A talent for singing recently discovered

Julie Abedin with Andy Walker and Jerry Griffith.
Julie Abedin with Andy Walker and Jerry Griffith. / Jennie Rhodes
  • Julie Abedin only discovered she could sing four years ago and it was thanks to a plucky fellow musician who told the local mayor that he was in a band with her that she made her debut. Since then they have performed all along the coast

I finally managed to catch up with Julie Abedin this month, two years after I first heard her, and Comares-based band Mentally Ska'd, play at an Axarquía Animal Rescue fundraiser in the area.

This time she was performing just with the band's drummer, Jerry Griffith, and guitarist, Andy Walker, as Jazzy Jools at La Vaquería in Benamargosa for one of the venue's Sunday lunch and live music sessions.

Julie, 59, only discovered that she could sing four years ago when she started having guitar lessons in the mountain-top village she and husband, Ferry, have called home for 16 years. "I'd always wanted to learn how to play the guitar and there are loads of really talented musicians in Comares. There's always something going on," says Julie.

Just a few months later, Davey Hughes, a saxophonist also living in Comares who attended the weekly jam sessions which had come out of the guitar lessons, was asked to perform at the village's annual Foreigners' Day. He accepted but informed the mayor that he would be playing with his band and that Julie was the lead singer.

"I was terrified. I lost two stone with the anxiety," admits Julie. The jam sessions, which had started as "the highlight" of her week where about to shoot her to local fame.

Recalling that first concert, Juile who is originally from South Shields and hasn't lost any of the accent, says, "I was really nervous but once I started I found it easy."

A new love of music

The other band members had played a lot of Ska and were keen to put a group together that would allow them to continue to play the genre. Julie and Ferry both admit that they knew nothing about Ska and hadn't been particularly musical before Julie got involved with the band.

"Can you believe I had never even been to a music festival?" Julie exclaims, adding, "I had to learn not only about the genre but also how to sing it."

The couple both say that they soon really started to like it and that Julie belonging to the band "transformed" their social life.

The band plays mainly Ska and Reggae, which, despite only discovering them four years ago, Julie performs as if she's been doing it forever. Meanwhile her solo work allows her to perform mainly jazz numbers and reproduce hits by female artists; which, she says, is what her "Nana used to listen to" and has therefore always played an important part in her life.

Julie includes Amy Winehouse, Peggy Lee and the Pussycat Dolls in her repertoire, to name just a few.

Six years ago, and quite by coincidence, Julie decided that she wanted to have dreadlocks. "I'd always wanted to have them and I decided that if I didn't do it then I would never do it," she laughs. The long blonde dreads, which have different coloured threads woven into them, add to the assumption that Julie was possibly born singing!

Julie and Ferry, who is originally from Iran, but moved to the UK in 1975, came to live in Spain 16 years ago, having run a successful Bed & Breakfast in the North East of England. "We wanted to do what we were already doing but somewhere else," explains Julie.


They still run a rural tourism business in Comares, so the singing is a "fab hobby" that keeps both of them busy. Ferry boasts that he hasn't missed a concert yet and says that he is happy to see Julie doing something that "makes her happy". They have been married for 38 years and have a son and daughter who also both live in Spain. Last year the couple became grandparents for the first time when their son and his wife had a baby.

Mentally Ska'd, which is made up of Davey Hughes (sax), Matt Richards (bass), Jerry Griffith (drums) and Ryan Sibley and Andy Shepherd (both guitar), have played along the Costa del Sol, at Artesanal in Malaga's Muelle Uno and even as far away as Gibraltar.

The band has had a break since September and will be back on 9 December for Comares's Christmas market at the village's campsite bar, complete with the second song that they have written themselves, Set Me Free, which Julie reveals is more Reggae than Ska.

Julie is clearly relishing her newfound hobby and indeed talent. The many fans they have in their home village, and those they have picked up along the coast, will be delighted to hear of Mentally Ska'd's comeback and that Julie has plans to keep singing for many years to come, both with the band and as Jazzy Jools.