My name is Helen Parker-Jayne Isibor, a singer, songwriter, composer and musician. I am known as The Venus Bushfires. I play a number of African drums, percussive instruments and the Hang (pronounced hung).
I am about to turn 30 -which somehow I feel is important to say! I was born in Ibadan, Nigeria and moved to Benin City, Nigeria with my family soon after, where I spent 7 wonderful, magical years with the Nigerian sun. We moved to London, England when I was 7 years old, so I feel very much a proud daughter of both cultures. I’m one of 5 siblings so I come from a large family-and I’ve loved the sense of community that that my parent encouraged us to cultivate.
How did you become a musician /singer? Was it always a passion?
My parents tell me that I always sang and as far as I can remember, I loved to make up songs and hit pots and pans. Now I am a singer and get to play everyday. I can’t tell you how happy and grateful I am that it’s working out because I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. In school I would enroll in any kind of creative class or after school club and try to turn it into a musical. Now when I think about it, it makes me laugh. It didn’t matter what kind of club or subject it was, P.E, debate, whatever, I would always find a way.
You are playing this great, sophisticated and unusual instrument, the Hang, can you tell us a little more about it?
I am completely and unreservedly in love with my instrument, it is a Swiss-made instrument. I’ve had my little hang baby for about 3 years now and it’s the instrument that actually changed my life. I first heard it in Ibiza just walking around the Old Town over 3 years ago. There was a girl playing it and I had never heard a sound like this in my life. This UFO shaped percussive/melodic metal object emanated a cornucopia of harmonic heavenly resonance. I felt like my soul jumped out to embrace me and then settled peacefully. I felt an overwhelming sense of joy in abundance. I knew that this sound would be a part of my life and now it is. This is one of the rarest instruments I have ever come across- and they are not easy to come across- so I am very grateful to have one. My hang is a part of me. I feel that in many ways it is the gateway to my salvation. When I play it I can do anything, be anything. This is how it feels. It helps me maintain an open and optimistic spirit.
I saw you performing, you have a very powerful aura, is spirituality important to you?
Thank you very much. Yes, spirituality is very important to me. I was brought up as a Catholic and went to an all girls’ convent school. Although religion and spirituality are often linked, they are separate things to me. Spirituality is to me the connection you have with yourself, others and the entire universe, your awareness and desire to fully explore and experience on all levels, planes and dimensions available. The desire and ability to discover in the purest sense is spirituality to me. I have chosen to use music as my vehicle in this exploration, the lingua franca, international passport accepted and welcomed at all borders.
Do you perform a lot? Where can we usually see you?
I perform a lot. I perform live commissions as well studio sessions. In the past I have explored my music in impromptu and unusual spaces such as disused buildings and under bridges. I was experimenting with the experiential. So every time I would perform the piece would be altered to some extent.
What was your most memorable experience singing?
I performed live with the hang on a national breakfast show in Nigeria about 2 years ago and it was a poignant moment for me because that was where the dream began. I felt like the prodigal daughter being welcomed back home. It was wonderful; I will remember that feeling for the rest of my life.
You are based in London, what is your favorite place in the city or thing to do?
I live in Goodmayes, on the outskirts of London and I’m always in London. Most of my performances or recording sessions in the UK are in London so I’m dancing around the city with my hang most days. I love London generally and my favorite place is the East End. When my family and I moved there in the late 80’s, we lived in Hackney and I have never stayed away from E1, E2, E5, N1, N8 and EC1 postcodes for too long. To me, this is the creative hub of the city. I can walk on any street here and just walk up to someone and say, “wanna jam”? Usually they say “yes”! I love that about these areas. People are very open, ready for anything and willing to participate creatively.
A favorite restaurant?
I tend to favor home cooking, but when I get a craving for a green tea dessert no one does it better than Franze and Evans on Redchurch Street in Shoreditch, London.
A favorite bar or club?
Ha ha there are too many bars/clubs to mention!
A favorite shop?
I love the Fashion Exchange on Bricklane. I bought a vintage a gold woven Vivienne Westwood headpiece from this store. The previous owner must have been a powerful woman. For sure there is some kind of energy exchange when I wear it. Whoever you are, thank you for the gift.
If you could live anywhere else, where would it be?
Right now I think I am where I am supposed to be. I wouldn’t moved but right now I would travel anywhere in the world to see Pantha du Prince live.
I don’t think I’ve ever been as busy as I am right now and I am very thankful for this. Recently, I had live performances in Ibiza and at the Lovebox festival in London. I’m currently working on an EP that I hope is ready by the end of the summer. It’s been such a wonderful experience. I’m experimenting with the Edo language, English and pidgin (West African). I am also exploring the hang with minimal electronic music. In the last few months I’ve been in the studio writing and recording songs for a new Play Station 3 game called Okabu. I feel very blessed. It’s a good time.For further information on the lovely Helen, please check the links below http://thevenusbushfires.tumblr.com/ http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Venus-Bushfires/118956831459088