Sometimes Cynical, Sometimes Tender

Who still remembers their huge hit from the mid-eighties? In “Radio Africa” the Birmingham (sic) band Latin Quarter reflected the social and political problems of the black continent. But they packaged serious themes into the engaging melodies of pop songs. What critics of the group saw as a contradiction, was only a way to draw the fans into the difficult lyrics with a catchy tune.

It’s therefore strange, that the musicians who were keen on communication, would appear with sour and consternated expressions in front of the public. One could lose all pleasure in listening because of that.

“I guess that’s true”, the singer Steve Skaith takes this late criticism calmly on board. “This was in the mid-eighties, we were still pretty nervous on stage and didn’t know quite how we should present ourselves.” Latin Quarter were also accused of feeling themselves responsible for everything bad in the world, that they covered every conflict on the globe on their records. “Politically left-oriented international problem-consciousness”, is how Skaith commented on the then position of the band – along with a trace of self-irony.

These days Steve, guitarist Richard Wright and lyricist Mike Jones are looser and more personal. The three are left as the nucleus of the band. The Latin Quarter musicians had all rubbed each other up the wrong way. “In the end we were bored all the time”, admits Steve, “so we decided to break up the band.” However, they all stayed friends, meeting each other privately. And when Steve, Richard and Mike started to write songs together again, the others had no objection to a release under the old name. Important for the new self-conception of Latin Quarter was a meeting with the Bhundu Boys. The band came together with the Africans at a benefit concert in Oxford. Together they recorded a new version of the classic “Radio Africa”. And they even composed and produced new pieces.