Michael Baird was born in Lusaka, Zambia, in 1954. Aged 10 'repatriated' to the land of his parents Great Britain, resident in the Netherlands since he was 13. Studied Philosophy at Leicester University in England for a year, then dropped out and became a professional musician aged 20. Started his own record label SWP Records in 1987, releasing his own music, music from central, eastern, and southern Africa, and anything else that is unique and forgotten. The African music he had heard as a child always remained with him and when he started his own percussive group Sharp Wood in 1984, the style earned the tag 'Voodoo-Jazz' due to the exorcistic character of the concerts. Visited the archive of field recordist Hugh Tracey in 1996, and inspired by Tracey's lifework went on to make his first own field recordings in 1996 in Zambia and Zimbabwe. Compiled and produced the 22-cd series 'Historical Recordings by Hugh Tracey', remastering directly from the original field tapes, released by SWP Records. Upon completing this cd series in 2006, the sad conclusion was that most of the music Tracey had recorded had already disappeared with the space of 50 years. Michael continued to make field recordings mostly in rural areas, in Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Lesotho to date, recording beautiful music that no one either knows about or bothers about. How much traditional music is still being played and if not, what is being played in its place?
Making audio recordings is all very well, but seeing the music being played is a whole extra aspect! Michael so often wished, after recording great music, that he had had professional video people with him. And so it came to pass, as yet another old master musician he had recorded and befriended over the years passed away, that he went in November 2018 with the young talented Dutch filmmaker Engel Mulder to make a film himself about two old master musicians amongst the Leya people of Zambia - Crispin Mutanuka playing the silimba xylophone and Edwin Syasiya playing the kanimba lamellophone ( = thumb-piano). Both in their eighties at the time of shooting, who will succeed them when they are gone, will the ancient knowledge in the music get continued, can the influence of the ancestors just dry up?! The 57-minute documentary film 'Mutanuka and Syasiya' portrays these two old musicians, with live performances and in-depth interviews - also with the Leya Chief and Chietainess. This small cultural tragedy is taking place in the shadow of the thriving tourist business just 5 kms away centered around the famous Victoria Falls, which lie within the territory of the Leya. Mutanuka and Syasiya are but two examples of loss of cultural identity - and subsequent loss of cultural diversity. With expert editing, the film tells the truth, Michael's rapport with and respect for his fellow musicians as well as his Zambian roots open doors normally closed, everything happened naturally, and the music is beautifully real. Great post production (colour grading & sound-design) by FeverFilm in Amsterdam: film finished end of May 2020.