Dizraeli: “There’s a sense that gradually London is becoming impossible”

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Rapper, folk singer and multi-instrumentalist Dizraeli’s latest EP, Eat My Camera, was largely influenced by Walthamstow Marsh, which was also the location for his video, Dona Diaz.

Dizraeli (who’s also known as Rowan Sawday) talks to The Waltham Cat from his home somewhere in north London. The 33-year-old rapper had recently performed a sell-out gig at Hackney’s Sebright Arms, and was about to head to Wiltshire to record a track with folk artist Eliza Carthy.

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“Walthamstow Marsh is very important to me,” he says. “It’s been really the headspace of my years living in London and I return to there time after time.

“Sitting at the top of Springfield Park and looking out over the reservoirs is my favourite view in London. The closest you come to being outside of London while still being there,” he says.

He admits he feels “blessed” with the reception of the tour, in which he has opted for smaller, more intimate venues than his previous performances. It’s just him, the first solo tour without his band the Small Gods, with whom he toured for five years.

The track he has just recorded with Eliza Carthy deals with the British reaction to the refugee crisis. Dizraeli spent four nights on the camp in Calais, something which he has poetically documented on his blog. He humbly discusses the pain and loss of the survivors and the ignorance of those on the other side of the gates. Read it here.  

His latest EP is stripped down to the basics, bringing him closer to where he was when he recorded his debut album, Engurland.

“One instrument, one voice. It’s like the modern art idea of putting an every day object in a gallery, and because it’s in the context of a gallery, people will stop and pay attention,” explains Dizraeli.

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The final track on the EP features the sounds of the marshes, something which he hopes will encourage listeners to pay more attention to their surroundings.

“It’s got some beautiful moments in it. There are children playing in the background which is then smudged into the sounds of trains and that tapers away into birdsong.”

Marvellous, the first track on Eat My Camera, talks about the rising cost of housing: ‘’I bought me a brick of house in London/well, the promise of a brick/and my grandkids and my grandkiddies will still be paying for it”  

“The crisis affects me and my friends in the same way it affects all Londoners on low incomes, in that we’re constantly being priced out of our houses,” he says.

He speaks of friends who have been moved out by the “whims of a greedy landlord” to places that are further and further away from the centre, or out of the city altogether.

Dizraeli says: “There’s a sense that gradually London is becoming impossible, because of an unregulated housing market and because the landlords will charge as much as they can get away with charging, rather than as much as tenants can afford.”

I ask whether he thinks London will follow in the footsteps of cities like Berlin and introduce a rent cap.

“Why is a rise in the cost of living the sign of a healthy economy? Surely it’s the sign of a sick one”

“Oh god, I hope so! It’s common sense, surely. Having a roof over your head is a basic human right and surely it should be seen as such. But the way a sudden rise in house prices is trumpeted as a success for an economy: why is a rise in the cost of living the sign of a healthy economy? Surely it’s the sign of a sick one.”

Dizraeli agrees the crisis makes it harder for artists and musicians. “It’s dangerous for art not to be supported in any way by the public purse because that means it becomes commoditised and people then create what sells, with an audience in mind rather than a vision in mind.”

But in spite of all this, Dizraeli says that London still manages to produce excellent music and art. He’s especially excited about the success of grime as a genre.

“It’s one of the last true remaining folk music forums in our culture and it’s very DIY. It tends to be people from poorer backgrounds that make it and a lot of musicians are doing it in the framework that they create themselves, outside the traditional music industry.”

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“It feels like we’re in crucial times at the moment,” he says. “I hope people can find in themselves to be human, and pay attention to each other. It’s something we’re sorely lacking, especially in London. Let’s move forward.”

Dizraeli continues the Eat My Camera tour in London with London dates in June and July. Tickets will be available here

Eat My Camera is available to download here.

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