Creatives in profile: interview with Señor Samba

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In the spirit of all good interviews, Nothing in the Rulebook first encountered Señor Samba on a chilly night in central London, dancing in a group apparently gripped by some shared disco-infused hysteria and shouting half-correct lyrics of classic disco tunes at unsuspecting tourists.

This is the model of a creative phenomenon that has been gripping creative festivals since 2008 – and launched in London in 2018. Founded by Guru Dudu, these silent disco walking tours are a unique blend of interpretative dance, crazy improvisation, and spontaneous flash mobbing through different cultural settings. Inspiring and insane in perhaps equal measure, they offer participants an extremely rare thing in a day and age so often defined by rules and limitations: they offer people permission to play and celebrate their creative and quirky selves.

It may come as no surprise to you, then, that these silent disco walking tours are right up our proverbial alley. Make no mistake: there is absolutely nothing in the rulebook that says you can’t dance and sing to Bohemian Rhapsody in the middle of Leicester Square.

It was thus a real treat to catch up with Señor Samba once he’d had a chance to get out of his effervescent, ever-so-revealing, tight blue outfit and feature him in our long-running ‘Creatives in profile’ interview series.

And we have a real treat for all of you, dear readers, too: the first 10 people who read the interview and quote it in an email to London@gurududu.org (and follow Guru Dudu on Instagram at gurududulondon or facebook at gurududulovesyou) will receive a pair of free tickets to Guru Dudu’s shows. 

Happy reading (and dancing), comrades! 

 INTERVIEWER

Tell us about yourself, where you live and your background/lifestyle

SEÑOR SAMBA

My name is Rikesh. I grew up in Brighton, UK, where my heart still resides. I live a relatively chaotic life based on the principle of never saying no to anything, which has led me down some pretty interesting avenues (like dancing around in blue lycra short shorts making people listen to ABBA).

Other than moonlighting as a lycra wearing disco diva, I’m the Vice President of a green technology company called Pluvo (check us out), a professional session vocalist, and I’m studying a medical degree. I like to keep busy. 😊

As well as singing and dancing on every occasion I like to travel, read, learn, eat, and I’m partial to a good crossword. Favourite quote, and one of the maxims I live by: ‘Just because a song has to end, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the music.’

INTERVIEWER

Who inspires you?

SEÑOR SAMBA

Anyone who does good in the world and has a passion for doing so. The real heroes are those who are unsung and fight against all the s*** we put up with but make sure they leave the world in a better place than they found it.

Similarly, I’m inspired by honesty. It’s a really difficult thing in an image-centred world to be true to yourself. Sometimes it’s difficult to know what that truth is. So to find it and to live it is a difficult thing.

INTERVIEWER

How did you get involved with Guru Dudu’s project?

SEÑOR SAMBA

I was going through a really bad period and I did what every sensible adult would do. I quit my day job in the city, moved out of the big smoke, and curled up in a ball in my parents’ house in Brighton for a while. I’ve always been a fan of the Brighton Fringe and I’d seen a bunch of crazy people wearing headphones so I thought I’d give it a go. For an hour I forgot about everything – I was Freddie Mercury, I was Whitney Houston, I was even Kylie Minogue, and I didn’t care who saw. For an hour the world was a splash of music and colour. At the end Guru came up to me and told me I danced like a lunatic. I thanked him. He told me he was recruiting new Gurus. A few months later I was in my blue lycra short shorts in Edinburgh getting 60 shameless superstars to do the YMCA on the Royal Mile.

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INTERVIEWER

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced getting the project off the ground?

SEÑOR SAMBA

London is a big city; there’s loads to do. We’re competing with some of the best entertainment the world has to offer. Also, it’s getting the word out. When people do it they love it, it’s just going to take time before the disco revolution hits these streets. In smaller towns/cities it’s much easier to gain traction but then the target market is smaller. Those are some of my favourite gigs though.

INTERVIEWER

There’s something liberating about singing loudly (often badly) in a group while getting down on it in the middle of an otherwise unexpecting public space. Why is that?

SEÑOR SAMBA

Music is a wonderfully liberating thing. Who doesn’t sing and dance in the shower or in the car when by themselves? Headphones allow privacy and are one of my favourite inventions of the 20th Century. What we do is take that privacy and make it public, through community. Privacy in public – I like that. It doesn’t matter that you’re singing and dancing just like you would in the shower right in the middle of Leicester Square – as long you’re not alone in doing so. And that freedom to be as ludicrous as you feel in front of the whole world? Why, there’s nothing more liberating than that.

INTERVIEWER

Are you in a secret, unspoken war with DJs of traditional, ‘loud’(?) discos?

SEÑOR SAMBA

Absolutely not! The more music the better.

INTERVIEWER

We’re living in some pretty reality-shattering times. In an age of Trump and Brexit, should we be getting people out on the streets to protest, rather than party?

SEÑOR SAMBA

There are a million and one answers I could give here depending on my state of mind, but ultimately the main thing is that Guru Dudu is for everyone. Your politics, your views, they don’t matter when you’re jumping up and down to S Club 7.

Beyond that, I truly believe that fun, joy, laughter – that’s the best form of protest. There’s a lot of angry people in the world and they have every right to be. I’ve been angry. Angry at the state of the world, angry at the state of my life, angry at the state of myself. The best way to combat anger is with love. Self-love, love of others. Play, joy, passion, and love.

INTERVIEWER

Hopes for the future?

SEÑOR SAMBA

For myself or for Guru Dudu? For myself – I hope that someday I find my inner peace, whatever that means. I’ll know it when I see it. Chaos can only last so long. For Guru Dudu? I just hope that everyone who would get something out of our vision gets a chance to.

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Quick fire round!  

Just what is a ‘laughter meridian’?

A meridian that makes you laugh. Obviously.

Are we really supposed to blame everything on ‘the boogie’?

Well we can’t very well go round blaming it on sunshine. Blame it on the boogie. Occasionally you can blame it on Piers Morgan, but yeah – mostly just the boogie.

Craziest thing you’ve seen on a silent disco tour?

I did a tour in Chichester where there were mostly children and I decided to play the Pink Panther theme tune. I got the kids to pretend everyone was a spy and hide. I led the tour into a Poundland. One of the kids, couldn’t have been more than 5, took it so seriously that he climbed onto a shelf and hid himself behind the cereal boxes. It took us a while to find him and a little longer for his mother to coax him down so I had to maintain a dance party in Poundland for a while…

Worst moment as a silent disco leader?

I don’t know that I’ve really had one. I’ve had one tour where the energy wasn’t what I’d like but to be honest people still came up after and said it was the most fun they’ve ever had. It’s difficult when you know you haven’t been on the best form, but this idea is so unique and novel it’s easy to forget that people will still love it anyway. It’s an even harder thing to accept you can’t always be perfect, but it’s an important thing to understand.

Best moment?

I was doing a tour in Edinburgh and I was getting the participants to show off their dance moves. There was one teenage boy with Down’s Syndrome. I passed the baton to him to show his moves. There was a couple of seconds’ hesitation after which he proceeded to break dance in the middle of the circle. Literal air flares. If you don’t know what that is, look it up. It was incredible. I actually fell to my knees. The tour kicked off. At the end I asked him if he wanted to show off some more of his moves and much to the delight of half of central Edinburgh he strutted his stuff on the steps of the National Museum of Scotland. It was one of my first tours, but I’m not sure I’ll ever see anything that tops it.

Doing ‘Dancing Queen’ the weekend after the Tory party conference outside 10 Downing Street and having a police car turn on its sirens in appreciation of our moves wasn’t bad either.

Aretha Franklin or Tina Turner?

Aretha. Saying a little prayer for her on all my tours. But I love all the divas. I’d have to say my favourite is Etta James.

Favourite book/movie/TV show?

Book: The Flying Classroom by Eric Kästner. It’s a German children’s book. I don’t know how to describe how much I love this book. It’s about 5 boys at a boarding school and in 100 pages (with illustrations) it deals with concepts such as abandonment, depression, loneliness, loyalty, fear, poverty, and friendship – and never in a way that feels remotely condescending. A quote from the book goes as follows: ‘God knows, children’s tears weigh no less than the tears of a grown up. It doesn’t matter what causes your unhappiness. What matters is how unhappy you are.’

Movie: Barfi. It’s a Bollywood movie that was the first to deal with disability. The two primary characters are unable to speak for the entire movie. In a country where disabled children are often seen as a burden or a curse and abandoned by their parents, this film is a welcome reminder that disabled does not mean less than. It’s also just adorable and has me a weeping wreck by the end – every time.

TV Show: Ed. A cute little show about a guy who owns a bowling alley in small town America. It’s nothing special but the dialogue is quick, the characters are endearing, the storylines are easy, and it is a saccharine escape from a much more complex existence.

What’s your ideal silent disco playlist?

I love trying to vary up my playlist depending on the crowd. I love hearing people’s ideas too. My favourite song to get people moving however is always a bit of Whitney Houston – I Wanna Dance with Somebody. And it’s probably the one song that I have on my regular playlist that I haven’t got remotely tired of yet. Any ideas, let me know!

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The best literary stocking fillers for Christmas

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Every year, shoppers in the UK and USA rush to gather as much “stuff” as they can to help fill Christmas stockings of all shapes and sizes. Even as we write this, we can almost hear the sound of frantic parents tearing up retail stores searching for Star Wars lightsaber BBQ tongs; “hilarious” inflatable zimmer frames; bizarre, whirling contraptions of plastic and electronic parts that last of all 30 seconds and then are thrown out as non-degradable landfill.

“But it’s Christmas!” We hear you cry. “It wouldn’t be Christmas without a Christmas stocking; it wouldn’t be Christmas without stocking fillers!”

On this, we are prepared to concede the point. It is, indeed, Christmas. And while the religious festival of mass consumerism seems to get longer every year, stockings – and stocking fillers – are inevitably a part of it. Rather than argue about this from our liberal ivory tower made of granola and quinoa – and, honestly, who wants to be a Scrooge about Christmas, really? – we’ve done our homework and put together a list of literary stocking fillers that are guaranteed not only to raise a smile on the faces of those you love; but will also not end up as landfill before the turkey (or watermelon ham, for our vegan friends) is even cold.

Check out our suggestions below:

1. December Stories

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Few books capture the myriad intertwined feelings of joy, anxiety and sometimes sweet melancholy or nostalgia than Ian Samson’s December Stories 1, the second book offering of Belfast-based independent publishers No Alibis Press.

Comprised of brilliant short stories, vignettes, axioms, the odd recipe (emphasis on ‘odd’), art criticism, meditations and literary curiosities relating to all things festive – there’s something for every day of the titular month.

The perfect antidote to the festive season.

2. Penguin little black classics

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127 little books to choose from (one more than last year, now they’ve added the United States Constitution to the list). Each around 60 pages long, these delightful paperbacks give you a wealth of options to explore. These extracts of wider classical literary works are sure to offer choices to meet all literary tastes. Authors include Karl Marx, Jane Austen, Jonathan Swift, Virginia Woolf, Friedrich Nietzsche, Plato, Caligula, Keats, Flaubert, Dostoevsky and Dickens. What’s not to love?

3. Future Library – buying a gift for the future generations

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The Future Library is a 100-year artwork. From 2014 until 2114, one writer every year will contribute a text, with the writings held in trust, unpublished for up to 100 years. Each writer has the same remit: to conceive and produce a work in the hopes of finding a receptive reader in an unknown future.

Margaret Atwood, David Mitchel, Elif Shafak and other world renown authors have already pledged manuscripts to the project. And, while your loved ones won’t be able to read them just yet, you can get a present that passes beyond the generations – a certificate that entitles the bearer to a copy of each of the books when they are finally published. It’s not cheap (at US$1000); but it’s certainly a stocking filler unlike any other – and one that won’t just be thrown away 30 seconds after opening.

4. Groundbreaking new fiction from Will Eaves

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Get your loved ones some cracking, daring new literature with one of three (or, indeed, all three) of these superb books from the author Will Eaves.

The Absent Therapist (TAT) saw Eaves shortlisted for the prestigious Goldsmith Prize, and you can see why. Technically described as a novel, this delightful little book will fit any stocking – but would also be a great find under the Christmas tree. A collection of mini-narratives, each with a precise tone and occasional touches of poetry, feature stories of artificial intelligence and musings on philosophy, of travel and adventure, and of course, family feuds – without which it simply wouldn’t be Christmas.

Cousin to TAT, The Inevitable Gift Shop, is similarly groundbreaking and unique (as we’ve noted before). Described as ‘a memoir by other means’, it’s not at all plot driven. Rather, this work of collage brings together bits and pieces of memoir, fictional prose, poetry, essay and non-fiction. Interactive, funny, insightful and thought provoking in equal turns, it’s a perfect book to revisit time and time again.

Meanwhile,  Eaves’s new novel, Murmur,  is a rare achievement in its own right. Formally audacious, daring in its intellectual inquiry and unwaveringly humane, it’s little surprise that the book once again saw Eaves nominated for the Goldsmith Prize. The opening section of Murmur was also shortlisted for the 2017 BBC National Short Story Award.

5. A subscription to an independent literary magazine

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There’s a lot of talk these days of buying the ones you love subscriptions to streaming services like Netflix or Spotify. But this year, why not support some independent creatives instead of lining the pockets of huge media corporations, while also bringing some literary delights to the doors of those you care about for the next year?

Purchasing a subscription (or three, or thirty) to a literary magazine (like The Brixton Review of Books, Litro, Tin House, The Emma Press,  the TSS or Oxford American, to name but a few) help readers around the world discover new writing. Not only are they a great way of getting cheap (sometimes almost free) reading material on the regular, you also get added cool-person points for supporting some right-on creatives.

6. This is the place to be

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Nominated for the Gordon Burn Prize, as well as the PEN Ackerley and the Bread & Roses awards, This is the place to be, by Lara Pawson, is one hell of a good read. Small enough to fit in your stocking, it still packs a massive punch in the proverbial “feels” as it moves with a delicate precision through personal anecdotes of the author, taking us from the market at Walthomstow to the harrowing experiences of war in Angola. There’s an immense honesty within this book that carries us through from start to finish – with each vignette or mini-story contained within it perfect for sharing together around a Christmas fire or over a large bottle of brandy.

(You can take our word for it, too – check out our review here)

7. We do Christmas

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From the minds of the creatives who brought you the supremely funny ‘We go to the gallery’ – which kick started an entire range of literary stocking fillers itself – comes the latest in their line of excellent ‘adult children’s books’; semi-funny spoof versions of the books we grew up reading as children.

Have a sneak peek inside their new book, ‘We Do Christmas’, below (and then buy it, of course).

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8. Tequila Mockingbird – cocktails with a literary twist

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Looking for something for the book lover and cocktail enthusiast in your life? This small (perfect stocking filler size, in fact) is an ideal companion to any literary party. Tequila Mockingbird is a witty collection of 65 different recipes includes classics like Love in the Time Of Kalhua, Vermouth the Bell Tolls and A Rum of One’s Own. Recipes are paired with wry (rye?) commentary, bar bite suggestions and drinking games.

9. Something special from the Folio Society

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Looking to hide a real genuine treat at the bottom of someone’s stocking? Then why not check out these extraordinarily beautiful books from The Folio Society’s Christmas selection, including this limited edition of Sherlock Holmes.

10. Literary gift sets

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Why just get someone a book, when you can also get them an entire Christmas gift set inspired by a classic literary novel? Why not check out the wonderful gifts from the Literary Emporium.

11. Who could forget the Christmas socks?

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It wouldn’t really be Christmas without some socks to open on Christmas morning. Add a literary twist to this year’s Christmas socks with these Fahrenheit 451 inspired designs from the Literary Gift Co.

James Frey scoops Bad Sex in Fiction award

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US author James Frey has been named the winner of the 2018 Bad Sex in Fiction Award for his novel Katerina.

The judges at the Literary Review said they had been swayed by several sex scenes in the novel, which include encounters in a car park and in the back of a taxi, but were especially convinced by an extended scene in a Paris bathroom between Jay and Katerina that features eight references to ejaculate.

We both move toward each other kissing deeply slowly heavily, lips and tongues, her hands are immediately in my pants, I lift her off the ground set her on the sink tear off her thong. She says now I ask her if she has a condom she says now, Jay, now. I step between her legs.

Move inside her.

She’s tight and wet, leans back against the mirror.

Forward.

Deeper inside her.

Forward.

Tight and wet.

She moans pulls my face to hers kisses me. I start moving inside her, slow hard and deep, her hands gripping the sides of the sink, my hands on her shoulders, we’re looking into each other’s eyes pale green and light brown like cocoa. Do you like my pussy, Jay?

[…]

I’m hard and deep inside her fucking her on the bathroom sink her tight little black dress still on her thong on the floor my pants at my knees our eyes locked, our hearts and souls and bodies locked.

Cum inside me.

Cum inside me.

Cum inside me.

Blinding breathless shaking overwhelming exploding white God I cum inside her my cock throbbing we’re both moaning eyes hearts souls bodies one.

One.

White.

God.

Cum.

Cum.

Cum.

I close my eyes let out my breath.

Cum.

Frey won the literary world’s most notorious booby prize after fighting off stiff (or should that be, swollen?) competition from an all-male shortlist, which also featured acclaimed author Haruki Murakami.

You can read extracts from the 2018 shortlist right here on Nothing in the Rulebook.

Responding to his win, the author said: “I am deeply honoured and humbled to receive this prestigious award. Kudos to all my distinguished fellow finalists – you have all provided me with many hours of enjoyable reading over the last year.”

In the past, other winners of the award have reacted with disdain for the Literary Review’s award. Some previous winners have even described receiving the dubious honour as “a repulsive horror”.

Organisers say the purpose of the prize is “to draw attention to poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction”.

Read extracts of all the winning authors of the Bad Sex in Fiction award since 1993

Recent winners include Morrissey’s debut novel List of the Lost, which has become infamous for its use of the phrase “bulbous salutation”. Last year the award went to American writer Christopher Bollen for his novel The Destroyers.