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A Walk in Tottenham: Tice Cin's Keeping The House Playlist
The Quietus , October 2nd, 2021 08:26

To celebrate the recent publication of her novel Keeping the House by And Other Stories, interdisciplinary artist Tice Cin shares songs from the archives that brought the book together

Tice Cin, photo by Richard Dixon

Writing a book with as many glitches as Keeping the House necessitated the jump cuts of a special type of playlist during my writing.

You don’t come from an area like Tottenham without having a broad spectrum of musical influences. The sounds that wake others up in their sleep are the very jilted alarms that talk to us like lullaby. We find it hard to fall asleep without sirens.

I rescued a cockatiel from a communal garden once and it mimicked two things: police sirens and ‘ello mate’. Meanwhile, you walk down just one road and you’ll find the best of the best in Broadwater Farm’s community centre. A place where block tapes get passed your way at parties, and Body Music record shop puts all the locals right up front. Go a little further, to The Regency and you’ll hear Turkishly-sequined wedding singers who moonlight as pop stars.

Stamma Haughton, Reggae Jam Party

Before that night though, we had the gig at the community centre, our hands on the floor feeling the bass from the clash inside. The air has us both a bit blissed out. Everyone here for King Tubby’s Sound System, and Tottenham’s own Fat Man Sound.

There is no Tottenham without sound system culture. Fat Man Sound. Sir Fanso. Sir Dees. Gladdy Waxx playing on soft wax. Beyond, to N16, you’ve got Chicken the Soundsystem.

The late great Ralston “Stamma” Haughton is the man behind this dark and heavy reggae club hit. He used to play with Derrick Hall at Casa Montego. In the 80s with his band Stamma & the Clubbites, he wowed audiences with his intricate bass play. He worked with the likes of Peter Tosh, Bob Marley, Ernie Smith, and Ken Boothe, and released a lot of his albums on his own Marston Recording imprint.

What draws you to a Stamma track is the texture of his music. You can tell that, as well as a singer, he took sound engineering to experimental lengths – fusing Classical techniques with Reggae and Gospel. The digi-flex in ‘Reggae Jam Party’ is one of the tracks we had ready to smooth in at a gathering.

Esmeray, Ayrılık olsa bile

They bonded over both being relatively new to London, and music that reminded them of other times, Esmeray and Stamma Haughton. Two island babies that kept waking up to a view of English concrete.

My favourite Turkish singer, Esmeray. Her voice. The way she expresses sorrow. I wrote about her at university – on how as an Afro-Turk she experienced prejudice for much of her life, and how much artists like Esmeray did for Turkey’s jazz scene, which attracted the likes of Don Cherry and Ornette Coleman. Mum always collected her records. Songs about alienation, longing, a fear of being forgotten.

While writing this book, I found ‘Ayrılık olsa bile’ in a storage box returned to us by the Council. It’s iconic, spectral and slinking. When I write about love, I’m drawn to time blurs and the way we revisit each other. Esmeray sings,

”I don’t care for, don’t want no, beauty or richness, I just want to be with you. I’m going to say it with pride; I know I love you. I only lived this love with you. If it was in my hands, I’d start this love all over again . . .a hundred times, a thousand times, ten thousand times, one hundred thousand times . . . all the emotions rolling in as thunder, I’d surrender to them again. I would never regret not one moment. Even if I knew in the end it was going to be about parting. A hundred times, a thousand times, ten thousand times, one-hundred times, not one of those a regret…”

Wretch 32 feat Captain, Cell 22 & Cease, Night Time

“Move white in the daylight: slipping into “if it’s raining you know it’s the best time”. It’s hard to be from Tottenham without knowing the Learn From My Mixtape project from Tiverton’s Wretch 32. CVs at shops to flat screen TVs. The hiss crackle of this song permeates a lot of my walks through the area. The actual Wretch / Cell 22 collab I would have put here is too personal so this is the one that goes as close to it.

lostintottenham, Transit

The music of my peers soundtracked a lot of Keeping the House, from Domo Gorille to Afro Comb, but this Transit EP by lostintottenham was on whenever I wanted to write about place in the book. It’s unmastered but that’s part of the charm. I wanted to emulate the textures of the city sounds that he captures in aspects of the novel. LiT’s a producer who does foley really well, from catching sounds by the Thames to the sounds of late night driving around London. As a writing form, the thought of foley struck me and I wanted to give the story that structure. I wanted to consider circles in the way we go around this city, with the lines of buildings determining our direction. Dextrously Tottenham.

Youngstar, The Formula

Threading Keeping the House together were grime instrumentals. They carry sweetness. I learnt how to play piano during lunch at school and I remember trying to recreate a lot of these whimsical forward-slanting lines. Youngstar is an innovator. Premium gaming music. This and a Hindzy D beat like the Miami Vice type ‘Shrapnel’ always climbs in my ears.

Mavi Işıklar, Helvacı

They wanted a high. Wanting hemp helva and singing about it wasn’t yet in the category of things you shouldn’t say. If the Turkish Beatles can say it then it’s probably OK.

This song was played on the TV Series Öyle Bir Geçer Zaman ki - a telenovela that massively inspired the matriarchal lens of the book. Mavi Işıklar were like the Turkish Beatles, but performing within a much more sensitive political context.

I find the song quite subversive with the way it writes about helva snacks with hemp in them and the psychedelic potential of sweets – a time when the political situation in Turkey and Cyprus was complicated, and amidst a general election in Turkey too. Currently, in Turkey, censorship is rife.

Black Box, Everybody Everybody

They would start simple, Burger King on wooden benches overlooking the skyline, before a night out. He instructed her to dress special, taking her to the Mud Club in Leicester Square to see Mark Moore spinning soul and funk. Other women there were casual, shredded 501s and white pointy heels, but those women didn’t suit him the same way. He’d walk in wearing a fifties work suit, soon shed to its constituent parts: an open shirt and slacks.

A couple go to Mud Club in Leicester Square. Mark Moore spins in and out of genres from ‘Love Can’t Turn Around’ to baby-making ‘Float On’. Parties bind the central characters Ayla and Damla together in Keeping the House. Released in 1990, this Black Box song would have been the music that woke up Ayla’s soul, newly arrived in London. I think the song speaks to city loneliness in a way that gets you reaching out towards someone, anybody, everybody.

Castro feat B2, (prod. Shy One), Cook it Up

Cas bars with crunch, and his sister Shy One is one of the best producers going, she makes these aquatic beats that sound like boss mode in a PS1 game. She has this beatpack on Bandcamp called 2010-2011 that I often write to.

Ed Case, Something in your eyes

He tells me about ringing up the round-the-clock customer line for Eros nightclub all the time asking about their dress code and the little ways in and out of it. He still to this day remembers the last four digits, ‘seveny thiveeee sssixie thiveeee’. His barber messed up the slit on his eyebrow on one of his big clubbing days in Enfield – instead of a diagonal one at the end his eyebrow was split in half by a horizontal line, which made him look as though someone had rubbed him out. On his first night at Eros, he tells me about the Avirex jumper he wore with the letters rex standing out bigger than the rest.

Something in your eyessssss. Raving in Edmonton. Opera House. Hearing club tracks for the first time on pirate radio. I was talking to writer and acid house aficionado Matthew Clayton recently and he quoted his mum, a folk singer, who used to say “these sad songs, they make me so happy”. The thought struck me when listening back to this poignant garage banger by Ed Case. Shelley Nelson sings, “what took you away?” I love the way this song explores distance. The way we withdraw from each other and all that goes unspoken.

Young Spray, Destined for Greatness

Young Spray’s mixtape Realer Than Most Vol. 2 is part of an iconic trilogy of mixtapes that are true to name. From Walthamstow, he started out in Northstar with Tottenham’s C1, who he met in jail when he was sixteen. At that time he was writing poetry in jail which gradually became his first releases, unlacquered UK hood music, road rap of the clearest touch. ‘Destined for Greatness’ is an example of the rawness of his bars, “and if my feet are smelly, it’s ‘cos I ain’t been home”.

Keeping the House by Tice Cin is published by And Other Stories