Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

HWCH Q&A: Rusangano Family

We kick off our build-up to the annual Hard Working Class Heroes with the Shannonside dudes

Rusangano Family: God Knows, MynameisjOhn, and MuRli. Photo: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Fri, Sep 30, 2016, 14:53


Ahead of next week’s Hard Working Class Heroes festival and convention, we’ve spoken to a number of acts about what it’s like to be in a band in 2016. Here’s what Rusangano Family had to say to us. Catch them at The Chocolate Factory Stage 2 on Saturday night at 9.30pm

If you were to point an Irish Times reader to the best example of your work, what would it be and why?

“Our debut album “Let the Dead Bury the Dead”, which we self-released back in April. We spent a lot of time trying to conceptualise what it was that we wanted to collectively say, and how it should sound as a collaborative piece. We wanted to try and time-stamp where we are, who we are and what it is that we do.”

Why did you get involved with making music in the first place? Has it lived up to expectations?

“I guess we all got into making music as a means of expressing ourselves in some way. It’s a medium to get your voice and thoughts out there. We were all actively making music before Rusangano Family came together, but there’s definitely strength in numbers. We all just love music, whether that’s playing, writing, dancing, listening or teaching, so essentially, we’re all just following a path in life that can allow you do what we love most as often as possible. Does it pay well? Not really. Is it still worth it? Yes. Invest in your own happiness.”

What was your experience of music at school and in the education system?

“School = Tin-whistles and choirs. School did nothing for me in terms of music. College was okay, but a tad removed from the true nature of working in music. The institutions doing the most for young people and music are the youth services. They actually listen to the young people, and what they want.”

What’s the best piece of advice you got when you were starting out on this path?

“Be nice to everyone always.”

What advice would you give to other bands or those who want to be in a band or make music?

“Be honest. Take your time, it’s not a race. Practice. Look at what it is you want to achieve. Repeatedly ask yourself how hard am I willing to work to achieve these goals, because, straight up, this is HARD WORK. Make mistakes, these are the things you learn most from. Practice. Talk. Plan. Ask yourself do you want to make really good music or do you want to be famous? Some people think they want to be musicians, but they actually want to be entertainers. If you prefer having your photo in a magazine to playing a live sweaty concert, your priorities are probably in the wrong place. It should always be about the music. Plan everything one year in advance. Seriously.”

Your favourite Irish venue to play and why?

“Ohhhh, tough one. Our biggest supporter has been Dolans Warehouse in Limerick, and have been key in helping us develop our sound and profile over the last couple of years. They do great things for Limerick. We work with an amazing team of promoters around the country though, and they’re the ones who really make the live experience so much fun. All praises due to Seoda Shows, Southern Hospitality, De Barras, etc.”

Do you still have to do other stuff to make a living? If so, what stuff? Does this frustrate you?

“Yes. Does it frustrate us? No. It keeps you grounded. We all work in music education, teaching and mentoring young people how to write and produce music. For us, its an important aspect of what we do, and don’t really separate it from what we in Rusangano Family. Now, in saying that, we would love to be able to do Rusangano Family full-time, but the arts industry in Ireland is small and it doesn’t receive the same level of governmental funding and support that other European countries do, despite having such a respected history as an artistic state. Now, THATS frustrating.”

Who was the last Irish act you saw and where/when?

“We saw Shookrah from Cork playing before us at our Dublin Fringe show, and again, we were blown away by how good they all are individually and collectively. Incredible musicians, all in perfect sync. It’s like they could only be from Cork – they just know how to make soul and jazz and hip-hop work in a way thats so natural. The sooner someone makes Stevie G the Mayor of Cork, the brighter the future will be for everyone.”

If you’d one piece of advice for Heather Humphries, the minister for arts, about support for Irish music and musicians, what would it be?

“I don’t envy your role, Heather. Ireland need a dedicated minister for the arts. This is undeniable. It’s unfortunate that the person given this role is also given the responsibility of regional development. And rural affairs. And the Gaeltact. I have images of spinning plates….

“Advice? Listen to the artists. Ask them about their work. Ask them about their industry. Ask them about the difficulties they face. Ask them about what they feel is important work or important music that represents Ireland. Ask them what you can do to help them and to help the arts industry. Ask them how they feel when the arts budget is repeatedly cut and sidelined. Ask them what it’s like to live on a minimum salary (every musician I know does). Fight for your artists, these are the people you represent. Get to know them, not just get your picture taken with them. Trust them. These people work as hard as you do, and many work much harder.

“Do not listen to the big political parties and or the mainstream Irish media as to what they feel should represent Irish Culture. They are largely out of touch and not in tune with the Irish people. Do not champion the past over the present. Art is supposed to be challenging, so don’t play it safe.”

Aside from your upcoming show at HWCH, what else are you working on at present?

“We have another Irish tour that runs through November and December, and some shows overseas in early 2017. We’re just starting to discuss and plan the next record now, and we’re hungry to get back in the studio and start cooking soon!”