Peckham Liberal Club – 23rd November

Poppy Ajudha celebrates the completion of her forthcoming debut EP with her first headline show at Peckham Liberal Club. The sold-out performance is preceded by an inspiring discussion between herself, director and photographer Neela Choudhury-Reid and Nicole Crentsil, founder of Unmasked Women & Black Girls Festival. Speaking about their influences and the challenges they face in society as women of colour, it is an enlightening insight into Poppy’s creative process.

Opening with ‘Love Falls Down’, which draws upon the jazz and soul music Poppy grew up listening to and transitions effortlessly to the live setting through the synthesis of her tight five-piece band. On her songwriting process, Poppy is greatly influenced by Solange’s A Seat At The Table and, whilst studying Sociology & Music at SOAS, began to explore similar themes of racial and gender politics in her music. Her new single, ‘Tepid Soul’ reflects on growing up in a society that objectifies, disparages and exoticises women of colour, a pervasive issue that Neela, Nicole and herself continue to endure within the creative industry. The live instrumentation mirrors this frustration, building into a cacophonic wall of sound driven by Oscar Jerome’s guitar playing. ‘Where Did I Go?’ begins with Poppy performing solo, accompanied only by the watery, Cocteau Twins-esque reverb from her restrained guitar strumming. She is a captivating stage presence, delivering her introspective, bittersweet lyrics with vulnerability and sincerity before her band accompanies her after the second chorus, releasing the emotive tension.

‘Spilling Into You’, with its soft harp lead-in and slow opening section, highlights how women exclude parts of themselves to conform in public and in relationships allow their identity to be dismantled out of fear of not being loved. Kojey Radical joined the stage for his verse and his mellifluous delivery complemented the laidback vibe as the crowd swayed along. Kojey’s guest appearance was not the only one of the night, with the next song being a cover of Connie Constance’s new song, ‘1st World Tragedy’, who was there to sing it with Poppy a capella.

Returning to her EP, ‘Pentagon’ sees Poppy looking outward and questioning how individuals view their place in the world, which is juxtaposed against a danceable, swung beat before culminating in a jazz piano solo. The final song on her upcoming release, ‘She Is A Sun’ is an ode to womankind to love themselves and their imperfections. It is a fitting way to end a performance that began with three determined women discussing how they overcame ingrained misogyny to achieve their visions. Poppy could not end her set without paying tribute to Solange, the inspiration that has shaped her song-writing. Performing ‘Cranes In The Sky’ with the same heart-felt candour as her own songs, the crowd joins in this encore, and it is clear from how passionately it is sung that it means so much to everyone present.

Photos by hypemari.

Listen: Poppy Ajudha – Tepid Soul