Dave Cross spoke to Christopher Green the man behind the extraordinary Ida Barr to find out more about her show, Artificial Hip Hop, at Wilton’s Music Hall from 22 August.
Hi Christopher, what can you tell us about Ida?
Ida Barr really was a music hall singer who died at the end of 1967. She imported ragtime songs into the UK in the 19-teens. She died in poverty but, according to the stories, was still cheerful. I heard her on a recording at the National Sound Archive at the British Library and instantly thought I’d resurrect her. I imagined that if she hadn’t died she would be having a new lease of creative life and might be embracing urban music.
What can you tell us about the show?
Ida’s show, Artificial Hip Hop is all about making rap from the ordinary things in life: meals on wheels, light entertainment on the telly, prescription medication, and Ida’s home-help’s daughter who has gone to Syria to be a freedom fighter. It’s a mixture of sing-a-long and chat, centred around Ida’s music mash-ups mixing the old and the new.
Where did the inspiration of mixing modern hip hop with music hall songs come from?
That fusing of the modern and the music hall seemed an obvious thing to do but it’s taken years to perfect. I like to take sing-a-long that people would have instantly recognised 100 years ago and fuse them with songs people instantly recognise now – it’s all about the communal moment. For example the old song If You Were The Only Girl in the World mashed up with Rhianna’s Only Girl in the World. It just works. Ida’s embracing Solange a lot at the moment and fusing her with Noel Coward. Obvs.
What can we expect at Wilton’s Music Hall?
Ida Barr at Wilton’s Music Hall is the perfect match of act and venue. Two relics of a by-gone entertainment world who miraculously have survived to thrive in the modern East End. The show has videos, patter and low level participatory party fun, all rapped up in Ida’s tasty rap stylings.