“Music is a pragmatic thing for people. It’s how we exchange culture, it’s how we exchange what help we need and what help we can return.” - Werkha
Hailing from Manchester with roots in the Cumbrian north, Werkha (real name Tom Leah) and his foot stomping, jazz inflected beats have been gracing the airwaves for the best part of a decade.
Influenced as much by the rolling fells surrounding his village home as those hot sweaty times we share on the dancefloor. Werkha makes music for those crucial moments, the ones that make us feel connected as humans. When the bustle of city life comes up against the steadiness of rural perspective.
Fascinated by this dichotomy, it’s the interrelationship between these two worlds and how they weave together that inspires Werkha to write. This push and pull is reflected both in his process and in the music. Striving to make something which straddles both worlds, Werkha creates dance music with a head and a heart.
“We can use the action of creating, especially collaborating, to share mistakes and successes. We can cement that into the existence of sound, to act as a pillar on which to build social values that help us understand one another better.” - Werkha
With this in mind, collaboration and exchange remain central to his practice. Werkha has featured artists such as; Bryony Jarman-Pinto, Alex Rita, Berry Blacc and Ellen Beth Abdi on his previous releases. His signature ‘chopped-up’ approach to the writing process lends itself naturally to remixes. Having created rewerks for ONIPA, Quantic, Marcos Valles, Dutch Uncles, Andrew Ashong & J-Felix amongst others.
In recent years he has co-written and produced 2 very different and very beautiful albums. Firstly with long-time friend and fellow Cumbrian, Bryony Jarman-Pinto. Her much-anticipated debut, the delicate and introspective ‘Cage and Aviary’, was released on Tru Thoughts in August 2019.
Secondly with Mancunian wordsmith, powerhouse and polymath Keisha Thompson aka Shebekeke. Her album, the contemplative and cerebral ‘Ephemera’ merges beats, music and spoken word (with cello and additional vocals from Abel Selacoe).
In 2020, Werkha released ‘The Rigour’ on First Word, a groove-laden foray into work, play and everything in-between. This EP features lush strings from Simran Singh and vocals from Berry Blacc and Ellen Beth Abdi.
Now he’s back with a brand new album. ‘All Werk Is Play’ marks Werkha’s first full-length solo project since his debut album ‘Colours Of A Red Brick Raft’ on Tru Thoughts in 2015, and sees this multi-talented musician produce a delightfully vibrant body of werk.
‘All Werk Is Play’ is a deep dive into the nooks and crannies of Werkha’s mind. In his most seminal work to date, synth bass-lines underpin orchestral soundscapes which flow into crooked drum beats, chopped up sax, pokey kitchen fixture samples, and soulful, hook-driven, four-to-the-floor stompers evoking late night subterranean dance-floors. All with his signature lilting, fervent grooves that with every twist and turn will inspire you to dance.
Eclectic and daring yet congruent and familiar, ‘All Werk is Play’ is a refreshing and uplifting take on UK Dance and one which you will undoubtedly have on repeat.
“The only live show you’ll see where the flutes outnumber the rest of the instruments!” - DJ Gilla, Jazz Cafe, Jan 2022.
The Werkha Live Show consists of a hand-picked selection of musicians from the Manchester scene. With drummer Joe Luckin tackling the cross rhythms of Werkha's beats on live kit. Ellen Beth Abdi and Dommylaws make up the silky jazz-flute section as well as providing their combined smooth R&B vocals.
A versatile and compelling group of collaborators who truly know how to have fun on stage. They recreate the records in an exciting, innovative way. With enjoyment at the centre of everything they do, this live show is not to be missed.
Each shape, sound and moment in this music arrives in blocks and fluid lines. Constructing the identity and driving the form, with the sole purpose of creating and manifesting that shared experience. A musical common, that visceral space between the speakers, on the floor or in the fields. All Werk Is Play.
“We create and we play. For better communication, in each other's interests. It’s more powerful than laws or instructed moral, it’s aural, it's ethereal. Music is an incredible and distinctly human resource” - Werkha