#Champion

When I took part in the London Olympic Opening Ceremony I had no idea that it would change my life.  I got the part of a drummer marshal and thought I would be cheering on the VIPs and the Athletes. I could not have imagined that ordinary volunteers would have been transformed by the roles we got to play in the ceremony.  If you thought the ceremony was jaw-dropping, that’s the way we all felt when we first saw what part Danny Boyle and the ceremonies team had in store for us! I got involved in the Olympics because I was so impressed that London won its bid by celebrating diversity and pitching itself as a world class city. I think that both this bid and the ceremony are a timely reminder that when we express the internationalist dynamics that are central to the success of London, we truly realise our potential on the world stage.
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The Opening Ceremony was a hugely creative process.  As a DIY musician  it was a formative experience to be watching this historically important cultural event come together.  I was impressed at the bold, daring moves put forward by the creative team – we were playing buckets, not drums, entire segments were showcasing the anonymous cast of volunteers, whereas high profile VIPs such as the Queen and Mr Bean were getting comparative cameos in this show.  Musically, it managed to pull together Elgar’s ‘Nimrod’, ‘Bonkers’ by Dizzy Rascal, a Jazzed up version of ‘Tubular Bells’ and a new piece of music ‘And I Will Kiss’, complete with industrial electronic breaks, all into a cohesive, emotional whole. It ran the gambit from tearful emotion to all out humour. It achieved the ultimate aim of keeping a British audience, who can be a difficult crowd, happy. For me it was beyond national pride – I think it was fundamental human connection.  And that was so important for the turbulent world that we were in at the time of the 2012 Olympics, and the world we find ourselves in now.
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The volunteers were so inspired by the ceremony, that they have continued since that day.  There are dance classes, volunteers for sports events and the drummers, gifted our buckets that night, have played at over 150 events from stadiums to homeless shelters at Christmas.  The connection runs deep and has led to some of the most fulfilling experiences of my life.  We are able to bring a bit of the ceremony through our performances to events in a way that lights up the room.  Along the way, we have met inspiring people including Stephen Sutton MBE, a teenager who hit the headlines in 2014 as he bravely faced his last days in a battle with cancer that inspired people around the world to donate millions to Teenage Cancer Trust. We also performed with Basement Jaxx at their  Peace One Day concert in Sept 2015.  It was a show of people power like the opening ceremony had been.  I wrote the track ‘Champion’ to sum up how inspired we were on the night of the ceremony and the spirit that had kept us going since. I’m not going to win a gold at the Olympics any time soon, but I felt like I had been handed one by the experiences of 2012 and since.  People like Stephen Sutton showed us that courage is important whatever situation you face, and that’s why the track is dedicated to him, the only honorary Pandemonium Drummer.  People power came back into play to get the track ‘Champion’ from a demo to a fully fledged single in a mere 6 weeks. We are truly indebted to Felix Buxton and the Basement Jaxx family for going above and beyond to make this track happen. It has had media coverage for the message of the track, which is beyond our wildest dreams. It has had people contacting us telling us they are in tears at the deep emotions that the music has brought out of them.  This is an accolade that money cannot buy. For this I have to thank the artists, drummers, volunteers, Teenage Cancer Trust family and the crew who donated their time and efforts, showing get up and go to make it happen. Elite Squad were completely central to this exciting process.
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With Rio around the corner, our final anniversary as the host city of the Olympics could have been bittersweet – as we hand the baton over to Rio to be the centre of the world, it could have felt like we would be no longer current. However, the spirit of the games that we all felt from the ceremony onwards has inspired a creativity and dynamism in people that have been touched by the Champion track. It feels like the opening of a new chapter.
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Champion is out now on itunes/amazon google play watch the full music video here: championsong.uk 

Denis Fernando

Olympic Opening Ceremony Drummer / Composer of Champion

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