In 2001 a 14 year old heavy metal bassist growing up in Devon, UK was jamming away at home when there was a knock at the door. A Zimbabwean dance band had just arrived in the country, needed a bass player for their tour and somehow happened to turn up at his neighbours house. Having never heard this kind of music before the jam session, Edd went round and so began the night that became Edd Bateman’s introduction to African music.
“I must have adapted to the genre fast as I had my debut 2 hour long gig just 11 days later and by the next month we were already in London playing at venues like the Africa Centre - Covent Garden and universities. I worked with Chimanimani for 6 years performing at places like the Eden Project (2005) and many festivals including Glastonbury (2007). I gigged in that period too with other Zimbabwean groups, reggae bands and a Swazi jazz ensemble.”
In 2006 Edd began teaching bass at Plymouth City College, where he’d previously received a BTEC National Diploma in Modern Music and was gigging with various soul and jazz bands at corporate events, weddings and Ministry of Defence functions. After coming off stage with another Zimbabwean band during an African Festival at Bristol's St Georges Hall in 2009, Edd was introduced to kora player Modou N’diaye Cissokho who invited him to stay in Southern Senegal’s Casamance region.
“I arrived in Senegal the following month completely unaware that all Modou’s brothers and uncles are in fact some of the most famous musicians in the whole Southern region and by chance all of them needed a bass player. I had 3 weeks to learn the back catalogues of 6 different bands, all in his immediate family before the busy period began. Among the groups I was working with was Sadio Cissokho, who I would later bring over to the UK and organise multiple international tours for, the world reknown kora player Seckou Keita and Solo Cissokho, who was a huge name their and an inspiration to many. There were also many 5 hour concerts with no break unless there was a power cut where I played with the entire 12-15 piece family band Jalikunda.”
After returning to Bristol – UK, Edd began working closely with Congolese guitarist King Fire who features in The African Bass Lesson series. The soukous style from Congo bears similarities to other traditional genres but with a relentless focus on making people dance and long enduring songs. Edd spent the next few years recording and gigging in the UK and Europe with Jazz, Middle Eastern, Senegalese and Zimbabwean bands, most of whom he was now managing.
“I was fairly busy throughout this time. One particular intense gigging week that I’ll always remember started with a tour of Northern Spain with my good friend Jimican, then rushing back to London to fly to Zanzibar for a last minute show with Sadio Cissokho, spending less than 40 hours on the island and landing back in London before driving straight to Glastonbury festival for a last minute dep gig with Cameroonian/Celtic fusion band called Baka Beyond. I’d never heard their music before so I located them to learn the set but by the time I arrived a fever I’d picked up in East Africa had kicked in. After hallucinating for hours on the floor of their tipi, I came to and did the gig seated on a chair at 3am. The next day I drove back to Bristol to play an afternoon festival with Manchester based Zimbabwean group Heritage Survival then went straight to hospital.”
Edd’s passion for teaching continued and regularly onside tours the band would take time out to visit primary and secondary schools facilitating full class workshops of African music, singing, percussion and culture.
“To teach you must first be able to learn, the advantage I have is coming from a different background not growing up with African music all around allows me to demonstrate clearly what fundamentally makes these styles different and how you can learn to replicate them. Once you understand what it is that makes a bass line Soukous and why it has that sound, if you digest this style and get it into your system its easy to compose and improvise in a stylistically appropriate way for the genre.”
The next few years saw Edd returning back and forth to Africa and performing with countless different bands including popular Dakar groups like Alias Diallo, Cheikh Lo, Orchestra Baobab and even opening for Salif Keita in front of a crowd of 10,000 and broadcast live on national television.
“There was one year when my flight was delayed into Gambia meaning it was too late to cross the border into Senegal. I stayed in Gambia and went to a local live music venue. There was a 10 piece mbalax band called Pa Omar Jack playing that had no bassist so I grabbed mine from the hotel and sat in for the rest of their set. I situated myself with the drummer on my left so I can catch his kick drum, very important for this style and the keyboard on my right so I can hear the chords and see some of the left hand bass notes he’s playing. They loved my playing and paid me to join them every night between midnight and 3am. I could only stay for a week as I had many bands waiting for me in Southern Senegal.”
In 2016 Edd put together the project Edd Bateman’s West African Love Affair which began with an album followed by a UK tour of theatres and arts centres. The Cd was recorded in England, Austria and Australia featuring 15 different musicians from 8 West African countries. Each track Edd composed in the traditional genre native to the country of the musician he was dueting with making the album a full insight into current West African music.
Due to the massive response that has been received since releasing the first African Bass Lesson online it prompted Edd to make his bass repertoire an educational resource for musicians of all backgrounds and abilities to learn from. The newly released African Bass Lesson Part 1 delves deeply into Congolese soukous, sungura from Zimbabwe and Zouk as well as clearly displaying theory, rhythmic and timing exercises, finger dexterity and strengthening work and even ear training. This is the first episode from a complete series spanning the whole continent with bass lines broken down and explained in the clearest manner ever seen.