Paula Darwish & The Country and Eastern Band
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Paula Darwish & The Country and Eastern Band


Band World Rock


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Something made us stop"

Something made us stop.

A musical instrument.

Sort of...

It looked like a mandolin. The next band was setting up, and one of them had the said piece of kit. Now, normally, the only way you can stop me with a mandolin is to hit me in the face with it, but I was intrigued. After hearing Duffy and being so impressed, I wondered how the next band could follow them with...a mandolin.

A percussionist turned up with what looked like a large bird nesting box; literally a box with a round hole in the front. I'd heard there was going to be a Country and Western band on and, as eclectic as my tastes are, I didn't want to listen to somebody singing about their problems, so I'd dismissed it out of hand.

I also liked the look of the lady who came out and picked up the lovely black Gibson and started to tune up. Her name was...


She reminded me of someone. I realised it was a woman I occasionally encounter who just happens to be a lesbian. I'd had a very vivid dream about her one night where she was chasing me around a warehouse full of natural cosmetics, trying to convince me I was a lesbian too. I woke up that morning convinced that I was a man trapped in a man's body; my own of course. And as long as I've got breath left in me that's the way it'll stay, just in case you get any funny ideas.

Her name was Paula Darwish, and as I said, I liked the look of her, so Jason got the beers in and we settled back down at our table.

The rest of the band looked quite interesting too.

The percussionist had a bit of the Hare Krishna about him, and the bass player had the kind of face, that looked like Charles Bronson had held up an off-licence and the police issued a photo-fit.

Don't get me wrong. He didn't look like a robber, but he did look like Charles Bronson, but not quite. He also had a great chunky, well weathered fender bass; not Charles Bronson, the bass player had one.

The mandolin player looked Turkish and nearly took Jason's eye out with the end of it when she was tuning up. She apologised gracefully with a great big smile and then carried on. I couldn't see the drummer because Paula was in the way. I spent the rest of the evening with the interesting optical illusion of seeing the drummer's arms coming out of her hips, like she was some kind of Indian Goddess.

They started playing and...

Well, you see...

It was...

I had no idea. Not a clue. Nada. It sounded...


I looked at Jason, baffled, and he mouthed, 'what the funk?'

I shrugged and listened; baffled. It sounded like the Hare Krishna movement had gone electric; bless them. Fuck all that rice and lentil cooking. You can keep the robe and the bowl and the dancing, just give me a black Gibson and some hair.

My hearing also seemed to have gone to pot as well. I couldn't understand a word she was singing though the voice was lovely. I thought my ears must be blocked. I held my nose, trapping the air and blew hoping to clear my hearing. No. It still sounded like she was singing in Turkish or something. Then the song slipped into reggae. Hare Krishna flashing the weed! What the hell was going on?

The song finished and I was still sitting there with my pen not knowing where to start. 'Nic' took the pen off me, and wrote 'she's got a lovely voice' & 'it's Kurdish' on the top of the page.


... Kur ... dish?

How the hell had that happened? I thought it was Country and Western. Most Country and Western makes my blood curdle, but Kurdish?

Paula announced herself and the band before the next song started:

'My name's Paula Darwish, and we're The Country and Eastern Band.

Now it made sense. (You can read more details at her website above. I'm afraid there is no music there to download or listen to but if you want to catch them live, that's the place to look.)

As the set continued I was completely charmed by Paula.

I have to say that the bass playing was the only loose thread in the set up. For at least half of it, the timing just pulled the hell out of the songs. At the other end of the stage area, the percussionist was versatile and locked in with the drummer. If he could do it, why the hell the bass couldn't, was beyond me. I hate to criticise but it did make a difference, like a loose thread unravelling the fabric of the songs. He was racing ahead like he had a dentist's appointment; in Brazil.

It reminded me of the time I played at the Womad festival with Josephine Oniyama. I was playing bass myself then and had drunk too much coffee, and necked way too many Red Bulls. My adrenaline was racing and I think I finished the set two minutes before the rest of the band. They were coming off stage and I was ready to go on for the encore.

But that was then, and this is now, and I was ready to burst if I didn't use the gents. I made my way over and went through the door and... the music I'd left behind sounded like the most funkiest thing this side of -

"Manchester City Life"

It's scarcely surprising that the Turkish and Kurdish numbers sound exotic to western ears, but the cavalier approach she adopts to pitching on the English language material reminds you that Paula Darwish sails substantially unchartered waters - Dave Tuxford, City life, Manchester

"Country and eastern?"

Review of " Country and eastern" 2002.

This four track CD effectively catches the spirit of Country / Americana, delivered by a (turkish) singer / song writer from Manchester. Each track benefits from the flowing vocal lines of Paula Darwish. A fine voice and together with the slightly imbalanced but worthy tones of the strings its an interesting plot of new folk blended with urban electric ballads. It’s wildly off-kilter at times but completely accessible as well, which makes this CD reasonably appealing to listeners outside of the normal fanbase. Interesting and accomplished material.

Manuel Ecostos -

"Dolly Mixtures and Turkish Delight"

Interview in Rock 'n' Reel September/ October 07

Dolly Mixtures and Turkish Delight - Singer, guitarist and songwriter Paula Darwish leads the Country and Eastern band and also presents Middle Eastern music at the Club Cous Cous nights in Manchester. Norman Darwen finds out more.

Let's ask the obvious question first: Country and Eastern must surely cause some confusion. Paula laughs: "My big influences as a child were country music and Middle Eastern music, but as an adult I've got more into Turkish and Kurdish stuff. 'Country and Eastern' comes from what I grew up with - my dad's Arabic, he used to be really into Dolly Parton and the Arabic singers, so it is literally what it says."

Do people turn up expecting an Arabic Dolly Parton?

"Well, on the CD there is our version of Dolly Parton. We have been billed, wrongly, as a country and western band. That doesn't happen as much nowadays but we had a few kiss-of-death write-ups. I don't think we get many people who come expecting to line-dance; they'll think, 'My God! What's this?'"

Paula was born in Pontefract, West Yorkshire and grew up listening "mainly to stuff that my mum and dad would listen to - I was a bit of an insular child, so I never really listened to pop music. I do now, but didn't then. I'd just listen to stuff at home, which was old reel-to-reels that my dad used to have from Jordan, and Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette, Glen Campbell, those glossy country singers...cheesy country, really."

How did she begin making her own music?

"I've virtually always played in bands since I was twelve. I started off with classical music, playing flute and piano; when I was about eighteen, I started playing keyboards in a band. I played keyboards in a band called TV Babies around London and the south east for quite a few years, which was basically not my stuff but this guy was a really good friend of mine. He was really into The Clash. Our connection was politics rather than music. Then I got into folky stuff … Bob Dylan, Irish music, and I taught myself guitar because I wanted to play on my own and didn't really think piano went with that. So I started playing and that just developed, kind of singer-songwriter-style songs, probably a bit weird at that time. Then I got fed-up with the gigs and that coincided with when I really got into Turkish and Kurdish stuff. So I just played in Turkish and Kurdish community centres. I just stopped playing anything English for two or three years."

Why Turkish and Kurdish music?

"I went to Turkey for six months and I grew really interested in it. I thought it would be similar to Middle Eastern music; some is, but the stuff from the folk tradition, I'd never heard that, and I just heard it there in cafés. I absolutely loved it. I brought a few cassettes home and listened to them. I didn't really do anything about it for quite a long time but then I decided to go to college to do Arabic. At the last minute I saw they had Turkish … one of those bizarre life-changing things. I went for the interview and was accepted. Part of it was studying in Istanbul - I absolutely loved it, I was completely taken by it."

Paula's first recording was made to try to get gigs in Turkey.

"I did a demo CD, all in Turkish, with all-Turkish instruments. That was the first Country and Eastern thing, some tracks were blues-styled and country-styled, but all Turkish songs and all Turkish lyrics. So I took that with me. It wasn't really good enough to open any doors - possibly it would have if I'd had longer but I was a bit naïve; I just went and didn't have enough money to hang around. It is completely naïve to think that in a couple of months something will happen. When I came back to England, I didn't want to go back to London, so here I am in Manchester.

"I thought, 'There's so much live music going on, and it's as good a place as any!' There's loads of Turkish, Kurdish, Syrian musicians in London, so being naïve I thought I'd just get some people in Manchester who can play this Turkish stuff. I went to an open mic night first of all, and met musicians through that. It carried on for two years with different people, hiring session musicians and people who heard what I was doing. The belly dance thing is quite big round here, so that also helped me meet other musicians."

And finally the present incarnation of the Country & Eastern Band came together:

"Ric Gibbs was my first and permanent drummer; he's been the only one. He's played a lot of Middle Eastern music; he plays hand drums, kit, everything, so he's absolutely perfect. When I've said I do this, most musicians have been really interested. I realised quickly that I wasn't going to find anyone who knows any Turkish folk songs, but then last year I got Serpil Kiliq, a Kurdish woman saz [a lute-like instrument] player who lives in Manchester - very lucky! It's such a different tradition - Rock 'n' Reel


Do What You Love - planned release early 2008
Urfa Folk Song - Oriental Media, Berlin 2006
Autumn Sessions - Paula Darwish 2005
Island - Paula Darwish 2003
Country and Eastern - Paula Darwish 2002



Love it or leave it, few could challenge Paula Darwish and The Country & Eastern Band in terms of sheer originality. Inventing your own genre of music is not for the faint hearted but then who else in the world is mad enough to try and mix Dolly Parton and kurdish folk in the same set?

Don't expect sandals and kaftans - their gigs are as much about rock and dance grooves as they are about ethnic origins. After 5 years of a monthly residency at the Iguana Bar in Manchester, The Country and Eastern Band have earned their stripes as an exciting and intriguing live band. They now play at dedicated world music night Club Couscous which is a tribute to the dogged determination of Paula Darwish to pull world music out of the elitist ghetto to new audiences.

The band that started off playing rocked up versions of Turkish folk alongside Paula's own country spiked english ballads has melded into a heady fusion of languages and beats. The sound is never better illustrated than in their stomping eastern take on Dolly Parton's Jolene.

Paula was born in Yorkshire in northern England into a mixed arab english family. She has lived in England most of her life but also in Greece and Turkey. She studied Turkish language and literature in London and Istanbul after falling in love with the music she had heard in Turkey.

The Country and Eastern Band was formed in Manchester in 2002. It began as loose coalition of musicians interested in eastern music and has now settle into the current regular line-up. The band members have brought their own influences to the music notably Ric Gibbs on drums who has brought a north african flavour to some of the songs. Also, the addition of Serpil Kilic on saz has given the band the opportunity to experiment with more traditional anatolian folk sounds.

Festivals played in 2007 include: The Manchester International Festival, Manchester Celebrate Festival, Hebden Bridge World on Your Doorstep festival, Chorlton Arts Festival and High Peak Music Festival.