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"Use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?"

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Busking reggae sax player triggers Brixton tube station epiphany

Miss Megoo and her sax on a cold November evening, Brixton tube station, London SW2

Approaching Brixton tube station early on a cold, dark November evening, the sublime rhythms and
haunting saxophone melody of some early Jamaican reggae warmed the air, you could even see people's walking pace change to get into step with the beats coming out of a small portable speaker-amp.

The sax melody was provided by one of the many talented buskers this location is famous for - and in this case I was almost certain I knew who she was. A tall, slender young woman of Japanese appearance, in a beautiful full-length striped and tiered silk dress, matching silk scarf, her jet-black hair pulled back tight in a bun, and secured with a huge crimson flower on the right side of her head, swaying to the music, playing what looks like an old, much-loved alto sax, the case open on the floor in front of her feet.

If you like ska or reggae and live in London you will almost definitely recognise this striking young woman - she's unmistakably the sax player who joined The Trojans onstage at Gaz Mayall's set at the Notting Hill Carnival, who's a key member of the wonderful south London ska band, The Top Cats, and a truly big name in the international reggae/ska world.

And here she is - I was 98 per cent certain it was her, that is Megumi Mesaku - busking outside Brixton tube station on a cold November evening.

She's already something of a legend. She's played sax with many of the great names of Jamaican music, and many of the greats of jazz, soul and funk too. They include Max Romeo, Maceo Parker, Rico Rodriguez, Dennis Alcapone, Laurel Aitken, and numerous other big names from the ska and reggae world, young and old.

So is this really Megumi, busking? I am 99 per cent sure it is. Look at her. One hundred percent certain. But I was too shy and stupid to ask.

It's still rush hour at 7.30pm around here, crowds surge out of the station as each new train arrives, and her music always catches a few of the people as they leave, detaining them, some just stand and smile and nod, some  are swaying, but only one person is really dancing. A young black woman with shining eyes, she's already been taken over by this gorgeously fluid music and is using the whole pavement outside the station as her dancefloor, deflty avoiding the commuters as they swarm around her.

The sax player - yes, it has to be Megumi, also known as "MissMegoo" - has that characteristic
modesty, always smiling in response to any applause, always acknowledging any donation, there, alone with her mini-sound-system, filling the air with promises of warmth and love and a better future.

She's playing lots of reggae and ska classics, but also some old soul and R & B numbers. At one point I could've sworn she even played some Glenn Miller.

So that was it - the epiphany thing, it was the sort of very much wanted antidote to weeks and months of gloom and fear and anger, from Brexit through to Trump. A tonic, a reminder of what we could be.

A realisation how grateful we should all be to all the people who come here from other continents and countries.

Here was a Japanese woman playing her interpretations of the music of the Jamaican ghetto outside a tube station in one of the most racially-mixed areas of London. All happening, just like that, perfectly normal.

Anyway, if that was you, Miss Megumi, thanks for providing some light in the gloom.  You are surely one of this city's many musical treasures.








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