|Labels||Big Bass Drum|
|Past members||Mark Horwood (deceased)|
|Vocals, Keyboards, Strings, Trumpet, Guitar, Percussion|
The Mummers is a band based in the English seaside town of Brighton, centred around London-born singer/songwriter Raissa Khan-Panni, composer Mark Horwood (before his suicide in September 2009), producer/writer Paul Sandrone and co-producer/manager Alastair Cunningham. They take their name 'Mummers' from the medieval performing troupes who would go from door-to-door wearing masks and costumes, staging plays in rhyme and song and mime.
Khan-Panni, once better known as Raissa, is a singer whose origins include English, Chinese, Indian, and Mexican. She was raised in the South London district of West Norwood, and as a child studied classical music, learning the piano and then oboe. She spent her school-days busking in Leicester Square and later all over Europe, before returning to study music in Bristol. In 2000 she enjoyed critical acclaim across the media spectrum, most notably with the album Believer released by Polydor Records and the single "How Long Do I Get" which was played extensively on UK radio stations.
Despite the acclaim, by 2001 the solo projects were winding down and Khan-Panni returned to work, waitressing full-time in a Brixton restaurant. She describes this period as "a time of having nothing again" when, after several years of excitement, she returned to the mundane and the ordinary. However, she was still writing lyrics which began by documenting this period of her life but soon spun out to a fantasy world as her mind wandered while working. During this time Khan-Panni remained in close contact with her manager and co-creator of The Mummers Alastair Cunningham, and Paul Sandrone, a collaborator during her time recording as Raissa, and the trigger for the formation of The Mummers came when Sandrone passed a recording to orchestral composer Mark Horwood, who was living on the South Coast in a treehouse studio just outside Chichester. Horwood composed a soundtrack around Khan-Panni's lyrics, but then moved to Los Angeles to work on a film soundtrack without leaving contact details. It was a year before Khan-Panni finally met Horwood, who was now living near Brighton, and the layered, orchestral sound of The Mummers, at that time still nameless, rapidly emerged.
Tale To Tell
The name of the band was inspired by their ever-changing cast of 20 musicians from around the Brighton area that Khan-Panni, Sandrone and Horwood assembled to begin recording their first album in Horwood's treehouse studio. With co-producer Alastair Cunningham, the project took two years to complete, and was released as Tale to Tell in April 2009. It is a lushly orchestrated fantasia, inspired by "marching bands, big bands and fairgrounds" and featuring the sound of a brass band, string quartet, orchestra, and the Moog Synthesiser. It was also heavily influenced by John Barry's filmscores for James Bond and the MGM musicals of the 40s and 50s. Rufus Wainwright's use of Ravel's 'Bolero' in 'O What a World' is also cited as an example. The joint collaboration of Cunningham and Khan-Panni also gave birth to a brand new record label 'Big Bass Drum' which was quickly set up to rush out the album in order to capitalise on sudden unexpected media interest. The Mummers performed two tracks from Tale to Tell, Wonderland and March of the Dawn on the opening show of series 34 of BBC Two's Later... with Jools Holland, while in May 2009 March of the Dawn was iTunes single of the week.
On 7 September 2009 Mark Horwood took his own life at his mother's house near Chichester. He leaves an amazing legacy for music, but his family and his close friends were devastated, and his close family are still struggling to come to terms with the suddenness of his death. His father Ellis George Horwood died at home in 2007: he was Mark's best friend and it may be that he never really reconciled to his father's passing. He is most dreadfully missed by us all.
Mink Hollow Road EP
With the band in shock, all engagements were cancelled and a period of contemplation sent the band into what Raissa calls a 'cocoon period' It was during this time that the first tentative recordings for their next EP 'Mink Hollow Road' were created, and after an initial 'darker' direction they eventually emerged with a sound even more lush, joyous and uplifting than before, continuing on from the style they had created with 'Tale to Tell'. The first completed track was 'Call me a Rainbow', about a euphoric feeling of being suspended in mid-air looking down at the world beneath. Raissa herself says this was the first song she was happy with after Mark's death and continuing the themes of 'Tale to Tell', it was again a reaction to reality, and a way of trying to make things better.
'Fade Away' is the second track on the EP, a little-known Todd Rundgren cover from his album 'The Hermit of Mink Hollow'. Raissa first heard it in a taxi on a trip to Miami in 2009 on the way to meet American hip-hop label SRC Records (Universal Motown). She says that the sound of it blew her away and lyrically also it seemed to fit in with all the 'surreal things' that were happening around that time. Paul Sandrone was also a fan of the record, so on their return to the UK they decided to cover it and turn it into a glistening Mummers fanfare. They then titled the EP 'Mink Hollow Road' as a homage to the place where Rundgren wrote and recorded 'Fade away', a valley of pine forests in the countryside just outside New York that to Raissa is curiously reminiscent of the coutryside surrounding their former Treehouse studio.
'Driving Home' the third track on the EP was also inspired by the Miami trip. It was the first track where Raissa felt she had the confidence to orchestrate herself, having learned from closely watching Horwood.
The final three tracks use material started with Horwood in 2009. 'Cherry Heart' was originally written for legendary 80s video director Steve Baron's new Sci-fi series 'Slingers' (still in production). The idea is about a girl who wakes up in the 23rd century not realising she's a robot. It invokes the 'Rat Pack' swing sound of the 1950s with a modern edge.
'Your Voice' uses the original sound of birdsong from the Treehouse with a frail vocal reminiscent of the 40s and 50s.
Ironically 'Stuck in the Middle' was originally written for a friend of Raissa's whose boyfriend had committed suicide.
Mink Hollow Road was released in Jan 2011 on 'Big Bass Drum' to great acclaim, with many reviewers claiming that The Mummers had made a triumphant return to form. After only one live performance at the Jazz Cafe in London in June 2010, a UK tour was put together for April 2011. In February the single 'Fade Away' (released on Feb 8th) was playlisted by BBC Radio 2.
The Mummers have also embarked on a number of orchestral remixes of other artists' tracks, including the American bands The Black Keys, Passion Pit, and French Horn Rebellion. An album of these is being considered for the future.
- Tale to Tell (2009) - Big Bass Drum
- unknown title - a new album is due out late 2013
- Mink Hollow Road (2011) - Big Bass Drum
- Official Website
- The Mummers on Myspace
- The Mummers at BBC Music
- The Times review of The Mummers live
- 'Mummers musician found hanged', The Argus, 18 September 2009
-  interview in The Guardian
-  Later with Jools Holland