Tiki Black - "If (money) is the first goal of an artist, this survival currency will favour emulation of 'music that works' over authentic music. The former hurts the industry & its inspirational frequencies, populating the waves with regurgitated noise." - Stereo Stickman

Tiki Black “If (money) is the first goal of an artist, this survival currency will favour emulation of ‘music that works’ over authentic music. The former hurts the industry & its inspirational frequencies, populating the waves with regurgitated noise.”


Manchester-based songwriter, musician and poet Tiki Black recently launched her latest music CD and book combination. The project, The Sound Of The Broken Wand, showcases a distinctly expressive, captivating approach to modern creativity.

We were blessed with the chance to interview Tiki, to find out more about what inspired this journey, what the music means, how the two disciplines intertwine, and plenty more. Here’s the conversation in full.

Hi Tiki – great to chat with you, thanks for the interview! What a unique sound and style – a pleasure to listen through your music. Where did things first begin for you, what inspired you to create?

Hi! Thank you for having me and for the kind words! I’d love to say it all began in my mother’s womb and whatever gives me an unfairly advantageous start and an illusion of being yet another chosen one 😉 but the truth is creative expression is something I believe is in every one of us, a kind of humans’ spiritual survival.

And spiritual survival is what got me out of my cocoon. I realised, at some point in my life, that my mind could not stay healthy without artistic expression. And when I look at life around me and what I have gone through, it all confirms that need.

“Creative expression is more than spiritual survival, even though it starts there. It is spiritual thriving.”

Given the depth and classical complexities of your music – are you self-taught, or vocally / professionally trained?

It’s hard to say that I am self-taught seeing as there is so much inspiration around me. I am definitely standing on the shoulders of many music icons, but I did not have an explicit or designated teacher, at least not for long. I remember a period in the choir where I was parked less for the love of music than to be kept busy and out of trouble. But I do remember a brief period at a student community house where I lived in Nancy, France where I actually was voluntarily part of 2 choirs, one of which had a wonderful female coach my age. She helped me out of my vocal closet.

I would have loved and still would love that experience, a mentor, or a guide, you know like in the old Asian movies, African traditions, and old Western cultures where a master would develop their apprentice. I use a lot of wonderful music icons as such without their knowledge lol.

Tell me about The Sound of The Broken Wand – what does this project represent, and why did you choose The Debt as an opener?

The Sound Of The Broken Wand is a music (CD) and poetry collection project about emancipating from the spell of survival. While survival is part of who we are as a species, letting it dictate everything we do stops us from emancipating and from actively evolving.

Basically, your goals dictate, sometimes without your knowledge, the means you use to attain them. So, while money is important, if it is the first goal of an artist, this survival currency will favour music emulation of “music that works” over authentic music. The former hurts the music industry and its inspirational frequencies, populating the waves with regurgitated noise.

As an artist, every new individual that finds and expresses their unique voice is a new inspiration to dig into the infinite richness we are as humans and create anew.

The debt makes the point from the outset. It denounces the emotional (or financial, etc.) holds that keep us under their spell.

Do you write songs at the piano initially, and how did you come to connect with the musicians who feature on the record?

I write a lot of the songs on the piano. When things are hard, I go to the piano, and I let my hands find the notes that best express my emotion and tell the story. Most of the time, I have thought about the subject in various situations, and it is the last straw that takes me to the piano and to a song. Sometimes, I just wake up in the middle of the night with a melody. I can’t go to sleep until I have put it down in writing.

For the musicians, I first take the time to find the right producer for the sound of each album. They have so far brought most of or all the musicians with them. In the first album, I brought the first cellist and the drummer as we worked together to arrange some of the sound. I met the talented (cellist) Michael Calvert at a gig where he was accompanying another band on his cello. I met master and extraordinary Djembe drummer and Nkoni player Sidiki Dembele via Geli Berg, Manchester’s world music go-to person. But the magnificent pianist that is John Ellis, was introduced to me by co-producer Chris Hamilton, as was the brilliant cellist Rachel Shakespeare, Leos Strings, and inspired double bass player Matt Owens.

All the wonderful session musicians in the second album were brought on by producer Russell Cottier, including Ben Gladwin (Piano), Victoria Mutch (Cello), Daniel J Logan (Percussions), Jonathon M Crump (Bass and Guitar), and Russell himself (Mixing, Mastering, Production, Violin, Zither Banjo, and electric guitar) who was recommended to me by skillful musician and songwriter Jo Bywater. The talents of Serge Tagné Tebu (guest bass on The Crown’s Crumbs) and Danny Shaw (guest percussions on The Crown’s Crumbs) were “on loan” from a parallel project, Sounding The Sirens, a female-led songwriting project funded by Arts Council England in 2020, and the brain-child of Geli Berg who we mentioned earlier.”

While I had a great time with everyone, my greatest experience was with John Ellis. He was the best person for the work, no doubt, as were all the others, but it is just his methods, his values and his art that matched and exceeded my expectations and I absolutely enjoyed the time he, Chris and I spent making his part in the first album. I also enjoyed the making of The Crown’s Crumbs from the second album, because I got to arrange it all.

A Ghost of Me is stunning, do you remember how this song first came to you, and how does it feel to listen back now?

I still remember. I was at the UK Songwriting Festival/retreat (UKSF) and I was talking to a couple of musicians, including Chris Whiting, the co-writer. I can’t remember what I was talking about but the words “a ghost of me” came out as part of it. I could see their faces being inspired into a song; I certainly was. Chris and I decided to write it together and I am really glad we did because collaborations teach so much about oneself but enrich each writer with the others’ perspectives of music and songwriting. Chris is amazing, believe me. I am a nightmare to write with because I need so much precision in writing: I feel a wrong word, or a wrong note kills the flow in the story told with a song. Having Chris indulging my peculiarities was comforting.  Boo Hewerdine of The Bible was there too and sprinkled some of his magic on our composition!

Listening to it today, I see the time we took, and I hear what I have since added to the song after the collaboration, like the vocalisations at the beginning of each verse. I am not one for vocalisations to be honest, but there it felt right, as if emoting into birthing each verse, and the song. So, I think the person I would really love to answer this question is Chris Whiting!

It’s interesting to see the books alongside the music – often we seek out further art and exploration to connect with a creative more deeply, so this seems a perfect accompaniment! Where in the process do you craft lyrics and words, and how different is it to read the poems alone as opposed to performing the music as part of a full-band arrangement?

Poems have a rhythm and melody of their own, I feel. Putting more music on them always feels redundant unless I can strip the accompanying sound to let the one in the poem resonate. I love writing, be it poetry, essays, novels, or songs. For me, these are different vehicles of artistic expression that serve the message each in their own way.

Reading poems gives more strength to the words because music can be a distraction to many who don’t always listen to the lyrics. Performing the music though has a wonderful richness because the voice, the instruments, the lyrics, the arrangement, the melody, and the accompanying music come together to support the message. It is like having a supporting band among whose members you can hide. I love sharing with those, like e.g., the audience of Sounds Good, who seem to relate with the essence of the art, whether it is conveyed through poems, essays, or songs.

Do the two formats each attract a different kind of audience base?

Yes and no. I have read the poetry in dedicated poetry clubs, and I have performed the songs in music-only gigs. However, I have found so far that when people come to hear music, they are pleasantly surprised by the reading of a poem, possibly because I don’t read too many and I still play and sing, or possibly because everywhere I have done so was appropriate: the Manchester Central library on Music Day, a house concert, a musical session organised by a poet.

Incidentally I’m originally from Manchester – Despite a booming musical history, we’ve heard about some significant venue closures in recent years. How do you find the live scene there lately, the venues and audience interest alike?

Nice to know, so my question, dear Mancunian, is “When are you coming back? 😉”

We visit as often as possible, I promise! 😂

I think it will still take a little more time to get over the consequences of COVID and the lockdown. The Mancunian audience is wonderful though, especially in places like the notable live venue Band On The Wall, and The Whiskey Jar Open Mic Night. I still haven’t played at the latter, but I did go to listen to the unending flow of talent passing by the venue.

“Judging by how well Joe McAdam (aka Joe Bagpipes) has resumed the live music shows there, I think the shyness will dissipate and the whole of Greater Manchester will return more determined and more musically vibrant than we have ever been.”

What’s your biggest ambition as a creative, and what’s the best thing that could happen for you in the year ahead?

My biggest ambition is to share what I do with the most people possible, including, if possible, via other musicians’ interpretations of my music. I always just wanted to find people who will sing my songs so I can have a peaceful life away from the demands of artistic life. But I guess it is hard to get someone else to sing songs with a message that is fueled by personal experience, no matter how much it expands from it.

There is a weird hold that art has on the bottle that pours its wine to paraphrase David Ball’s song title. The  artist needs to express it without getting inebriated, lest they become stale and craving the royalties of their past outputs more than yearning for the next creative exploration and self-discovery, innovative self-expression, or artistic evolution.

Is there anything else we should know?

First, thank you again for having me. The Sound of The Broken Wand is available as a book (Amazon and all main book retailers), as a CD (all major music retailers) and as a limited-edition hardback Book CD which is my favourite edition, available on Bandcamp at https://tikiblack.bandcamp.com.

Find Tiki Black on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, Bandcamp & her Website.

Rebecca Cullen

Founder & Editor

Founder, Editor, Musician & MA Songwriter

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