From Malian Afrobeat to Brazilian Bossa Nova and British Post-Dubstep, the Worldwide Awards caters to every musical predilection. The 2014 edition was no different; offering up a variety of electric and instrumental musical performance to satisfy even the most eclectically-tasted of music connoisseurs. The Worldwide Awards are a Brownswood Recordings production, a record label belonging to cult BBC 6 Music DJ Gilles Peterson, held every January in Camden's KOKO nightclub. KOKO is the perfect venue for live music; a grand and decadent theatre conversion that used to host the likes of Charlie Chaplin. For at least one night a year KOKO shelves its usual angsty indie-rock bands and assortment of cheesy dance DJs to host the Worldwide Awards – a celebration of the best of Peterson's weekly Saturday radio show from the previous year.
At the 2014 edition, one of highlights of the evening came from southern American bluegrass-country singer Valerie June. The Tennessee-born star delivered a performance of tear-inducing soulfulness. The girl is no passing gimmick with a southern drawl. The authenticity and sincerity of her songs served to completely justify her recent meteoric rise to fame. Like any of the greats, she sings both from the heart and from genuine experience.
Another of the night's stellar performances was delivered by LA-based rapper-cum-producer Jonwayne. Jonwayne is the epitome of what makes Worldwide, and Peterson himself, great. First impressions offer up a 400-pound scruffy-bearded, shaggy-haired, white, middle-class American stoner, who just about managed to put down the bong and Playstation controller to pop down to Camden for an evening jolly. But how those sandals did deceive. For Peterson, it's all about substance over appearance. And Jonwayne has substance in abundance. His sampling is imaginative, eclectic and tightly mixed; and his rapping is even better. His popping pronunciation and acapella lyrical tirades offer up flattering comparisons to the late Biggie Smalls. The man is a born performer. There aren't many that can leave a stage for 3 minutes to allow a sample to play out in full, but Jonwayne managed it without an inkling of audience rebuke. Testimony to a scintillating performance.
There were other strong live showings from jazz electronica band The Internet and London's own neo-soul singer-songwriters Andrew Ashong and Ady Suleiman. On the DJ/producer front, Worldwide's favourite Belgian sampler DJ LeFTo got the dance floor bouncing. And that continued via the glass-shattering beats of Viennese producer CID RIM, whose head-banging fervour offered a refreshing alternative to the usual calm, measured appearance of the modern electronic music producer-DJ. The night was topped off with a good old-fashioned sense-tingling rave provided by deep-house duo Kyodai.
As is the norm with the Worldwide Awards, the awards ceremony itself was relatively unceremonious. A 25-minute interlude interspersed with winners' song samples supplied by DJ LeFTo and comprising short, sharp and perfectly understated congratulatory speeches from the ever-modest Peterson. Top gongs for 2014 went to: Lone's 'Airglow Fires' for single of the year, Jonwayne's Rap Album One for best album, Ady Suleiman for breakthrough act of the year and Young Turks for 2014's top record label.
The ceremony is analogous to the event as a whole: raw, bare-boned and to the point. A tribute to the music itself. Don't go if you're looking for pomp, pageantry and flashy production value.
In sum, the Worldwide Awards 2014 was a hugely successful event, even more so than its predecessor, judging by the zeal of the multinational, music-loving patrons. The Awards represents one of the best assortments of musical performance that London has to offer. Aside from the variety of genre, one thing the ceremony guarantees is that you're going to hear a lot more from its winners and performers in the coming year. And of that I'm sure.