Former Chumbawamba guitarist has co-written new song for West Yorkshire set to be recorded in Leeds

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A Former member of rock band Chumbawamba has co-written a new song inspired by West Yorkshire people and Covid times, which is set to be recorded in Leeds.

Ex-Chumbawamba guitarist Boff Whalley helped write the song called Looking Out, Reaching Out, which will feature community choirs from Leeds.

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Co-commissioned by Opera North, Looking Out, Reaching Out is one of 14 'County Songs’ specially written to mark the struggles of the past 18 months, and to celebrate our communities and the power of music in bringing them together.

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Boff WhalleyBoff Whalley
Boff Whalley

It will be recorded in front of a live audience at the Howard Assembly Room, Leeds, over the coming weeks before it is premiered online as part of Sound UK’s nationwide project A Song for Us on Wednesday February 2.

The Leeds-based Commoners Choir - which was founded by Boff - and the Harmony choir from Burmantofts will be part of the recording

Looking Out, Reaching Out emerged from words written by people from across the county.

Born in Burnley, Boff moved to Leeds to study at Leeds University in 1981.

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He formed Chumbawamba the following year and has since spent most of his life in Leeds.

Boff said: “We asked people some simple questions about their connections to West Yorkshire and what that means to them.

"We asked them how they think West Yorkshire connects to the rest of the world, and how the rest of the world comes into this county to influence it”.

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His co-writer is singer and composer Thanda Gumedeis, whi is originally from Durban.

The city in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, has its own ties with West Yorkshire:

Thanda said: “My best friend’s grandfather is Obed Mlaba, the former Mayor of Durban, who was behind the twinning of Durban and Leeds in 1999.

“Boff and I were in agreement that we wanted our song to dig deep.

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"As a migrant worker I personally felt reticent about speaking for the natives of God’s Own Country.

"So reaching out to the people of West Yorkshire to ask them what West Yorkshire means to them felt like a fitting route to take”.

Looking Out, Reaching Out also reflects on the pandemic that has kept us all homebound:

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Thanda said: "Lockdown made us feel separated from the whole world.

“But music kept me sane and gave me purpose: through it, I was able to connect with so many people around the world.

"So many were suffering, but singing remotely with my choir in Otley helped me to connect with senior citizens who may have been neglected.

Jo Nockels, projects director at Opera North, said: “We are delighted to be working on this commission with Thanda Gumede, whose blend of Zulu, jazz and gospel influences make him such a unique composer."

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The new song premieres at at 12.30pm on Wednesday February 2.

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