Grace Acladna in Cambridge: Why you should be excited

Isaac Castella McDonald 6 February 2020


Acladna will be talking about her experience with the music industry on the 9th of February: The Bawden room, Jesus College, 2 – 4pm.

‘London is burning and it’s all my fault

But after the fire it will turn to gold’

Grace Acladna’s most popular song fits itself into the long tradition of art about London – the city that is a constantly regenerating subject, as slippery as the ever-changing skyline. The dimly recalled nursery rhyme ‘London is burning’ is repurposed here, the catastrophe of 1666 is now a personal crisis – the familiarity of ‘the great city’ has been reduced to a ‘great solitude’.

The song is about moving on, but also about burial. The familiarity of the nursery rhyme, that I’m sure everyone reading can remember from a simpler time, enhances this song’s sense of disillusionment and the release of something that is being buried in the past, but also encapsulates its optimism – its hope that after ‘the fire it will turn to gold’. A simple four bar riff echoes hollowly beneath these lyrics, and the sparse instrumentation allows Acladna’s soulful voice to take centre stage. This is a song made for driving through the city in a melancholy night, looking at the lights in quiet.

Acladna herself has grew up on the outskirts of London, in Hounslow – part of the Western sprawl that connects London and Slough. You’d imagine she’s spent a lot of time driving on the streets she sings about in this song. She comes from a rich musical heritage. It is widely reported that her musical inheritance includes Egyptian choir mistresses and Bajan gospel singers. More obviously you can hear Nina Simone in her voice and Bjork in some of her more experimental instrumentation.


‘London’s laid back vibe is not Acladna’s only vibe. In ‘Ötenazi (if you want)’ she takes on a more club-centred trance sound. ‘Losing it’ sounds both classic and thoroughly modern. For me, the vocal harmonies evoke black-and-white Paris, while the instrumentation and drums ensure the song is placed firmly in the 21st century. Acladna is bringing the classic ballad-style beauty of the female voice, and re-setting it in her characteristic techno-house-pop sound. In the days of the prevalence of autotune (the era of the auto-crooners) Acladna, alongside contemporaries like FKA Twigs, are fusing the glamour and talent of the 20th century stars with the technology of the 21st.

Acladna is coming to Cambridge on the 9th of February as part of the John Hughes Arts Festival. She will be talking about her experience with the music industry so far, and going through the composition process of some of her songs. To anyone interested in working in the music industry this will be a great chance to get some advice from someone with recent and in depth knowledge of the London music scene. Songwriters and musicians come along to see how an acclaimed artist does her work, and people who simply like what she’s doing with pop, come to see her in person and ask her any questions you might have.