Top Tunes with Abdul Shayek

Hi Abdul, great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

My name is Abdul Shayek, I am a theatre director and Artistic Director and CEO of Fio.  Fio is a theatre company created as a direct response to the current lack of diversity within the theatre sector in Wales. Of 67 Arts Council Wales, portfolio funded organisations, only one is led by someone of colour, (Liara Barrusi founder and Artistic Director of Jukebox Collective) and has a board to reflect this. Currently, there is no theatre company led by someone of colour other than Kully Thiarai, Artistic Director of National Theatre Wales.

Image Description, head and shoulders photographs of Liara Barrusi founder and Artistic Director of Jukebox Collective and Kully Thiarai, Artistic Director of National Theatre Wales.

Fio is truly the only BAME led theatre company based in Cardiff, but works across the UK and Internationally.  It delivers work across 3 strands: Productions – making politically relevant professional shows.  Projects: delivering high-quality engagement activities.  People: providing interesting, unique and paid training opportunities to a range of individuals trying to develop a career in the sector.  Personally, most of my time is taken up with running Fio, however, I also work for as a freelancer and work across the UK and internationally, most recently I was the associate director on the Channel 4 documentary, Superkids about young people in care, led by Lemn Sissay.

Image Description, Lemn Sissay photographed centre with a group of young people featured in the Superkids documentary.

I have recently come back from Sri Lanka, I was there supporting my partner who is an amazing spoken word artist called Nicole May.

She was invited to perform at The Galle Literature Festival.  I was also there in my role as an Arts and Creative Economy Advisor for the British Council. 

Poster of The Galle Literature Festival, blue background with text in the centre.

This chat is specifically about music and the role it has played in your personal and professional life. Firstly to start off what are you currently listening to? 

I am listening to a range of people at the moment, recently I have been listening to some interesting artists such as Vimala Rowe, who I heard at the Brixton Hidden Jazz Club and Robert Glasper who I was introduced to by my girlfriend.  I am also listening to people like Alexis Ffrench, Kendrick Lemar, Anderson Paak,Sampha, Post Malone, Skepta, Stormzy and Childish Gambino, anything I like the sound of really………

We are interviewing a range of people about their own musical inspiration, can you list 5 records/albums which have a personal resonance to you and why? 

1 Life after Death – The Notorious BIG 

2 All Eyes on Me- Tupac Shukar

I love both these albums as they remind me of my teenage years growing up in East London and both these artist were amazing at what they did, shame their stories finished the way they did.

3 Purple Rain – Prince

What an album and what an artist, I saw his concert at the O2 and he was brilliant.

4 Michael Jackson

To fair, I like all of his albums- its Michael Jackson, what more is there to say, he has it all- the ultimate entertainer- it resonates for me as I remember I couldn’t afford CDs so I had to tape the albums from my mates CD, so as I could have the albums!

5 Illmatic – Nas

I concur with many that this is probably the best hip hop album ever……..the flow, the artists, the lyrics and of course the politics, for me it has significance as it got me thinking about my politics and my world and how I want to change/ influence/ shape it.

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