British poet, music composer and performer Keith James is back in his beloved “second home” of Andalucía to give a series concerts dedicated to the late Leonard Cohen.
A well-known character already in towns such as Cómpeta, where he took part in the 2016 Art Walk, Keith will be back on 12 April before going onto perform in Canillas de Albaída, Jete (Granada) and Cajiz.
Keith, 62, has been coming to Andalucía since 2006 when he visited the Alpujarras region to research and study the legacy and poetry of Lorca. More recently he has become part of the artistic scene in the Cómpeta area, having been introduced by the artist John Barrett who has also studied Lorca and produced a series of paintings based on his poetry.
“I love many aspects of Andalucía. I’m really drawn to the fact that the area is very multicultural, particularly in the art field. Many people from all over Europe have made this area rich, diverse and very open-minded in many areas of self-expression. It is a relief from much of the closed-mindedness of the UK,” says Keith. He confesses, though, that while he likes the sun, “it can be too hot for me across the high summer.”
Keith started off his career as a sound technician at the BBC Maida Vale and went on to work for more than a decade as a record producer, working with many British musicians and writers.
Realising he preferred performing live himself, in 2001 Keith began a UK-wide tour based entirely on his love of the songwriter, Nick Drake. Keith says, “Nick’s music had never been heard live by today’s music audience as he died in 1974, so these concerts soon became a huge success.” Over the last 15 years, Keith has performed in the UK (including Glastonbury), Ireland, Holland, Spain, Italy and France.
Keith’s influences include the poetry of Federico García Lorca, Pablo Neruda, Dylan Thomas and the late singer-songwriter, Leonard Cohen.
He says of his choice of the poem, Always, by Neruda: “The prose has such beauty and rhythm; it immediately felt like a song. It is also daringly romantic in a way that perhaps I find it difficult to be within my own writing as I often write in a less direct way with a great deal more metaphor and not in such a bare-hearted way.”
Keith is about to release a new album of poetry to music including work by William Blake and Federico García Lorca as well as some of his own work. He is also currently compiling a volume of his own poetry along with what he describes as “some sporadic work on a rather surreal and somewhat comedic novel”.
For this tour of Andalucía, Keith will be performing the songs of the late Leonard Cohen. He talks passionately about his great musical heroes, saying that his music “challenges us to listen more carefully, speak more thoughtfully, think more deeply and recognise our own fragility.”
The performances will include songs such as; Famous Blue Raincoat, Sisters of Mercy, Suzanne and Hallelujah, as well as songs from the album You Want it Darker released only ten days before the artist’s death and produced by his Son, Adam. Poems by Lorca that Keith has set to music will also be included in the sets.