He’s always been there. Perhaps slightly left of centre stage or a few steps behind the star of the show, but for the past decade Eric Appapoulay has been a major force on the live scene and a key player in a very British revolution. In the mid 90’s, DJ’s, rappers, singers and poets were the young soul rebels. Artistes such as Acyde, DJ Pogo and Benji Reid were fighting for freedom. Through tenacity, vision and offerings such as Mango Lick, Apricot Jam (where Eric was a resident musician) and Lyrikal Fearta they redefined theatre, slam poetry, visual art and music forever. This was our Harlem Renaissance. “I wanted to change the world through music,” recalls Eric, whose group, Quite Sane, won Capital Radio’s young band of the year. “In some ways I still do.” The new testament and its chosen messengers have long since been absorbed into the style bibles, arts institutions and theatre companies they once assailed. Eric found refuge in the pop world as a much sought after guitarist and songwriter.
Over the years he’s toured, recorded and written with the likes of Lionel Ritchie, Don Blackman, Beverly Knight, Nitin Sawhney, and has been a main-stay with The Bedingfields (Eric is currently musical director for Daniel as well as fulfilling musician duties for sister Natasha). Not bad for an East London lad who once riffed in his room to guitar gods Mark Knopfler, Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana whilst impersonating his favourite singers. For many, such achievements would be enough, but true artists have to eventually reconcile with personal ambition. So it was, after a three-month sabbatical in Thailand that Eric returned home with a clear statement of intent and renewed fire in his belly to take that step forward. ‘Faith Is Trust’ is the vibrant first offering of a multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter who has come of age.
It’s the culmination of family jam sessions, a proud Mauritian heritage; childhood memories growing up in East London, inspirational words from his singer/song writer father Gaby Appapoulay; endless tour dates across the world and a spiritually charged upbringing. His is a sound that blends European and African influences with a twist of UK. ‘Faith Is trust’ is truly a new fusion from an old soul. Underpinning the eclectic mix is a universal theme of positivity. Far from the empty rhetoric of a detached pop star, his voice is sincere and his mantras are tried and tested in the laboratory of life. “I write them firstly for my own ears to encourage myself to stay on the spiritual path,” he says of his soulful affirmations. “They are almost like prayers to myself. I’m happy when other listeners can relate to the songs in there own way.” It’s for this reason that the eclectic set works as a whole.
The modern seggae (Sega & reggae fusion of Mauritius) of ‘Love Decided’ skanks with the coolness of a summer breeze; The infectious 1st single ‘Manifest- ing Love’ intertwines wisdom with riddim; his acoustic ‘version of Many Rivers’ captures the fragile sentiments of the Jimmy Cliff’s original; whilst ‘Thank You my Father’ could have been torn from the pages of Sting’s songbook. Finally, the album closer ‘Home’ transports the spirit to African plains and haunts the senses like Miles Davis’ ‘In A Silent Way’. Like early Prince records, with the exception of horns performed & arranged by his friend & another ex-Quite Sane member, Jason Yarde, “Faith Is Trust” sees Eric writing, arranging, producing & performing all instruments. As fantastic and as ambitious as it might sound, Eric’s audio alchemy is what happens when a true master trusts in his vision and places faith in his craft. “Real innovation is particularly refreshing in a musical climate when the mainstay seem content to follow,” says Daniel Bedingfield of his musical director. “Eric’s music is as challenging as it is stimulating. This is the s**t that reminds me why I love music. Full of heart and soul, it is an explosion of light and colour.” The timing couldn’t be better. Terse tongues and brittle beats have proved to be poor exports in the global market.
Eric’s sound reminds us that in the battle against Goliath, a complex cultural mix and the resultant hybrid funk is that winning slingshot and rock combo. There’s power here in the UK. This small island is home to giant killers like Seal, Desree and Jamiorquai: homegrown heroes who have left their indelible footprints all over the global soulscape. Eric Appapoulay is one in a long line of such artists. The guitar man has finally found his voice. ‘Faith Is Trust’ speaks volumes.
Friday 27th – London, Wunmi
Monday 30th – London Marcina Arnold/Giles Peterson Radio show
Saturday 4th – London, Showcase/Party @ The Halo Bar, 317 Battersea Road