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Lyrix Organix Creative Director Dan Tsu on the Art of Words

Lyrix Organix is a social enterprise that creates experimental events, rewriting the rulebook for live music and spoken word. The energy behind the collective comes from Dan Tsu, its founder and creative director, who is passionate about breaking down the barriers between different genres of ‘soulful’ music.

My mother was born in Singapore, my father in Hong Kong. I was born and raised in Edgware, North London - making me what they call BBC: British Born Chinese. I never had the opportunity to visit Singapore or Hong Kong until I was 33. For three decades my history and identity has been defined more by music than my ancestory. I grew up around pirate radio and rave tape-packs. In 2001 I became a Drum’n’Bass MC (performing with the likes of Andy C and Shy FX) and so began a meandering 17 year journey into underground music that has evolved into Lyrix Organix.

Today I’m an event producer and youth educator, specialising in the diaspora of spoken word, lyrical music and events. Lyrix Organix was founded in 2009 and has been quite an unexpected journey - We’ve discovered a genuine public appetite for meaningful music connected to social activism.

Our aim is to bring together top poets, hip hop artists and folk musicians to support humanitarian causes. For the first four years we donated 100% of profits to charities such as MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres, aka Doctors Without Borders), to highlight causes from Haiti to Somalia. We’ve also been fortunate enough to work closely with the likes of Akala, Kate Tempest and Ed Sheeran. I’ve felt lucky to create live productions and youth education programmes for Glastonbury Festival (Rum Shack), Roundhouse, Woodland Trust, Cardboard Citizens, and as far afield as East Africa (with the British Council). Whatever the outcome, the focus always comes back to the ‘Art of Words’.

This year’s Mercury Prize nominee list reflects a cultural shift that has been building for over a decade. Beyond the debates, journalist think pieces and Mercury’s perpetual bids for relevancy, you can see the re-emergence of lyrics as an artform in British music. Writers, poets and rappers have become household names, pushing wordplay to the forefront of their craft. I believe this is having a huge influence on the creative use of language amongst a generation of young people - as seen in the classrooms, youth centres and live events where I work.

Once upon a time the idea of a poet, a Grime MC, a British rapper and an acoustic songwriter sounded like more of a bad music industry joke, than a Mercury Prize list. In 2009 - when Speech Debelle won the prize for ‘Speech Therapy’, the real Grime scene had almost disappeared into obscurity and UK hip hop had sunk back into the shadows. The spoken word scene was quietly cultivating a new wave of young voices. Meanwhile, an unknown ginger singer-songwriter was captivating tiny audiences, one sticky pub venue at a time.

When Lyrix Organix began in 2009, working with the likes of Ed Sheeran, our belief was that mainstream music needed to change. We believed that lyrical music does not need to compromise to achieve success. That same year, Rage Against The Machine ‘Killing In The Name’ became Christmas Number One in protest at X-Factor’s chart dominance, followed by a free concert in Finsbury Park.

In creating Lyrix Organix’s Unfold we consistently put our faith in young poets who we unearthed at gigs and workshops. We invited them to collaborate with a string section, percussionists, visual artists and animators. Every Unfold show features a different cast of spoken word artists and this has taken four years of failed funding applications, successful crowdfunders and a growing legion of multi-disciplinary artists.

As guest director of Brighton Festival, Kate Tempest invited us to headline at St Mark’s Church (The Spire) alongside Kojey Radical. It was a real honour and unforgettable evening. Back in 2016 ‘UnFold’ sold out The Roundhouse with an audio-visual journey via animations and South Sudanese poetry. We have spent the last 6 months in the studio making new music, with new artists, developing a conceptual ‘3x3‘ performance: 3 artists, 3 mini-sets. We would love for you to come see our headline live show - it is our only London date of 2017. At this point in these turbulent times it feels more important than ever to support the voices of our future.


Laurie Ogden, Kieron Rennie & Sophia Thakur

+ Bobbie Johnson (full live band)

+ guests

Certain Blacks: Harlem Festival, Rich Mix

Saturday 9 September 8pm

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