Photo by James Bligh
An international group of musicians was brought together recently at the Sala Monasterio to present Misnoma’s first CD, Make It Right This Time.
The music was almost as eclectic as the group playing it. However, one of Misnoma’s two founding members, James Reid, the group’s British lyricist, composer and producer, had a go at defining it: “We’re not rock, we’re electronica pop,” he said, seated with his guitar, half-hidden by Misnoma’s energetic vocalist Ayesha, who is half Algerian and half British.
Obviously something that Reid had been called on to do before, his definition pretty well summed up the sound of Misnoma. The CD represents 10 years of effort by the two founders, and brought together an international line-up of musicians such as Jay Hardon (US) on trumpet, didgeridoo player Marcos Andreu (Italy), Gabriela Alqueres (Brazil) on electric guitar, and the VO Quartet (New Zealand, England and Canada) on strings.
Misnoma’s live performances offer a pared-down band, but one that is no less global, including Latin percussionist Estéban Matuke from Chile, keyboardist Jules Jahanpour (UK and Persia) and Deejay Crucial aka Dave Carnovale (Australia).
With the exception of Carnovale, all the musicians have made Barcelona home, and many of them first played with Ayesha and Reid when the duo arrived in town seven years ago. Ayesha placed an ad in Metropolitan looking for musicians to team with, and got a startling number of responses. She realised then that there were many solitary musicians in the city, so she started Kabara Kabaret, an open-mic night. The band that grew out of those nights—originally called Xiringuito—played regularly at the London Bar and Kabara.
The duo first got together 10 years ago, in Brighton, where they met at an audition for a band they both hated. They started playing together, then went to Sardinia where Ayesha took up teaching English, which she still does, and James continued working his highly portable career as an e-learning script writer. In Sardinia, they performed as a duo, and when Ayesha’s job ended they moved to Spain, eventually settling in Barcelona.
Ayesha brings her classically trained voice and her gusto for performing to their collaboration, while James brings the songwriting and production skills. Together they manage the business side of things handling promotions and doing the booking.
Both Reid and Ayesha are now thoroughly entrenched in Spain. As members of SGAE (the Spanish Society of Authors, Composer and Publishers) their CD bears the SGAE stamp, which meant they had to pay SGAE its percentage on the 1,000 CDs they produced.
This is one of several ways in which they have had to adapt to making music professionally in Spain. Reid also found the Spanish music distribution system hard to crack, citing an overwhelming predisposition toward Latin rhythms and Spanish lyrics. It has occasionally been a struggle to interest people here in Misnoma’s electronic sound sung in English, with a little Arabic and Spanish. In addition, he said his prior experience in London, where he was originally based before escaping to Brighton, gave him a taste of working with budgets much larger than he sees in Spain.
Will they stay? Both say that in spite of the recent clamp-down on live music, Barcelona is still a great city to develop musically and connect with international musicians. Their seven years in Spain have accumulated on a “Let’s do one more year” basis, and right now they’re in for “one more year.”