Tunde Baiyewu on playing Blenheim live

Liz Nicholls

The Lighthouse Family’s Tunde Baiyewu chats to Liz Nicholls ahead of playing as part of the Nocturne Live series at Blenheim Palace with Gregory Porter & Emeli Sandé in June.

Q. Hi Tunde! Are you looking forward to playing at Blenheim?

“Hello. Yes, I am. I haven’t been to Blenheim. A few years before the pandemic we had been asked to play the palace but everything went topsy turvy. I’m chuffed that it’s happening now. You usually look on from the sidelines with these kind of events. It’s an amazing venue so I feel blessed.

This date comes in the middle of my tour which starts 26th May in Cardiff, goes on to 24th June. I’m a fan of Gregory Porter as well as Emeli Sandé so I’m going to be enjoying it as much as any other member of the audience.”

Q. How do you take care of that wonderful voice?

“I’m very quiet on the day of the show. A couple of hours before a show I say almost nothing – but partly that’s nerves! I resort to a lot of ginger, lemon and honey drinks. You know what it’s like, we Africans sometimes get overexcited. You know those situations in a bar or a club with your friends and everyone’s trying to talk over the music? You think you’re whispering but you don’t realise you’re shouting over the din, and find out when you’ve left. The next day you’re hoarse. So I won’t be raising my voice at all.”

Q. What’s your first memory of music?

“Well, I was born in London but when I was about five my mum took my sister and I back to Nigeria because my biological father died. She had to relocate to Lagos. Back then my mum, in her infinite wisdom, decided the best thing to keep me out of trouble was to enrol me in the church choir, singing lots of hymns. Then you’d be back to terra firma, you’d do some naughty things and then you’d go back to church on Sunday!

I never really could get my head round the idea that people wrote those hymns. I used to think as a kid, oh these songs are wonderful but nobody created them, they just existed. They’re just there and they help us feel good. In Nigeria growing up Michael Jackson was on the radio a lot, and James Taylor was very big and I love a lot of his stuff. So when I went up to Newcastle with Paul [Tucker] after college we were always going to nightclubs and listening to music, that sort of scene. Always liked buying records cheap – I had a lot of R&B, hip hop on vinyl. When I realised people wrote those hymns, that inspired me. A lot of the Lighthouse Family songs definitely have a spiritual connotation to them. That’s where they come from, but in a modern way – not a Kumbaya sort of way – songs that were like sitting with someone having a meaningful chat about life & love & spiritually – those were the sort of conversations we’d be having in the studio, Paul and myself.”

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