Fresh from being listed as one of Gilles Peterson’s ‘Future Bubblers’ under Brownswood Recordings and Worldwide FM, Michael Diamond prepares the release of his debut LP ‘Third Culture’ – an album backed by Youth Music & Arts Council England exploring the concept of cultural identity. By virtue of his residency at Oxford’s longest-running night ‘Simple’, supporting the likes of Ben UFO, Batu, Shanti Celeste and Ross From Friends (etc.), the album exhibits a clear UK techno influence whilst at the same time possessing Michael’s trademark jazz flavour. The result is a record that coalesces the best of the jazz and electronic worlds into one seamless composition spanning ethereal jazz-breaks, introspective 2-step, sax-driven power ambient and world-building, story-telling electronica.
Working alongside Butterz Sound’s Elijah (who has been mentoring Michael), the 23-year-old has also teamed-up with BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year semi-finalist, musical director of Oxford University Jazz Orchestra and long-standing collaborator Alex Wilson who co-wrote and played saxophone on the intro and outro of the record. Being the product of two rigorous years worth of work, the album reveals the mind of a musician with impeccable attention to detail and conflicting internal thoughts.
“I checked how much time I’ve spent on it in total project time and it’s something ridiculous like >4000 hours (and that’s not even including all the time I spent re-listening to the tracks offline and making notes)”, he says. “That’s not even an exaggeration. I was pulling 14-hour days….”
Hailing from Kerala, India and now based at Oxford University (where he holds a music scholarship), Michael is a third culture kid ie. someone who was raised in a culture other than that of their parents. Expressing conflicted thoughts through a period of inward battles with identity, the album is accompanied by a short story by writer Áine Kim Kennedy. Áine (a close friend of Michael’s) is also a third culture kid of Irish and Korean heritage whose perspective on culture, religion, spirituality and nationalism has been shaped from both her personal family experiences and her academic specialization in partition. Michael explains:
“My parents immigrated to the UK when I was young and although I’ve loved and soaked up the culture of the UK growing up, I am still viewed by many as a foreigner”, he says. “On the other hand, when I return to India I am seen and treated as a Westerner. Over time, this has left me feeling that whilst I possess aspects of both cultures, I don’t truly belong to either one, leaving me with a fractured sense of cultural identity.”
“These feelings would manifest themselves in different ways around different people. Growing up, I really noticed myself hiding my authentically Indian parts, whilst trying my best to imitate the western traits of those around me. My album and Áine’s short story is one big allegory depicting both of our experiences as third culture kids through a tale of sleep paralysis demons and anxiety spirals. Whilst it’s not easy to brush away these feelings, I think that the world is becoming a more open place. People and cultures are becoming more and more intertwined. South Asian movements like Daytimers, No ID, Dialled In etc have been instrumental in this shift. I think that through everything that’s been happening this year I have achieved a greater understanding of my own cultural roots and this album project is a big reason why. I urge anyone who reads the short story or listens to the music to contemplate similar questions for themselves.”
Michael has previously featured on the Balamii show of London-based arts collective Daytimers. The groundswell of creativity that is to be found amongst the South Asian community is now rightly getting the attention it deserves thanks to some iconic moments, such as Yung Singh’s Boiler Room and the release of the Daytimers DJ Mag Best of British-nominated compilation DT002. Michael represents a new artistic voice within this diverse culture, telling a personal story of identity battles and confused feelings, yet one that so many people in the world can relate to.
Third Culture arrives as the inaugural release on Michael’s Vasuki Sound label; an imprint run by a close circle of friends (all talented young creatives in their respective fields) and with an ethos of nurturing genuine undiscovered talent for years to come. Releases will be infrequent and thoughtfully curated; music with a strong focus on melody, harmony and cerebral production, built for both the dancefloor and the comfort of your own home.