Mufutau Yusuf: “In a way, I’m embarking on a pilgrimage to communicate with my forefathers”

Mufutau Yusuf is a Nigerian-Irish dancer, inspired by exploration of his own heritage, and by time spent training in the Austrian town of Salzburg. In his latest show, Òwe, which he’ll perform at Dublin Fringe this weekend, he explores these differing roots in an attempt, ultimately, to understand himself.

Ahead of the show, I talked to Yusuf about drawing together all teh differing strands that make up hiw show, and who he is today….

First of all, give me a little background on your new show, and how it came about?

Òwe is a solo work looking into my Yoruba identity, my root and my connection to my ancestors and heritage. Using archival materials to examine the various facets of this identity, the solo is an attempt to deconstruct a personal ontology, and reformulate it into a new body of knowledge, experience and perspective, and in a way embarking on a pilgrimage to communicate with my forefathers. This piece also intends to interrogate our conceptions about archives and to redefine the notion of archives and how we understand the workings of what is contained in them.
What can the Fringe audience expect?

I guess the audience can expect a dance performance using a varied movement expression, sounds and imagery to question ideas about identity, history, and traditions. It’s a personal, physical, and emotional piece that invites the audience to witness a journey of becoming.
What’s your dance style, and how do you use it on stage?

I was trained in contemporary dance but over the years I’ve tried developing my own movements language that incorporate quick and explosive physicality, emotional engagement and added with theatrical expressions.

There are obvious Nigerian influences in your work. Being raised in Ireland, how do you relate to your roots?

Paradoxically I feel both close to and far from my roots. The closeness comes from my relationship with my father, who is in a way my anchor. I still speak Yoruba with him, I hear stories from him, and he keeps me up to date with the current affairs in Nigeria. He always reminds me of the values of our people and raised me and my brother according to those values.

He also often relates stories of my childhood adventures growing up in Nigeria, making my heart swell and nostalgic and keeping those memories alive within me. And top of that I’ve also stayed connected myself through the food, music, books and of course I’m an avid consumer of Nollywood drama.

The distance I feel obviously comes from the fact that I was away from Nigeria for 20 years, only revisiting this year. This became more difficult to endure during my mid-twenties as I started to really question who I was and where I came from, despite having my father as a reference. Realising the gulf that existed between myself and my kins was jarring and I guess it’s what prompted me to make
this work.

Peter Broderick: “it’s difficult to find a place of solace and quiet, and I appreciate music that facilitates this”

Peter Broderick (by Declan Kelly)

American-born but Galway based composer Peter Broderick is a bit of an international enigma. Despite relocating to Barna, the contemporary composer has found his career has taken on a highly international flavour.

Broderick was key to the way fantastically inventive Danish act Efterklang converted their more orchestral edge into a live setting, and has also worked with the likes of Yann Tiersen, Phillip Glass and Dustin O’Halloran.

His most recent project is the construction of a score around the short film ‘Two Balloons. The collaboration with director Mark Smith has a nice sense of symmetry to it, in particular as the movie is part-inspired by an earlier piece ‘More Of A Composition’.

The soundtrack was released as an EP in November 2018, and is entitled, memorably, ‘Techno for Lemurs’. Two Balloons i showing as part of the Dublin Film Festival’s ‘Fantastic Fix’ this year, on February 23. I asked him about the composition, life and his earlier work…

Congratulations on the score. I understand you worked closely with the producer to break this down almost frame by frame. How complicated does that get, musically?

When it came time to fit the music to the picture, it really was just a matter of watching the film over and over again while playing the piano along with it, getting a feel for the rhythm of the story. The timing of different chapters and certain particular shots in relation to the music felt very important . . . but it was just a matter of repetition and practice until it felt just right.

I believe Mark Smith searched you out to write the music for this movie. What did you think of the film when he did so?

When Mark first reached out to me, he hadn’t even started shooting the film yet. He just had the story in his head and he seemed to know from the beginning that he wanted this particular melody from a song of mine to be used in the film. At that point, I didn’t really know much about the project, but I loved Mark’s enthusiasm and sincerity from the beginning, so I agreed to work with him from the start purely based on those things alone.

My Top Five Books of 2017

A snowstorm is a perfect chance to write the blog posts I’ve been meaning to do since the turn of the year, right? Belatedly, then, here are the best books I read in 2017 (picked from just under 50 I managed to work my way through), and just why I loved them. I decided to make this an annual thing in part because I’ve already flicked back to last year’s post half a dozen times to check the names of certain authors whose other books I’m dying to read (good memory and a young child don’t go well together, it turns out), but also because I’ve found reading has edged to easily on a par with music for what fills my free time (free time – haha) these days, and a good 90% of this website is about music. So, you know, balance or something. As with last time, these are not necessarily books released in 2017, they’re simply books I read in 2017. More importantly, these are some great books. Go read them!

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne (link)

This is a chunky enough book to put off the casual reader (it was only after seeing more than half a dozen people absolutely raving about it online that I was willing to commit to 600-plus pages), but what a fantastically imaginative and evocative tale it is. Starting in rural Cork, with a young woman pregnant by dubious means and very publically expelled from her community, it weaves through the lifetime of the child, which encompasses much of the time of the existence of the modern Irish state. Cyril Avery’s winding tale is picked up at various key moments of his life, incorporating key political events, the progress of the gay rights movement, the influence of the church and – critically to the enjoyment of the story – a poignant and unforgettable tale around the main character.  I was sad when it ended, which is saying something for a novel of this length.

Pirates, Punks and Politics by Nick Davidson (link)

It’s hard not to be a touch disillusioned with football these days, which can be hard as a lifelong fan of the game, but the levels of imbalance amongst clubs and the sense that the vast majority are there to be also-rans sits heavy, and it’ll take more than a Leicester premier league title to convince me otherwise. I was lucky enough to catch German club St Pauli play against Union Berlin in Hamburg a few years ago. Whilst not the only ones, they are the stand out club that convinces me football still has its soul. Pirates, Punks and Politics is the story of an Englishman falling in love with the club (I’d be on that boat if it was within the realms of life’s realities, to be honest), and their story is incredible. Born out of the harder edge of what’s now the city’s party district, the Reeperbahn, the club has been at best modestly successful (they typically, and currently, sit in the German second tier), but play with an ethos of left-wing politics, social equality, anti-abuse, atmospheric protest and progressive views that is encapsulated in this book. I can’t help loving them, though I dread to think what the parties are like.

New Year Festival: A Very Dublin New Year

Custom House Quay during Dublin New Year Festival

Kodaline, light, aerial performers, brave water-tech and drumming mayhem: what to see at Dublin’s New Year Festival

It’s that time again: the year’s most anticipated night out, followed by a hungover vow to change yourself for the better, a gym owner’s favourite couple of weeks, the odd salad, and finally everything getting back to normal.

Dublin’s New Year Festival has been lighting up the city (literally) over the last few years, and has slowly expanded from mainly a big gig to a whole lot more. This year’s stars are massive Swords band Kodaline, who will be accompanied by Keywest and Hudson Taylor in an extremely local-leaning pop-fest lineup.

That core event is long since sold out, but there’s plenty of other stuff to explore, much of which is free, and spread out across December 31 and January 1. These events include several light displays (which are free ticketed events on the Custom House – register through Ticketmaster), acrobatics, smaller concerts, flyboarding and a host of pop-up performers.

We caught up with a few of the people involved to ask them all about what they do…


Carrying out acrobatic performances whilst hanging from oversized helium balloons seems like a wacky and potentially dangerous idea, but also a nice way to present gymnasts in a new way, against a bright background, and allow them to perform.

Heliosphere pioneered the concept. “Research, testing and practise,” were key, they say, adding “we research the science so an envelope of just the right size and which is light and strong enough to hold the helium, is used with enough ‘useful lift’ for the aerialist to fly but be manipulated from the ground safely by the crew without so much lift that they fly as well.”

Review: Once @ Olympia Theatre, Dublin

Having put a focus on obtaining a really musically talented cast, brought the simpler elements of the story to the fore and utilized a clever set extremely well, the latest incarnation of Once – showing at the Olympia Theatre until late August – is astoundingly well done.

Adapting Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova’s music and taking much that is good from the 2007 movie, the musical is set entirely in a surround with the feel of an old-school Irish pub, the fluid cast almost constantly on stage in their entirety as they perform the backing track to a gentle tale.

Niamh Perry, playing ‘girl’, is the undoubted star. Credit has to be given for her convincing and unwavering switch into a Czech accent, but what really stands out are her vocals, and the restrained tension she creates around the lead man Brian Gilligan.

While the pre-interval part of the show is relatively light hearted, full of local colour and witty patter, things take an intense turn after the interval, with the emotional love story at the heart of the tale coming to the fore to glorious effect.

The stage comes to life to suit, too, and there’s an impressive array of character development, in the narrow but entertaining lives of ‘Girl’s Czech housemates, the occasional but memorable appearances of her daughter, and Phelim Drew’s wacky interludes as music store owner Billy, a lively stereotype of the witty North Dubliner.

Then there are the gimmicks. The best come in the pre-show, pub-style performance from the cast, which takes place with the audience on stage and able to buy from the bar positioned as part of the scenery. It works well, too, but the key here is in the simplicity and the casting. Perry is outstanding all round. Gilligan has a solid voice and his character constantly seems on the verge of a nervous breakdown, while the extras have a smart dynamic adding to the humour.

All in, Once is a wonderfully produced package, with ample entertainment value that also tugs firmly on the heartstrings, the relationships thoroughly believable. The emotion in Perry as she bowed before an opening night audience said it all: this might be just another step on the road this musical has been powering down over the last few years, but it is also something very special.

As published in the Dublin Gazette, July 13 edition. Reproduced here with permission.

Once: Dublin’s melodic fairytale comes home.

The all-conquering musical returns to Dublin for a new run, complete with its first ever all-Irish cast

HAVING BEEN A hit movie and a startlingly successful Broadway show, Once’s return to what seems its spiritual home – the Olympia Theatre in Dublin – is a big one, especially with much of the cast renewed, and what’s become a big, global name to live up to.

Once is both unique, and uniquely Irish. With the lead characters played by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova in the hit movie version, the play riffs off a similar theme, taking music from the city’s streets and capturing its textures and nuance on stage. There are some subtle touches: an on-stage bar; the ‘non-acting’ role of the characters in providing musical entertainment before the main performance gets underway, and a relatively unscripted style that makes no two performances quite the same.

Phelim Drew – who’s featured in movies including The Commitments, Angela’s Ashes and King Arthur – has a lifelong connection with Irish music through his father, Dubliners star Ronnie Drew. He’s long since established as a name in his own right, however, and the return of Once this summer also marks his return to the role of Billy.

“It’s a different cast – an all Irish one – and the chemistry has changed considerably,” Drew told the Gazette as rehearsals for the latest run got underway. “Six new people means a very fresh start, and they’re all amazing musicians and actors, so we’re flying through it. Brian Gilligan who’s playing Guy has a lovely quality in that role, which is great. It’s a difficult play to cast, because a lot of the cast – as well  as being really stand out actors – have to be great singers and guitar players, and it’s difficult to tick all those boxes. That makes Once special in its own way; this time around we have a really great cast.”

“Glen [Hansard] is the embodiment of someone who has worked so hard to get from the streets of Dublin to being idolised abroad,” Drew says of The Frames man’s role in the production, with Hansard having starred in the hit movie. “I went to see him play in Vicar Street recently and it was just stunning. It’s hard to produce something of that quality, but we’re doing everything we can to emulate it.”

Overpriced: How Ticket Touting is Pushing Out Irish Punters

A Face in the CrowdISSUES SURROUNDING TICKET RESALES are growing again in Dublin, as the highly-profitable secondary ticket market ramps up for the summer peak.

Ticket touting remains legal in Ireland, though Fine Gael TD Noel Rock recently put forward a motion looking to criminalise the resale of tickets at above their official price. Since his tabling of the bill earlier this year, Rock has received protesting submissions from the likes of the IDA, Ireland’s Foreign Direct Investment body. The IDA highlight the value of the companies leading the market – some of whom have Irish headquarters – to our economy.

For punters, though, this is a growing problem. Companies such as Viagogo and Seatwave (the latter a Ticketmaster-owned company whose resale options appear on the Ticketmaster website, highlighted once the original offering is sold out) are highly profitable agencies. Intentionally or otherwise, the companies seem to incentivise the buying of popular tickets for the explicit purpose of resale.

This is particularly prevalent with big-name gigs. A ticket for U2 in Croke Park this summer, for example, starts at €240 on Seatwave at the time of writing (face value €44), and goes up as high as €1,000 (face value €200). Ed Sheeran – who has personally spoken out against above face-value reselling this month on his Twitter account – has seen tickets for his 3Arena date listed at over €600 each (face value €77), while a ticket to Ireland’s potential Six Nations decider against England will set you back almost €1,200 after booking fees (face value €60).

In the case of J.Cole, whose 3Arena date sold out shortly after going on sale in late February, tickets were on Seatwave ahead of the show’s swift sell out. With such a quick turnaround allowed, and highly inflated prices, it’s hard to believe these tickets were not bought with profit in mind. In some cases, the reselling company stands to make more in resale fees than the total original ticket price.

Overhead, The Albatross. Savage.

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The Five Best Books I Read In 2016

I try to read a lot. In between the toddler, an often 60-hour working weeks and completing the first year of a degree course, I  somehow squeezed in about fifty books last year, taking in a pretty broad array of genres and directions. Since I’ve found most books don’t age particularly badly (in fact, aside from Kindle, most of my books are second-hand charity shop buys anyway), I figured these are every bit as appealing as the day they came out. There are a couple here I feel like I’ve recommended to various people a dozen plus times already, so I thought I’d throw down the highlights in a post. 

There are not – at least not necessarily – books released in 2016. They’re just the best ones I happened to read and feel like shouting about. There’s already another huge heap waiting to explore this year. Reading recommendations – especially based on the below – very much appreciated!

ready_player_one_coverReady Player One by Ernest Cline (link)

Set in twin worlds – a grim ‘real world’ future and the huge escapist fantasy of a virtual reality computer game – Ready Player One creates those two environments beautifully, and then uses them to explore ideas of equality and power, travel and personal virtues. Based on an extreme version of ‘Easter eggs’ – hidden extras added to computer games, movies and albums for diehard fans to uncover – the main character is a minnow in a virtual world as dominated by those with economic muscle as the real one. When the creator of the virtual world dies, this triggers a kind of treasure hunt that sees players compete to solve riddles and win ultimate control. The computer game aspect aside, it’s a slightly tired plot, but one delivered so well and through such nicely-rounded, anxiety-riddled characters that any predictable edge to the story doesn’t matter, especially when every key task on the journey is taxing and unpredictable. I’ve found a lot of these more conceptual books are more interesting in theory than in reality. This was a spectacular exception.