odd one out
Get acquainted with rising British folk musician Hak Baker via his debut EP and in anticipation of its follow-up. Blending the classic tradition of honest, emotive storytelling with contemporary beats and rhythms, his is a sound that looks both inward and outward, into the present and towards the future. Listen up.
words by: Fajar Zakhri
What comes to mind when you hear the term "folk music"? Two words probably come to mind: acoustic guitar. 26-year-old East Londoner Hak Baker is certainly playing one and writes his music using the instrument, but he also weaves in a wide range of influences, running the gamut from African and Caribbean rhythms to jazzy inflections to beat-driven concoctions. What binds these seemingly disparate elements is Baker's understated yet soulful voice, and most notably, his emotive storytelling. His debut single, "7AM", is the best showcase for this: you could absolutely feel the aching sense of isolation in Baker's forlorn warbling and the haunting guitar lines.
As the best folk music does, the singer-songwriter depicts the everyday lives of ordinary people with sharp observation and keening lyricism. It is no wonder then that his debut EP, a 7-track collection that explores the tales of troubled, disaffected youngsters of East London, is entitled Misfits: its title track is a trippy, jagged joint featuring the solemn declaration that "we are the era of misfits", while another cut - the aptly titled "Tom" - pays homage to a departed friend. The visual for the jazzy and heart-tugging "Like It Or Lump It" even sees Baker visiting the late friend's cemetery.
"I’ve always been a bit of the emotional one of the boys. I’ve always been the one who’d get too drunk and start crying," he admitted. This outpouring of emotion may seem to be far removed from his early beginnings in the grime scene with the B.O.M.B Squad collective, for which Baker achieved some recognition in his teens. Bouts of incarceration, however, proved to be not only an epiphany but also something of a gestation period - it was during this period that he started picking up the guitar and writing songs in hopes of sharing them upon release.
"SKINT" - British slang for penniless and the first taste from his upcoming EP - is a step in a familiar yet bolder direction, with even more bracing honesty in its recounting of the hard-knock urban life. "Until my phone rings, I'll be praying for the saving grace," he sings over serpentine riffs and jagged beats. If the tune is anything to go by, it is a highly promising start for the shape of things to come and further reinforces Baker's grip as one of the most intriguing forces to come out of the British folk scene. Long live the misfits.