Welsh performance poet and hip hop artist Rufus Mufasa talks about how she was inspired to create a musical response to the new novel from Gary Raymond, The Golden Orphans, a Graham Greene-esque literary thriller set on the island of Cyprus.
I didn’t expect to fall so in love with the book. Not because I didn’t think I’d rate it, but thrillers are not usually my thing. But the book really did get under my skin, and it is so beautifully put together. Pages into it I noticed a musicality in the writing, noticing strong “bars” in the body of work, and I think it was when I got to the word “laconic” that I knew I absolutely must create a song in response. I could probably break it down page by page of how I gathered my inspiration to create the track, and the island was a huge source of inspiration, maybe because my own practice is laced in site exploration.
Another line that made it an absolute must to translate creatively was “I want you to paint my dreams”… so I suppose I wanted to paint a song, for the book and for Gary. I also loved exploring Cyprus, it is almost Africa, almost the Middle East, and almost Europe, but very much Cyprus, and what is Cyprus and the diversity of its people?
I didn’t want to create a song that gave away the story of the book. But I did want to capture the heart of it, some of the magic it contains.
I finished the book in 3 days, this is pretty impressive with 2 children in the house and working full time. I just kept adding bits I loved the sound of to my notebook, and pieces of the work that I felt were strong hooks… I ended up with way too much when piecing it together, and struggled with having to cut and lose bits, but I tried to follow a tight formula/structure – verse, pre chorus, chorus… there are 4 verses, the third verse kind of captures the sound of the chorus also…
I kind of had an idea of how the song sounded before I took it to production, and Jamey P had to help me find some magic to marry it to. I’m lucky that he understands me and my language about creativity.
I also spoke to Gary, about music that inspired him, especially when writing the book, and it was important to me to try to capture this, and the examples of music he gave me made absolute sense, and I could see this in the book, in the characters, in the island. Gary’s sharing of information was a huge insight into character development and I had to try to capture this when marrying my own work with beats.
Jamey brought two tracks to the table, but I refused them. I dug deeper with my own research and samples and we went back to the studio together, and came up with a Greek Cypriot Hip Hop Jazz sounding vibe, that captured Gary’s ideas and that suited the song’s intentions, the story and the island.
I love that the song makes me feel like dancing, it has its own dance, that I’ve been doing since I recorded it.
Jamey credited me as co-producer which is so sweet, because I brought so many production ideas, samples and layout to the track.
I wanted to talk in more detail about the divides in the country, and how that happened , but it didn’t make the final take… but the lines “This island is built on legends, the adhan called alongside the church bell/ but we built walls right through the heart of that” had to stay. I hope those lines speak volumes.
I love the soundscapes and the half rhymes, the Avant garde”ness” and the way it became a chaos of cultures, genres that party together, and hopefully the song will make you want to read the book.
The Golden Orphans by Gary Raymond is available now, published by Parthian Books.
Rufus Mufasa’s debut album, Fur Coats from the Lion’s Den, is out now on Dope Biscuits.