happening again.

N.B. Ed Geater produced Call Me Unique’s Urban Gypsy II EP, that’s why he is on stage tonight. All the other artists are here from love, affinity, involvement or love. Life is quite simple.

BREVIEW: Call Me Unique’s Urban Gypsy II EP - launch night @ Mama Roux’s 05.05.17 / Ed King - Birmingham ReviewRound Two is a showcase of Urban Gypsy II, the full EP getting performed with a selection of guests – kicking off, as the god of track listing intended, with the dreamlike ‘Dreamers’. A surprisingly effective cover of ‘Genie in a Bottle’ comes up next, with a mix of vox pops and ‘eerie sounds’ taking us into ‘Birds’ – the second track from the EP in question.

The rib digging ‘Only Girl in Manville’ gets a darker delivery, as the band step back to let the words speak for themselves, before the first (noticeable, at least) slip up on a running order that could have been Chrystal Maze challenge. But without missing a beat, figuratively or literally, a quick crowd search then a “come on up here girl” pulls Tina Amana up on stage for the ‘Say My Name’ cover, who I haven’t seen with Unique since the Sun at the Station gig back in March 2015. It’s a beautiful silver lining, and represents the genuine love and support that fills up this room tonight. They even share a mic. Although that was more a technical issue than some crazed close quarter duet.BREVIEW: Call Me Unique’s Urban Gypsy II EP - launch night @ Mama Roux’s 05.05.17 / Ed King - Birmingham Review

Leanne Louise is our next guest of honour, as her and Unique banter back and forth with ‘Hashtag’; no egos, a shared stage and joint presence. Job done. Then a journey back to the source with ‘The Wife’, before the final two tracks from Call Me Unique’s new EP, ‘Shoulda’ and ‘Ashon’, gets their turn in the spotlight tonight. There’s a lot of personal exposure on Urban Gypsy II but perhaps these two tracks are amongst the more visceral – challenging hypocritical fists in the former and honouring a ‘son who never got to breathe’ in the latter. But I’ll sum up the end of this set, of this gig, of this obstacle course release, in one word. Strength. Even with tears streaming down your face.

Call Me Unique has a few more to add anyway, with her standard call to “support local artists” getting sandwiched with a more mature declaration of strength. There’s that word again. But oddly, perhaps, perhaps not, it was the call to “make this our home” that I walk out of the venue carrying closest. The Yardbird was an important playground for BREVIEW: Call Me Unique’s Urban Gypsy II EP - launch night @ Mama Roux’s 05.05.17 / Michelle Martin - Birmingham ReviewCall Me Unique and others; full of talent, ambition and garrulous endevour. It meant a lot to many. And whilst I’ve only been in Mama Roux’s a handful of times I’m old enough to see something unfolding itself here, tonight, with an honest soul at the centre. And I can all too easily be a cynic.

So go out and buy Urban Gypsy II, support your local music scene, support your local music venues. Do as she says. And someone, somewhere under the arches in Digbeth, with an address book and a diary, should start seriously clicking their heals together.

‘…there’s no place like home.’

Call Me Unique’s Urban Gypsy II EP is out now, launched at Mama Roux’s on Friday 5th May. For more on Call Me Unique, including online sales of Urban Gypsy II, visit

For more from Mama Roux’s, including a full events programme and online ticket sales, visit

BPREVIEW: Call Me Unique’s Urban Gypsy II EP – launch night @ Mama Roux’s 05.05.17

BPREVIEW: Call Me Unique’s Urban Gypsy II EP - launch night @ Mama Roux’s 05.05.17Words by Ed King 

On Friday 5th May, Call Me Unique will launch her new Urban Gypsy II EP at Mama Roux’s.

Doors open at 8:30pm, with kicking out time bang on the witching hour. Entry is a curious ‘Pay as You Feel’, but it would be worth saving some shekles for a copy of the Urban Gypsy II EP itself which will be on sale for the first time on Friday. Plus there’s a bar and Digbeth Dining Club… For more direct gig info, click here.

That being said, you’re going to get more artists on stage than is probably good for you – so throwing some money at the rider bill might be a considerate gesture. Joining Call Me Unique will be Ed Geater, Leanne Louise, Malik MD7, Lady Sanity, Trademark Blud, Boy October (Christian Deveaux), RTKal, Keziasoul, Affie Jam, Juggernaut, Simon Jnr. Plus ‘a few surprises’, which could well be the fire department turning up to make sure there’s still room on stage.

It’s a local luminary love in, celebrating a new body of work from Call Me Unique getting its first on stage outing. And why not, damn it. Birmingham Review was there for the Urban Gypsy I EP launch in 2014 where the same good vibes and good will PACKED OUT The Yardbird on a cold Monday in January, and we’ve have been chomping at several bits for the past… three years, three months and eight days to hear the follow up. There’s an album lurking in the background somewhere too; big things this year, as the girl with the guitar grows ever closer to a more mature spotlight.

Urban Gypsy I was a storming EP; you can read my BREVIEW of the release here and the BREVIEW of The Yardbird launch party here. Its only misstep was not having an album to back it up. Time past, creative frustrations grew, Call Me Unique started building a significant fan base in mainland Europe and I honestly didn’t know if we’d get our second pound of flesh from this artist.

Then, eventually, a ZIP file of Urban Gypsy II lands in my inbox; I’ll admit more than a few nails didn’t make it that morning.

BPREVIEW: Call Me Unique’s Urban Gypsy II EP - launch night @ Mama Roux’s 05.05.17Produced by Ed Geater, Call Me Unique’s Urban Gypsy II EP is a ‘richer landscape’ than its predecessor, with 6 tracks (including the beautiful ‘Dreamers’ intro) of honest intent. Moments more ‘dark and brooding’, then mournful, are followed by a playful lilt and, ultimately, hope; there’s a definite step up in both the confidence and sound of this EP.

The content has matured too, with Call Me Unique shining a unashamed light on some deeply personal subject matter: domestic violence, ‘a son who never got to breathe’, love, the betrayal of love, fickleness, friendship, the fight for mental health, and above all a woman’s strength to stay in the game and smile whilst winning it. It’s beautiful, worth the wait, and as I said in my BREVIEW of the lead single ‘Shoulda’, brings a ‘proud treble clef tear to my eye’. Birmingham has some incredible talent at the moment, with Call Me Unique and her peers that appear on this EP being amongst the top strata. Proud is the word.

Ed Geater, a man whose name has been on this site a few times recently, has also mastered the production (if you’ll excuse the wording). Proving to be just as talented behind the glass as his is on stage, Geater’s work on Call Me Unique’s Urban Gypsy II EP is exactly what you’d want from a producer – pulling the strong strands from an artist, getting them to own their own, then tying them together for the world to understand.

But you’ll get to see/hear for yourself soon enough. So hold on until the end of the week, get yourself to Mama Roux’s or the various online outlets, check out Urban Gypsy II, then watch all those eager years and crossed fingers start to fade… fade… fade… Just add album.

Call Me Unique’s Urban Gypsy II EP – launch night @ Mama Roux’s 05.05.17


Call Me Unique launches her Urban Gypsy II EP at Mama Roux’s on Friday 5th May – for direct gig info, click here. For more on Call Me Unique, visit


For more from Mama Roux’s, including a full events programme and online ticket sales, visit


BREVIEW: The Flyover Show 2016 @ Hockley Circus (underneath Hockley Flyover) 20.08

The Flyover Show / By Michelle Martin © Birmingham Review

Words by Ed King / Pics by Michelle Martin (Visual Voice Media)

For the full Flickr of pics, click here

One of the great things about The Flyover Show is the roof. Sounds odd, but as I stare out of my bathroom window at sheets of early morning rain knowing I’ll be spending the rest of the day with the B4100 as an urban canopy is somewhat of a comfort.

Luckily by lunchtime the skies have settled into a dry, battleship grey, with splashes of sun and good humour – archetypal English event weather. And as the background sounds of DJ Winchester welcome us on to the curiously effective event site, the concrete concourse that connects the underpasses of Hockley Circus (underneath the eponymous ‘flyover’) the day begins to take shape.Soweto Kinch @ The Flyover Show 2016 / By Michelle Martin (Visual Voice Media) © Birmingham Review

Soweto Kinch’s ‘one-day festival of music, art & dance’ has been out of action since 2012, when around 6,000 people came through the Maxi Priest headlined line up, and it’s eventual return is both welcome and precarious.

A week is a long time in ‘small p’ politics, and to be off the funded event calendar for nearly half a decade is arguable suicide; the big thing hanging over The Flyover Show 2016 – other than two lanes of asphalt – is if it can win back its supremely supportive crowd.

Since its inaugural event in 2008 The Flyover Show has fostered a safe, friendly and diverse audience – with a clear mandate “challenging the preconceptions surrounding the area, showing that community and culture can thrive in all corners of our city’s heart.” But four years without a sound… if you build it again, will they come back?

Black Circle @ The Flyover Show 2016 / By Michelle Martin (Visual Voice Media) © Birmingham ReviewThe first live performance comes from the six strings and sultry tones of Affie Jam – a local singer/songwriter with more to offer than most. Everyone’s giving it their all, on stage and off; as the line up unfurls The Flyover Show’s curator and creator – Soweto Kinch – parades the open event site with an infectious call to arms, like a mix between the pied piper and Mos Def.

The event doors have just opened and it’s a little thin on the ground, with most of the early birds perched on the slanted cobbles tones that adorn this accidental amphitheatre. Kinch marches on, it’s hard to ignore or resist; The Flyover Show has always relied on more than just bodies to fill out the empty pockets on site.

Black Circle kick start the full band performances, and introduce the first flavours of reggae that will culminate in this year’s headline – the legendary within certain circles guitarist, Ernest Ranglin.Call Me Unique @ The Flyover Show 2016 / By Michelle Martin (Visual Voice Media) © Birmingham Review

Ranglin has an impressive portfolio, having played with many jazz and reggae greats, alongside running both Studio One and Island Records back in the days when you would really want those jobs. And at 83 the man is on his ‘Farewell Tour’ – playing a litany of high profile events including Glastonbury Festival, The Barbican, Montreux jazz festival, Istanbul Jazz Festival… and now The Flyover Show.

It’s a coup for Birmingham. But to see this artist at a free, community focused event (as opposed to a bank breaking bill at the Symphony Hall) is another feather in The Flyover Show’s cap.

As well as breaking the media myths Handsworth, Lozells and Hockley are so often hung drawn and quartered with, Soweto Kinch set up the annual event to “break down these constraints of culture and class, and brings world renowned acts right into the heart of our community.” With Ernest Ranglin headlining The Flyover Show 2016, this particular arrow has arguably never been closer to its mark.

Basil Gabbidon & band @ The Flyover Show 2016 / By Michelle Martin (Visual Voice Media) © Birmingham ReviewCall Me Unique is next on stage, performing tracks from her soon to be released Urban Gypsy EP. Strong, confident and engaging, Call Me Unique is a solid performer – with a developed edge coming out in her new material.

The Flyover Show crowd, many of whom have grown up, with and around the Handsworth based singer/songwriter (Call Me Unique lives round the corner, and has done everything from street flyering to broadcast interviews to help promote The Flyover Show) and it’s another of the day’s welcome sights to see her on stage.

Call Me Unique’s set introduces a further series of local artists, including TrueMendous, Trope, RTKal, Deci4life and Juice Aleem – performing mainly hip hop focused sets, with rhyme and verse holding a firm grip over the growing audience (it’s heading into late afternoon and there’s about 700 people here now). Some technical difficulties bring the running order into sharp light, but allow for more on stage banter from the section of the line up with a closer bond to Birmingham. Shout outs are given, given back, and a feeling of warm familiarity flows on and off stage.

Eska Mtungwazi, or Eska for short, ushers in the headline acts – coming on stage as the late August light starts to dip into early evening. A stalwart performer, Eska’s rising balloon saw her as a highlight of the recent Mostly Jazz festival – with her sonorous delivery and rich melodies now rippling across concrete and crowd at The Flyover Show Ernest Ranglin @ The Flyover Show 2016 / By Michelle Martin (Visual Voice Media) © Birmingham Review2016. It’s (she’s) pretty spectacular, and steps up the on stage flair in time for Basil Gabbidon and his band; brass and bright strings washing a wave of Birmingham reggae out across the crowd.

As Gabbidon and company strut through their set, it all gets a little carnival; with a mouth of pipping hot jerk chicken I join the dancing front rows. But as the lights on stage come up, and those above us come down, it’s time for the headline act – Ernest Ranglin has entered the building… well, municipal urban concourse, but you get the adage.

Dub riffs and decades of confidence ooze off stage, as the crowd dutifully drag themselves into the barriers and shoulder drop skank. I didn’t know about Ernest Ranglin before seeing him on the bill for The Flyover Show 2016, but you can tell almost instantly that you’re watching an artist of serious intent and caliber. The rest of the crowd gets this too – and show a reassuring appreciation to the man who agreed to play the event due to the audience it attracts. “I might get too warmed up, but I think I’ll be alright,” Ranglin jokes to the crowd – who have, by this penultimate point, grown to well over 1000.

Ernest Ranglin @ The Flyover Show 2016 / By Michelle Martin (Visual Voice Media) © Birmingham ReviewRanglin’s set is a joy to watch, and I suspect the people on stage are having just as much fun (maybe more) than those dancing at the front. Soweto Kinch and Alex Wilson have been touring with Ranglin, but still seem in appreciative awe that their on stage with the man.

Then, in a suitably special finale, Basil Gabbidon comes back on stage for a final thank you performance; the atmosphere is thick with pride, respect and camaraderie, and it’s a little hard not to feel like you’re watching something special. And that you’re part of it.

After running a little late (the line up warrants an adventurous approach to on-stage logistics) The Flyover Show hangs up its hat at around 9pm – with the families and friends that made up the day’s crowd standing strong since about 3pm. The champion returns. The Flyover Show 2016 has been a resounding success, with any fears of torrential downpours and apathetic crowds being dispelled by mid afternoon.

The Flyover Show 2016 / By Michelle Martin (Visual Voice Media) © Birmingham ReviewBirmingham has seen a recent redaction of events that celebrate black culture, as well as burning a few cultural bridges between potentially disparate communities – The Drum has closed, Simmer Down has folded and Birmingham Carnival is on a sabbatical. So the return of The Flyover Show could not be more box tickingly pertinent – with arts funding and council representatives needing something to show ‘diversity’.

But the success of The Flyover Show, what made it, developed it and what has reintroduced it nearly five years since its last outing, is the crowd. A cliché perhaps, but it’s the people off stage that really make this event – responding to what is being brought on stage with a sense of pride and ownership.

It works, it worked before and it has worked again, and as I pack up to go home – still early enough to have some light to see me up Great Hampton Street, I circle one sentence in thick bold.

‘Proud of our crowd’.

Then I add, ‘already excited about The Flyover Show 2017.’ And I don’t think I’m the only one.

For more on The Flyover Show, visit

For more on UPRIZE-CIC, visit

For more on Soweto Kinch, visit

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