Name: USHTI BABA
Mission: TO ENTERTAIN, DERANGE, MESMERISE AND RE-ARRANGE
I met Sparrow at Small World Festival in May 2013. It was here that we discovered we were both going to the same festivals for the next couple of weeks. We decided to meet up at Sunrise and it was here that I saw him play with Ushti Baba for the first time. It wasn’t until Eden in Scotland that I really got to know the rest of the band. I happened to be in the right place at the right time and was able to get them an extra set on the Sunday night. From then on, Ushti Baba were incredibly generous and took me with them to other great festivals that year.
Ushti Baba are a foot-stomping Gypsy, Balkan, and Folk band that have been planning world domination since 2012. The band is comprised of Gerry Barnett – Cajon/Darbouka/Cello/Vocals, Henry Edmonds – Double Bass, Jack Salt – Beatbox, Sam Ford – Guitar/Clarinet/Vocals, Sam Garrard – Banjo/Spanish Guitar/Vocals, Simon Alexander – Trumpet/Vocals, Sparrow Middleton – Accordion/Vocals and Ursula Billington – Violin/Vocals. For the perceptive readers amongst you a couple of these names have appeared previously on The Spiralling. Jack Salt was featured with The Inexplicables, and Simon Alexander also plays with the Crinkle Cuts.
Jack met Sparrow not long after he had arrived in Bristol “We jammed a few times and projected a beatbox-driven balkan folk group.” Gerry, Ursula and Sam F were already playing together in a band called Tatterdemaelion. “We met Sparrow when he was sharing a house with Sam G’s ex girlfriend. We went round to see Jess when Sparrow answered the door and then played accordion at us until we agreed to be in a band with him” said Ursula. Sparrow called Jack to tell him that he’d found the band and Ushti Baba as a 5 piece was formed.
Gerry was mainly playing darabouka and cajon but “when the band expanded they needed some more bass sounds. I got the cello down from the loft and gave it a dust. I hadn’t played it for 15 or so years since dropping out of music college and I was forced to get over my stage fright. I now really enjoy playing cello as it allows me more freedom to improvise.”
Their original set consisted of tunes from Tatterdemaelion and some of Sparrow’s originals. The night before Radford Mill Farm Fayre, “Sparrow got drunk and invited Hauke, Sam G and Simon to join the group. We spent all day in a field in the sun getting the new super-babas up to speed and then headlined the festival. And so the 8-piece was formed!” Due to the busy schedule Hauke sadly felt he had to leave the band this year (he is also in Crinkle Cuts) and Ushti “went through a summer of having 5 different fill-in bassists before Henry became the regular”. Henry was introduced to the guys by The John Langan Band and took on the role of “bedraggled bassist who adds low-end hustle and the visual appeal of a destitute scarecrow” to the band. He then had the difficult task of “playing the first gig whilst hearing most of the set for the first time!”
One of the biggest things the band have had to overcome has been managing and manoeuvring 8 very busy individuals all over the country. All of the members have jobs and other musical projects on the go. Yet some how they still managed to play 64 gigs in 2013! “We’ve had to work out the logistics of what it means to be a musician as we’ve gone along” said Sparrow ” but we get a massive high from seeing people enjoying themselves and dancing. We also have fun with the camaraderie on stage and being part of the of baba-world.” This year Ushti Baba played at 18 festivals including Bestival, Glastonbury, Secret Garden and Bimble Bandada. Some of their highlights were playing on the main stage at Eden fesitval and playing on a giant pirate ship at Boomtown.
At the moment the Babas are busy looking for a van to make the festival season a little more comfortable. Then they hope to go on a European festival tour in the not too distant future. The band are also hoping to keep writing and recording their new music. If you want to get your stomping feet on then you can go to the Left Bank where they will be celebrating a Bristolian New Years Eve. They are also headlining FAT HAT at The Crofters Rights on the 9th of January.