Igloo Hearts

Wrexham based duo Igloo Hearts are made up of Welsh married couple James and Katie MacGregor. Their music incorporates classical piano and powerful harmonies, in a style that is hauntingly beautiful.

Igloo Hearts have been featured several times on BBC introducing Wales. Adam Waltons’ (BBC Radio Wales) response to their latest single (FishFood) was ‘Oh My God, that’s really, really good!!’ and ‘There is something quite ‘McCartney – esque’ about the melody’.

Indie Music For All wrote ‘I am astounded by the talent of this couple. They are a combination vocally, of the best bits of Kate Bush and Enya. A bigger compliment I couldn’t give them.’

They were one of six bands selected for the Autumn FOCUS Wales 2021 ‘Songwriting Bootcamp’, working alongside producers such as Cian Ciaran (Super Furry Animals). They were also finalists at the Liverpool Acoustic Songwriting Competition 2022.

Their passion is sweeping the listener up in a tidal wave of major/minor chordal progressions, with dark twists and turns, and goosebump inducing vocal harmonies.

Wrexham One Love Choir

Wrexham One Love Choir was formed in November 2018 under the leadership of musical director James Sills, and is affiliated to the Choir With No Name network across the UK. Run under the umbrella of Adferiad, a charity that supports recovery across all of North Wales, the choir is based in Wrexham, and is open to anyone who has been affected by homelessness, addiction, mental illness, or who is marginalised or vulnerable in any way. During lockdown the choir was able to perform out in the open air a few times, but the loss of community and purpose was felt very keenly when the choir was unable to meet regularly. Now they are singing together again every week, learning new songs and welcoming new members. The choir is a positive community that supports all its members, building confidence and rising up to meet new challenges.

Jodie Marie

The Answer came from the hills. Or to be precise, it came from a chapel nestled in the deep, grassy folds of mid-Pembrokeshire, in the wilds of West Wales. Jodie Marie has experienced quite a life away from places like these. A major label record contract at 16 threw her between the hotels and spare rooms of London, to the warmth of her home turf in nearby Narberth for years. But as she got older, she knew she needed to be back here to properly breathe. This was home. This was where the music called out to her. The chapel is Carmel, where Jodie Marie now lives, writes and records: her and boyfriend Owain Fleetwood Jenkins bought the beautiful building in 2017 at an auction, turning it into a home and residential studio, where music plays at all hours (and it can: it’s in the middle of the countryside, the nearest neighbour being half a mile away. Carmel is where Jodie sits at two in the morning, sometimes brightening the darkness with candles, to write a verse, a whole song, or just sing. It’s where she created the classic songs that came together so naturally on her first album in five years.

“A chapel is built for singing in,” she explains from the studio, her Welsh vowels round, ripe and warm. “I’m not religious, but there’s something in the air here. Whatever it is, it makes you more reactive and inspired. It makes making music feel beautiful and worthwhile, as it should be.”

Jodie Marie Warlow was born in 1991, into a childhood full of music. Her father played bass and sung in local bands: Jodie would hear him practise after she’d gone to bed as a small child, sneak downstairs, and join him to add harmonies. Her mum loved listening to music, and blues and soul songs often filled the house: Aretha Franklin, BB King, Bonnie Raitt, Etta James and Fontella Bass were regular guests. As Jodie grew up, she got into Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, as well as more modern slants on old sounds like The Black Keys and Amy Winehouse. She also became a huge fan of early ‘60s singer Lesley Gore, best known for the perennial pop song, It’s My Party (And I’ll Cry If I Want To). “I love how her songs sound happy, but they’ve often got really dark lyrics, but I also love how their spirit and their sounds always remind you it’s not the end of the world.”

At 16, she was spotted singing by the father of a manager who worked for London indie label, Transgressive Records, who was down in Pembrokeshire on holiday. She got a manager and went to London, where she started working with artists like Bernard Butler, Dan Smith from the Noisettes, and Ed Harcourt, who remains a co-writer, and good friend. “There’s no one like Ed,” she says, smiling. “He’s so talented, and so funny. Being with him is a friendship – you have lunch, have a connection, then write a song – it’s so much more of a process,
and that approach has stayed with me for life.”

A one-album deal with Decca followed, as did great reviews for her 2012 debut album, Mountain Echo (“Beautiful”, wrote The Guardian’s Caroline Sullivan, “Jodie Marie’s velvety, bittersweet touch suggests the emergence of a female Richard Hawley”). Trouble In Mind followed in 2015, recorded back home, in the first studio kitted out impeccably by Owain, Jodie’s partner since her teens; he studied music technology at the Birmingham Conservatoire. “That was a converted cowshed, though,” Jodie laughs. “Carmel is a bit different.” By her second album, she’d also been dropped by Decca; she admits she’d lost faith in being part of the music business. The idea of being somewhere far away from that world appealed. So did a dream of having a permanent, rural home for making music on hers and Owain’s own terms. They had a romantic notion of building something like Sun Studios or Muscle Shoals, but in sight of the Preseli mountains. Then the dream became reality.

Finding Carmel, a former Baptist chapel, on sale in 2017, the couple built a gorgeous analogue studio inside it, helped by both Jodie & Owain’s parents and friends, who shifted gear and hoisted tools. “I never forget the day we opened it,’ Jodie remembers; this was January 2019. “Erm, we’ve just built a residential studio in the middle of nowhere. Who will come?” But come musicians did, and the environment that evolved helped Jodie no end; she even has a piano under the stairs in the house next door to the chapel, where her and Owain live, if there are people recording in the studio. “It’s so peaceful here, wherever you are – all you have to cope with is the occasional tractor or mooing cow. You gain headspace. Having other musicians here drives you on, too. Everyone’s together trying to do the same thing.”

From this magical place came the bulk of The Answer, an album of instantly rich, classic songs which provided Jodie the best kind of therapy (it’s a “comfort blanket” of an album to her, she says). Its lead single is Carageen, co-written with Ed Harcourt, the name taken from a lush seaweed that grows on the Pembrokeshire coast, where Jodie walks and swims. “Carageen reminds me of a time where I felt quite lost and the ocean was my safe place,” she explains. “I love how the sea is so big and vast it makes me feel quite insignificant, so it put things into perspective.” Those times helped her clear her head, which wasn’t unimportant. She also realised that music would keep drawing her back whatever she did, just like those waves crashing onto the shore.

The Answer sees Jodie return to music with a full heart, and in fantastic voice. It kicks off with You Are My Life, a joyous, slyly funky love song, driven along by a snappy Stax bassline. Ain’t No Doubt About It follows, full of early ‘60s girl group swagger. This House siphons Southern blues and the spirit of Grace Slick. Curse The Day is more brazen and damning, a sultry cousin of Adele’s Rolling In The Deep. “I was blindsided,” Jodie sings, accusation on her tongue, ‘’til you stung like a bee.”

Jodie also has a way with a ballad that strokes you gently, then burrows under your skin: listen to the title track, or Kiss These Tears Away, or the stunning, sad epic that is Saving Grace, a tale of a long life lived with another (“side by side we have made mistakes/But I’d do it all over again”). There is time and experience here, but also a deep emotional connection to what all of it means. “I wanted to tell a story as if it’s happening in that moment, almost like a diary,” Jodie says, and that immediacy is everywhere. The warm, analogue environment in which her songs exist also make them sound that they’ve been here already, for all time.

Perhaps this is where The Answer lies. It lies in things we know, and things perhaps we’ve always known that we may have forgotten: in the simplicity of love, warmth and human connection, all things that can magically co-exist in a song. Here are twelve of them. Wrap yourselves up in their beauty, and sing along.

Cerys Hafana

Cerys Hafana is a musician from Machynlleth. She plays arrangements of Welsh folk tunes and songs, alongside original compositions on the triple harp and piano. Cerys is also a member of Avanc, the Welsh youth folk ensemble, and released her debut solo album, Cwmwl, last year.

George Borowski

Over the years George’s association with an ever-growing list of artistes as diverse as PIXIES MEATLOAF PAUL BRADY SAD CAFE THE WATER BOYS TEENAGE FANCLUB BONNIE RAITT RADIOHEAD the list goes on, has earned him the highest level of respect from those on the ‘inside’, whilst also being able to reach and appeal to those on the ‘outside’, with his rarefied combination of presence, performance and beautifully crafted words of art. Music with a message for all, delivered with a passion – George’s songwriting winds its way through pop, rock, country, blue suede tunes in true rock 'n roll style, socially aware masterpieces with haunting lyrics and those lump-in-the-throat power ballads which carry that definitive GB stamp.

I have never seen a rock 'n roll performer so completely connected with what he was doing on stage” Frank Black – Pixies

Megan Lee

Megan Lee may only be 18 years old but this young lady has been a professional working musician since the tender age of 11. Hailing from a mountain village community in North Wales where song is a part of everyday life. Megan was raised by touring musician parents who inspired her appetite to pursue a career as a performing singer-songwriter.

Megan toured the U.K as lead singer of her family band ‘Blue Genes’ for 6 years. This young lady has achieved as much as many musicians twice her years. Having penned and recorded 2 EP’s that hit the top 20 of the U.K country iTunes Charts, the second release reaching the number 1 spot, Megan has now embarked on her solo career.

Megan is currently recording her first solo EP. Megan’s debut single ‘Humble Your Heart’ reached number 1 in the U.K Country iTunes charts and her follow up charity single for Meningitis now, ‘One more time’ reached number 3, giving hope that her much anticipated debut EP will be well received. This young artist is touring venues and festivals across the U.K and writing with and for other artists.

Megan plays a multitude of instruments including guitar, banjo, mandolin and piano. Inspired by artists such as Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Eva Cassidy, Margo Price and the Dixie Chicks; Megan’s music has an honest purity which takes influence from a whole host of genres including country, folk, roots, bluegrass and rockabilly.

Mangka (India)

Mangka is an Indian Manipuri folk, classical and contemporary song performer and a Pena player. She is also one of the few remaining Moirang Sai (storytelling artform) and Basok (female performance art) artists. She received her training by several famous Indian classical artists like Guru Langathel Thoinu and Padmashri Guru Khangembam Mangi. She is the recipient of the State Icon Award in Manipur, India.

These shows are presented by Ziro FOCUS 2022, an ongoing collaboration between FOCUS Wales and Ziro Festival of Music (India) as part of the British Council and Arts Council of Wales’ Connections through Culture programme.

Eädyth

Fans of Solange and Jill Scott will revel in the warmth of Eädyth’s soulful, soaring vocals, whilst fans of Massive Attack will enjoy the combination of fractured beats with melancholic and powerful production. 2021 was a high note for Eädyth, she has continued to receive support and acknowledgement for her releases through the challenging period.. At the beginning of 2021 she released a double sided welsh/english single ‘Breuddwyd/Dream’ on Welsh language music day, and also collaborated and released welsh single ‘Paradwys’ with Wales based singer/songwriter Foxxglove, and singer for MawpitBand Cait Johansen, which was funded and supported by BBC Wales, Wales Arts Council and BBC Horizons. Alongside her new music career, Eädyth has had continued acknowledgment and opportunities for her sound designing skills. She was the composer for Cardiff’s Sherman Theatre’s ‘The Merthyr Stigmatist’, and is continuing to work alongside the theatre as a sound designer/composer. Eädyth also received support from Wales based artist talent agency BLOCS and was showcased on 5 different stages in North Wales’s international multi-venue festival FOCUS Wales at the end of 2021. This year will bring many exciting opportunities for Eädyth. She is currently working in her home studio, on her new EP ‘Heal Yourself’ which will be released this year.

These shows are presented by Ziro FOCUS 2022, an ongoing collaboration between FOCUS Wales and Ziro Festival of Music (India) as part of the British Council and Arts Council of Wales’ Connections through Culture programme.

Rachel Lloyd

Rachel Lloyd is a singer/songwriter from North Wales who – through her work with Afterlife (Steve Miller), producer James Bright, and Mooi – has reached audiences worldwide. Afterlife’s, “Breather” has so far accumulated over 3 million streams on Spotify and her music has featured on numerous compilation albums for Cafe Del Mar. She has recorded sessions for Radio 1, received airplay on Jazz FM, and performed live at Glastonbury, Green Man Festival, and The Supper Club, Amsterdam. More recently, Rachel has collaborated with electronic music duo, Blank and Jones, on the single, “Take Me Back”. She joins the line up at FOCUS Wales 2022 to give an intimate performance at St. Giles, Parish Church.

Evrah Rose

Evrah is known for her fearless energy and hard-hitting lyrics. Not one to shy from a tough subject – Evrah has produced a number of thought-provoking viral videos, racking up over 5 million video hits on social media. After Signing to Verve Poetry Press – Evrah released her debut poetry collection – ‘Unspoken’ – September 2019 – launching her book in both Waterstones, Birmingham and her beloved hometown, Wrexham.

Featured on many BBC and Itv social media and TV outlets, including live appearances on both the Adam Walton and Janice Long shows, BBC Radio Wales. Evrah has been commissioned by prominent names such as; BBC sport Wales, BBC Sesh, Shelter Cymru and Chwarae Teg – becoming a prominent voice in Wales.

Influenced by artists such as; Tupac Shakur, Stacey-Ann Chin and Kae Tempest – Evrah amalgamates her love for rhythmic storytelling, HipHop, ambience and Poetry creating music and spoken word that is both raw and dynamic.
Evrah has performed throughout the UK including a performance in front of 7000 Wrexham AFC fans at The Racecourse Football Stadium. Her debut album, Kind Regards. – released independently in December 2021 – incapsulates her lyrical depth and creative diversity – it’s first two releases heading straight to BBC Radio, along with the album continuing to be featured heavily on BBC Introducing, Wales.

Balimaya Project

Balimaya Project was formed in 2019 by percussionist Yahael Camara Onono, a second generation Londoner whose rich West African musical heritage, coupled with his musical experiences in the UK, inspired him to bridge the gap between the diaspora and West Africa.

This group is built on the foundation of forging musical and cultural ties, from a place of integrity, authenticity and inspiration. Balimaya Project uses the repertoire of the Mande peoples of Senegal and Mali as the bridge to bring the folkloric West African music together with Jazz and the sounds of Black London, to create something unique and exciting.

The word “Balimaya” comes from the Maninka language and means the essence of kinship. In Mande society, the ideology of kinship is engrained in the moral fabric of its people. Family ties aren’t just limited to blood relations. The concept of extended family created by marriage, cousinage, shared history within ethnicities and deeds done for one another is complex, but adhered to with great pride. This extended family model is what inspires Balimaya Project’s repertoire and mission.

John Bramwell (I Am Kloot)

Mercury Prize nominated John Bramwell, I Am Kloot’s songwriter and frontman, performs a special solo show with accompaniment.

“The UK’s finest export” – The New Yorker Magazine

“Bramwell’s new songs are spellbinding” – The Sunday Times

Kizzy Crawford

“Real talent” Huw Stephens, BBC Radio 1

“Wonderful” Richard Coles, BBC Radio 4

“A star in the making. ” Stereoboard

“She’s overflowing with a comfortable self-confidence and has every right to be” Big Issue

A Welsh speaker with Bajan heritage, 23 year old Kizzy Crawford’s solo career began just a few years ago and in that time, Kizzy has developed an increasing sophistication to her songwriting and performance, which is complimented by her soulful voice that boasts both range and charisma.

Her ambition as a young Welsh mixed race artist is to make her mark by fusing bilingual soul-folk jazz and she’s already getting recognition for her work with airplay on BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 2, BBC 6Music, BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, Jazz FM.

Over the last few years, Kizzy has performed at many festivals including Cambridge Folk Festival, Cheltenham Jazz, Festival No 6, Womex, Sŵn Festival, Cornbury Hay Festival, How The Light Gets In and she has performed as guest artist with BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

Kizzy has performed live on TV for S4C, Children in Need for BBC 1 and the 6 Nations advert campaign. Kizzy’s music is regularly used in TV & online adverts, her song ‘Caer O Feddyliau’ featured on an ident for S4C and her track ‘Shout Out’ and Welsh language version ‘Yr Alwad’ featured in the 2015 VISIT WALES TV & online ad campaign

Kizzy signed to publishing company BDi Music in 2014 and she was later selected as a BBC Horizons12 Artist which included the opportunity to perform a live session at BBC Maida Vale. Kizzy was also a featured artist with Gwilym Simcock for a BBC Radio 4 music programme and she was invited to perform on The Verbs ‘Young Talent’ programme for BBC Radio 3. Kizzy has played many gigs including shows at the National Assembly for Wales during WOMEX, Glastonbury, London Jazz Festival, Cheltenham Jazz, Hay Festival, Dinefwr Festival, the Plaid Cymru Conference, Blissfields, Wakestock, Celtic Connections, L’Orient, Abergavenny Food Festival (where she performed her single Golden Brown live on BBC Radio 4) and the Prince Edward Island Festival, Canada. Kizzy has played as support artist for Gruff Rhys, Newton Faulkner, Benjamin Francis Leftwich and has performed alongside Cerys Matthews at the House of Commons, Westminster.

In 2016, five of Kizzy’s songs were selected as set works as part of the WJEC 2016 A Level Music syllabus, she sat in the contemporary music section alongside Gruff Rhys, The Manic Street Preachers and the Super Furry Animals. Consequently, Kizzy was invited to chat about this achievement and perform one of the set works for BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. Later that year, Kizzy co-wrote music with jazz pianist & composer Gwilym Simcock for the collaborative project Birdsong-Can Yr Adar which toured throughout Wales and at London Jazz Festival. Birdsong was based on the Celtic Rainforest of Carngafallt and was a partnership project with Sinfonia Cymru, RSPB Cymru, PRS & Arts Council of Wales. The Birdsong album was released in May 2018 via Basho Records followed by a launch in London and tour of Wales.

Last year, Kizzy signed to Freestyle Records (home of Omar & Courtney Pine) and released her single Progression / Dilyniant which received support from BBC Radio 2, 6Music & BBC Wales as well as being played daily on Jo Whiley & Simon Mayo’s drivetime show.

  • Winner of Best Festival for Emerging Talent at UK Festival Awards


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