Werkha is Tom A. Leah, a Mancunian in Glasgow, via rural Cumbria.
First adopting the alias in 2012, Tom’s time so far as Werkha has seen him craft a singular sonic portfolio; exploring a vast array of live instrumentation, band arrangement, electronic production, DJ and remix work.
Like his busy schedule, Werkha’s productions demonstrate an infectious energy, curiosity, and enthusiasm for exploring the ways in which sound can traverse time and space, taking in transatlantic jazz and soul, diasporic West African percussion, trembling Chinese guzhengs, rolling Lancashire hillsides and vibrating urban tenements.
After his first Cube & Puzzle EP on Cool Kid Music, Werkha signed to iconic Brighton-based label Tru Thoughts, releasing the Beacons EP in 2014, followed by his widely lauded debut album Colours of a Red Brick Raft last year.
Described by Urban Essence, as: “ooz[ing] with creative flair, vibrancy and musical craftsmanship. It has soul, it has funk, it has feeling,” Colours showed the maturing musical depth of this still young producer; balancing an organically live kinetic energy with an attentive ear for sonic nuance, spatialisation, and harmony. Tom’s subtly impressive lustrous guitar playing also shines through on the album, touching on the Breezin’ jazz tones of a young George Benson. Clash magazine extolled the record as “a challenging, yet intensely satisfying listen”, with Werkha’s ideas and wide range of influences percolating at such a frequency that he ends up “creating new subgenres of his own.”
Supported consistently by Gilles Peterson, who included early single “Sidesteppin” on his Brownswood Bubblers Ten, Werkha’s music has also been heavily championed by THUMP, Eton Messy, Rob da Bank, BBC R1’s Monki, John Kennedy at Radio X, and a broad range of BBC 6Music tastemakers including Lauren Laverne, Nemone and Tom Ravenscroft.
Werkha’s virtuoso live band, fronted by regular collaborator Bryony Jarman-Pinto, alongside Matt Davies (kit), Alan Keary (bass), Dom Morris (FOH), have been busily honing their craft for a while now, playing clubs and festivals across Europe, alongside high profile support tours with Bonobo and Chet Faker. Werkha’s DJ chops are also impressive, most effortlessly at home in the context of the So Flute club-night he helps run in Manchester, alongside fellow residents Baloo, Bolts, Danuka and Yadava.
Linking up for remixes and gigs with luminaries like Mr Scruff, Contours, Dutch Uncles, Henry Wu, Alexander Nut, DVA, General Ludd, Quantic, Hot 8 Brass Band, and more, Werkha’s musical community extends through Manchester, London, Glasgow and beyond, finding him at the heart of a vibrant, diffused scene that is always evading categorisation.
Werkha’s recent collaborations with local musicians at Glasgow’s African Arts Centre, and willingness to use his platform to take stands against Tax Dodging, Sexism, and Racism, show a musician with a rare ability to do the tricky political work of building networks of commonality through music.
The future already looks busy for Tom, with a new album in store for 2017, trailed by a string of singles and live dates in the second half of 2016; Werkha continues to expand his already wide musical ideas in depth and breadth, exploring the possibilities of movement through sound.