Jive Nation at Black Barn

When Stuart Catterson came to visit a Jive Nation recording session.

An event like the making of 'Under African Skies' should not go unreported, so Schmidlap and Schmidlapp set up a day in the early months of '96, when I could attend a Jive Nation recording session.

Black Barn studio sits on the edge of the green in the rather quaint Surrey village of Ripley. Outside the air was crisp, clean and refreshing after a slight frost the night before. Inside the winter sun burst through the triple glazed soundproof windows that serviced the control room, to find a joyous creative atmosphere.

Arriving at around 10.30 am I found the session already in full swing, in a control room filled with knobs, dials and faders. The song in progress was SHOSHALOZA. After Louis sang the lead vocal, (in one take) he discussed aspects of the performance with a small group of collaborators (Robin Black, Charlie Morgan and Andrew Brel), considering whether a single line needed to be improved.

Late morning, and bass master Mo Foster arrived. Welcomed by Andrew, he was quietly eased into the studio for a taste of 'the vibe', then to the kitchen for a double shot of caffeine. To update Mo on the mornings progress without disturbing the flow in the studio, Andrew took him off for a walk around the fields, briefing him on the job in hand. On their return Mo unpacked, plugged in, and started the daunting prospect of completing four complete bass parts to the African style pieces.

Eyes closed, fingering his favourite fretless, the all African atmosphere soon had Mo transported to the townships, his bass parts mentally warmed by the dusty heat of Soweto. Whilst Mo played, Louis, taking obvious delight in Mo's contribution, danced a little Zig Zag, joined occasionally by the others.

During intermittent tea/coffee breaks the musicians and crew retired briefly to the recreation room for good conversations, and to keep track of the South Africa v England test match. Rugby and cricket are, it seems, South African religions, and god was on their side that day. Maybe it was divine intervention, an extra spiritual boost for Louis.

In the afternoon, four hours after he arrived, Mo had finished his parts for the day, and as he packed his gear the horn section arrived. Paul Jaraysinha and Theo Travis. With Louis, Charlie, Robin, Andrew and Harban's sat in the safety of a room behind many layers of sound proof glass, the various brass parts were recorded, almost without exception in one take.
The energy of the whole experience was quite unmistakable, and it was an elated reporter who floated home that evening up the M25.