Regulars at the Sovereign are in for a real treat on Saturday night as not only is it the pub’s Christmas party, the fabulous dance band Section Eleven will be playing their infectious mix of Latin grooves.
I have to confess, the first time I heard them play I had been dragged rather reluctantly, protesting loudly “I don’t like Latin”, but was soon converted. Section Eleven play an eclectic mix of Latin sounds including Afro-Cuban, Caribbean, Colombian and Brazilian rhythms. The band certainly lived up to its ‘dance’ tagline and in fact I didn’t sit down once during their set, swept along with the band’s big sound and irresistible beat.
So when I heard they would be playing at the Sovereign again I caught up with Venetia Bennion – who plays both Alto and Soprano Saxophone as well as providing some of the vocals – to find out a little more about the band.
Hello Venetia, can you give us some background on Section Eleven?
Section Eleven are an eight-piece band with a BIG sound which includes guitar, keyboards, congas and drums, mixed with saxophones and hand percussion instruments.
We’ve been together for nearly 20 years. We were all teachers at Hackney College and back in the days before electronic communications, Jim Kidner sent out a memo* asking his fellow teachers if they fancied starting a band.
A motley collection of people from across the borough turned up for the first rehearsal. There was a huge range of ability, musical styles and instruments so we basically jammed for the first few years. It was great – we learned from and inspired each other.
How did you make the jump from jamming to playing in front of a live audience?
As we got better Section Eleven became the official Hackney College band and we’d play once or twice a year at college functions or union benefits. We’ve even been on tour – on the Hackney College mini-bus!
Because we had so much fun performing, we began to play more and in fact, have played most of the pubs in the area. We played the Londesborough, the Dog & Dumpling, Cricketers and more recently the Lion, Ryan’s and the Sovereign.
Not many bands manage to stay together for twenty years. What is the secret? Is it an ever revolving line-up?
No, we still have six founder members and the last ‘new’ member joined us about eight years ago. Why have we stayed together? We are all friends and have totally jelled. Over the years we’ve seen every kind of human drama, from births and deaths to marriages and divorces, but the band gives us all a sense of constancy in our lives.
There is a positive vibe between us and while the band is a major part of all our lives, it is a hobby – it was never going to be the main source of income for any of us – we have families, jobs and lives outside of Section Eleven. We enjoy rehearsing, performing and spending time with each other without any of the stresses of striving for commercial success. We do it because we enjoy it, so maybe that is the secret.
Has Section Eleven always been a ‘Latin’ band? And if so, where did that influence come from?
At first we did our own stuff which was pop, but even then we had a Latin influence. Some of the band members had traveled to South America and been influenced by the music there. In the 80s there was a big Latin scene in London and we’d go and see Latin gigs.
As a band we went more Latin about ten years ago. Sue Jarvis had lived in Brazil and played professionally with bands out there, she brought that with her and we liked it and it has continued from there.
Which brings me to my next question, how do you keep the sound fresh after so many years?
We keep bringing in new songs. That is one of the good things about being in a large band – we all have our own musical tastes and can bring that in. At the moment we are doing more New York Latin like boogaloo as well as some reggae and ska.
Does Section Eleven have a CD available that people can buy?
No, we are all too busy going down to the pub! We have recorded in the past but it was more for the crack of hanging out in a recording studio than anything serious.
You can hear some of the music on our website www.sectioneleven.co.uk though to give you a flavour of what we do.
So dust off your dancing shoes and head down to the Sov on Saturday 19th December for a good time. Guaranteed.
* To younger readers, memorandum or memos were typed (by a secretary) on an old fashioned typewriter, usually in triplicate on carbon backed paper.
Section Eleven are:
Jim Kidner: Flute, Guitar, Keyboards & Vocals
Sue Jarvis: Hand Percussion, Guitar & Vocals
Eamonn Crilly: Tenor Sax & Vocals
Venetia Bennion: Alto & Soprano Sax, Vocals
Lisa Grande: Congas, Hand Percussion, Vocals
Barbara Matola: Congas, Hand Percussion
John George: Bass & Vocals
Kevin Ward: Drums