Gemma Khawaja is a singer & guitarist from the Midlands, now based in North Norfolk, playing and singing traditional songs of the British Isles and creating her own songs inspired by rural poets, mythology and folklore. Gemma's arrangements of traditional songs emphasise the universal stories and themes found in folk traditions and sensitively draw out the richness and beauty of the old melodies.
Gemma is the winner of the 2013 Islington Folk Club Trad2Mad unaccompanied song competition.
*"...Performs traditional English songs and ballads and her own compositions with captivating authority..."
"Folk in minimum frills, maximum thrills style. Folk club organisers pay attention"!* ** fRoots March 2016**
"Powerful, unpretentious and rooted"
*Mike Harding March 2016* * "Gemma has an honesty of expression, a quality that’s indelibly imprinted on her vocal cords. Such Mortal Sport is highly captivating and absolutely compulsive listening"*
*Folk Radio UK May 2016*
"...the listener cannot envisage a more satisfying treatment from Gemma’s hands and voice"
Folk Radio UK June 2018
"...a striking singer whose expansive pacing and clear traveller influences stand at the opposite pole to Millennial Blandfolk"
fRoots Magazine Autumn 2018
Gemma continues to enjoy singing a wide selection of unaccompanied songs. Gemma also plays the guitar, tenor guitar and dulcimer and regularly accompanies herself live. In her recordings, Gemma often uses a variety of instruments such as dulcimer, guitars, drone sounds from shruti box/concertina chords and various percussive sounds plus a lot of everyday sound recordings and various editing effects and double tracking to create evocative atmospheres.
To date, Gemma has released 3 physical albums and 2 EPs, including an EP with Adam Rees of Moth House Records and 1 Album (Such Mortal Sport) recorded and produced by Ian Carter of Stick In The Wheel/From Here Records. She has also been featured as a guest singer providing vocal harmonies on an Alasdair Roberts EP and on George Hoyle/Cunning Folk's recent album A Casual Invocation, which has recently been listed as 1 of Songline Magazine's top 10 folk albums of 2020.
Gemma was recently a featured artist, contributing a track called Speed Awareness, on the Help The Witch folk horror concept album released in 2020. The album is based on a book of the same title by acclaimed author Tom Cox; his otherworldly, fiction debut, collection of short stories Help The Witch broke publisher Unbound's record for pre-orders in 2018. Tom approached From Here Records (a label set up by Stick In The Wheel artists Nicola Kearey and Ian Carter) about making a soundtrack to his book and asked some of his favourite musicians to write a new track based on one of the ten stories. Gemma created a ballad style epic to musically accompany the story, here are the sleeve notes for the track:
Tom's story Speed Awareness had another story in the background wanting to be told: the story of John and how he died. Something about the imagery in Tom's original story; the church, its rough oak door with patina like the scratches of a rabid animal, the image of John crawling away - put me in mind of those traditional folk ballads where surroundings seem to preserve some macabre event which has taken place there and continues to echo its horror down through the ages to the present. I therefore chose to place the story of John in the past and to create a ballad-style song to tell it. I borrowed many floating verses and structures from several existent traditional ballads. I used drones as part of the soundscape in order to reconnect the story back to the present of Tom's original story where John's final moments may well have been lived out amidst the bleak sound of a continuous car horn or the sound of emergency sirens converging.*
*The Rolling Of The Stones/Two Brothers (Child 49/Roud 38) and The Three Knights/The Rose & The Lily (Child 11/Roud 26)
You can hear more of Gemma's music on her blog style bandcamp page here: