Mara “If you only knew” Sleeve Notes
Written by Mixmag Editor James Mowbray
It’s 7am and I’m standing out side Miami’s Spiclub with Barry Gilbey and Sara Whitaker-Gilbey, together known as Mara. It’s hot and humid and as the painfully bright sun drills into my pupils I quietly curse myself for forgetting my sunglasses. Mara have just finished an inspirational three-hour performance, combining Barry’s DJing with Sara’s goose-bump inducing live vocals. Although the few early morning commuters passing by don’t know who Mara are, to the crowd of wide-eyed clubbers surrounding them, shaking their hands and asking for pictures, Mara are stars.
A group of ten or so hot, sweaty kids who’ve flown in from LA for tonight’s gig are all trying to tell Sara at once about how her singing was amazing and “really touched them”. I’d been watching this group of LA club kids from inside the DJ booth all night, as they danced their arses off, jumped about like maniacs and raised their hands during the breakdowns. What struck me most was that they hadn’t stopped smiling. Even when the music got dark and tribal they never looked like they were serious about what they were doing. They looked like they were having the best night of their lives. But that’s probably because Mara also looked like they were having the best night of their lives.
When I first met Barry in Mara’s hometown of Sheffield I came away convinced he was a hyperactive genius with an attention deficit disorder. That’s what he’s like when he’s DJing and that’s why the kids from LA were going mad: Barry and Sara’s enthusiasm when they’re in the DJ booth is infectious. For anywhere from two hours to eight hours (a recent Eastern European tour saw them playing two eight-hour sets in 24 hours) Barry and Sara perform, sweat, dance and smile. The DJ booth is their stage.
They haven’t always been the Posh and Becks of Sheffield’s DJing elite. They won’t want you to know, but for five years they performed as a duo in working men’s clubs in northern England to raise money to launch their record label. Barry was on keyboards and Sara would sing. So when they complain about how hard it is travelling to exotic places, performing and playing the music they write and love I can tell them to stop complaining, because they know they ain’t got it that bad. And even though they’ll still protest that it really isn’t that glamorous, over the course of a week in cold, grey London, it’s not unusual for me to wake up to garbled text messages from a Mexican beach, a Hungarian taxi or a Swedish hotel.
This isn’t background music. Mara make dance music that makes me want to move. It doesn’t matter whether that movement is nodding my head on the settee on a Sunday afternoon or jumping around like a loon in a dark, steamy-hot club. Mara’s music makes me want to move because it’s packed full of love, funk and attitude. But that’s enough words. Put it on and let it move you.
released September 23, 2003
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