HUNGRY PIGEON PRESENTS....KARIMA FRANCIS @ NIGHT & DAY
Karima's debut album "The Author" was release last month to critical acclaim and she joins Hungry Pigeon on its opening night at Night & Day
For the rest of this stunning line up check out http://www.myspace.com/hungrypigeon
£6 tickets are available from
There are debut singers whose tender years and inexperience clearly inform their early recordings – you can almost hear the tentativeness and reserve in their vocal performances. And then there are those who clear this hurdle in one bound, who hurl themselves over the precipice, who go straight for the blood and guts of a song. Nobody who has heard Karima Francis, live or on disc, can be in any doubt as to which category the Blackpool-born, Manchester-based musician belongs to. Listening to the 21-year-old grab a melody and lyric by the throat is to experience the sound of a singer whose pent-up expressiveness was hidden away for too long, and is now exploding into glorious colour.
Two years ago at the Manchester’s In the City music conference, Francis silenced a room full of hardened music-business bigwigs, and all her gigs since then have witnessed a similar reaction. “I still have my insecurities,” admits Francis. “But I must have some confidence to get up on stage and do what I do. When an audience claps at the end of a song, I can’t understand it. I’m just stood there, and there are hundreds of people listening to my words – it’s kind of hard to take in.”
Musically, her songs – deeply personal compositions inspired both by a difficult single-parent upbringing and by moving to Manchester and falling in love – are far removed from the current vogue for folk-tinged whimsy. Comparisons have been made with Joan Armatrading and Tracy Chapman, but these offer only a superficial sense of how unvarnished and arresting – and unlike that of her contemporaries – Francis’s music is. You may search in vain for traces of her former job as drummer with a Blackpool metal band, but Francis’s melodies are nonetheless forthright and full-on, never fey or hesitant. Her lyrics are uncompromising and heartfelt, too – no English reserve here. And her voice, which will journey to the lower reaches of the register one minute, and soar to the top the next, is a once-heard-never-forgotten instrument. Amazingly, Francis only began singing properly once she’d moved to Manchester. “I just wrote a song and the voice kind of came with the words,” she says, attempting to explain her talent. “I’ve always had this range, which still shocks me.”
It’s not as if her mother didn’t encourage her. “When I was younger, she made me sing these Celine Dion songs,” Francis recalls, “and she recorded them. She used to say to me: ‘One day, you’re going to be a singer. You’ve got this voice.’ I remember finding the tapes in her drawer and I snapped them all and threw them into the field behind my house – because they were so embarrassing.” That insecurity has gone now, though. “I know I’m meant to perform,” she continues. “When I’m on stage is when I’m most alive.”
Early song postings on Myspace included The Author, which alerted tastemakers to just how special a proposition Francis was. “I want to tell you a story,” it begins, over a spare acoustic-guitar figure, “ ... how we kissed a thousand times / Not like a movie / This is real.” Raw and impassioned, it immediately created waves, and it wasn’t long before the labels came a-courting. Kitchenware Records, home to Prefab Sprout and Editors, secured her signature, and she was soon holed up in London’s famous RAK studios with the producers Bacon and Quarmby. The Author wasn’t, says Francis, the first song she ever wrote, as some have suggested. “But it was,” she adds, with characteristically dry humour, “the first good one.”
Together with Bacon and Quarmby and her long-time guitarist and some-time writing partner, Simon Robbs, Francis set about turning her ideas into reality. The aim was not to change the songs, but rather to stay faithful to their beginnings while capturing Francis’s magnetism in front of a mic. Far from feeling inhibited by working in such hallowed surroundings – the studio has played host to the likes of Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder and Radiohead – Francis took things in her stride. “It didn’t faze me at all. I knew what I wanted when I went in there.” Listening to the recordings she made there of songs such as Chasing the Morning Light, Again, Hold You and Morse Code – songs that will surely make her forthcoming debut album one of next year’s most-talked-about – you have to believe she got what she wanted.
Looking back on her experience so far – finding her voice, signing a deal, recording an album – Francis says: “I still can’t believe it’s happening.” And then she adds: “It’s so precious to me, it has to be perfect; and I fear it ever going wrong. I don’t want it to end.” She’s unlikely to have any worries on that score. Karima Francis has – to paraphrase one of her musical idols, Karen Carpenter – only just begun.