African Rose to re-launch solo career at Splashy Fen 2008


Iconic heroine of the UKs folk-revivalist movement, Miriam Backhouse, has been confirmed as the featured artist to super-headline next years Splashy Fen Music Festival in Underberg March 20 - 24. This special appearance marks the return of a revered figure who for three decades in South Africa has kept virtually secret the prowess of her near-legendary solo persona.

First heard in 1973 on a radio programme broadcast from Englands industrial hub of Sheffield, Miriam had within four years of dedicated, relentless touring become a draw-card of every major folk-club and gathering across the land, including Edinburgh and the even more sought-after Cambridge Folk Festival. The reputation garnered from these appearances led to a recording contract and the release in 1977 of  her debut album Gypsy without a Road, which quickly sold out and  having never been repressed  has ever since fetched as much as 200 pounds at record fairs in the UK.

Miriam experienced yet more pivotal events in 1977  meeting and marrying South African multi-keyboard player John Erasmus and deciding to relocate to this country to start a family. While at that point the Miriam Backhouse likened to Joan Baez and ranked alongside Maddy Prior may have been put on the shelf, the new Mrs Miriam Erasmus soon immersed herself in a host of varied musical ventures with distinctly local flavours. These have ranged from training young voices alongside the late Eve Boswell and starring in stage productions to re-founding the Durban Folk Club and 20 years of gigging festivals, nightspots, fashion shows, charity events and schools with her husband as Mim and John, playing whatever genre of music was demanded by the occasion.

Miriam acquired her African Rose tag in the mid-nineties when she recorded an album by that name but was forced to self-release it without the assistance of any established distribution network. She currently has another collection of folk-nuggets and self-penned songs in the can awaiting a particular major record labels next move. On the more positive side, a crowd favourite - Over Africa  is featured on the Splashy Fen 10 Years compilation and her ultra-rare first album has finally been given a CD-release (www.motherearthmusic.co.uk). The latter has opened doors to a whole new audience for Miriams talent and spurred her into a buzz of activity  an ecstatically received and sold-out UK 2007 tour plus return bookings covering the next three years already secured. For the Cambridge Folk Festival organisers to declare that Weve missed our First Lady of Folk is no small accolade!

Splashy Fen 08 and the reinvention for local fans of Miriam Backhouse The African Rose  will prove to be a magical airing of timeless and thus always relevant British and American classics plus songs fuelled by Miriams own experiences and observations of life in our country. The levels of enthusiasm and inspiration that festival-goers can expect from this true minstrel - as Woodies Folk Club in Sussex calls her - may be summed up in Miriams reaction to being offered the super-headline billing: I turn 60 next year, and in UK folk circles when someone such as Ralph McTell reaches that age theyre given a concert at the Royal Albert Hallfor me to have the featured artist honour at Splashy Fen is just as rewarding!

For details of the build-up to Splashy 08 visit
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updated: 10 years ago