A Walk With King Sour
King Sour DA MC also known as Yasin Ahmed
Descending the stairs from Clive Murphy’s flat above the Aladin Curry House, I passed through the street door and crossed the road to shake hands King Sour, the poet and singer, in his customary position on the corner of Brick Lane and Hanbury St. Yasin had just come from Friday prayers and, in the time before he started work at his uncle’s restaurant that evening, he offered to take me for walk around some of the places that are important to him in Spitalfields.
Even before we set out, the rain came down and so Yasin escorted me along Hanbury St and down a flight of stairs into kitchen of the Reema Balti House. In the warmth of the kitchen, away from the chill of the street, we found Yasin’s uncle, Shawkoth Ali, assiduously chopping spices while Mahfuz, the tandoori chef, rolled out chapatis expertly. For the past four months, Yasin has been working here as a waiter and doing pavement promotion.“There’s forty-seven restaurants here, so it’s very competitive,” he explained, “but I think it makes for a friendly atmosphere to offer people deals on the street.”
This summer, Yasin finished college where he has been studying customer services and then worked at restaurants belonging to cousins in Plymouth and Bournemouth before coming back to London. Recently, Yasin turned eighteen and besides playing the lead in a film for the Whitechapel Gallery – Give to me the life I love - he is going for jobs in hospital administration. “As well as my artistic life, I want a nine to five job,” he informed me shrewdly.
Once we had warmed up, it was time to brave the rain again, so we walked back down Hanbury St towards the Spitalfields Market – this is the direction that Yasin heads when he needs a little time to think, away from the chaos of Brick Lane. To the right, in Lamb St, is a small square with four park benches where Yasin takes refuge when he needs to regain his sense of proportion. “This is where I come when I am upset and need time to consider my problems.” he explained indicating his preferred place to sit, “I can look right into the market and watch the people walk by, and remind myself they all have problems too.”
On the far side of the market, we descended a flight of steps to view the medieval charnel house of St Mary Spital. A huge pane of glass permits you to look through into the ruins beneath the corporate offices looming overhead, and the glass is highly reflective, offering an image of yourself set against the ancient stonework – an effect that especially appeals to Yasin. “This is where I come to write poetry, because it is so different from the other side of Brick Lane, where the streets are full of devils.” he confided to me, widening his eyes, “Where I am from, you see devils all over the place, or should I say misunderstood angels?” We were right at the heart of the financial offices but there was no-one around in the mid-afternoon with the rain falling. Yasin discovered this extraordinary space, silent yet alive with poetic resonance, and he has made it his sanctuary. At ground level, we paused by the fountain and lily pond which the office workers pass by with disinterest, while Yasin stood in wonder, fascinated by the beauty of it.
In the rainy haze of dusk, we left Bishop’s Sq and walked around to White’s Row ascending in the lift to the top of the multi-storey car park. Situated on the wrong side of the congestion charge boundary, this empty car park offers a roof space that is visited by few. It is the ideal destination for Yasin to seek solitude. “I used to smoke up here on a hot day and reflect on life, ” he admitted fondly, as we stood peering down Commercial St and up to the vast spire of Christ Church overhead.
We discovered a startling contrast, crossing Commercial St and finding ourselves back in the narrow streets among the Curry Houses again. “The corner of Brick Lane and Hanbury St is my second home,” Yasin confessed to me, recognising that this is the centre of gravity in his personal landscape, “Brick Lane is a very comfortable place because there is a community where everyone welcomes each other. I’m staying here at least until I am twenty-five, but then I want to move out and give my parents a bit of peace!”
King Sour with his uncle Shawkoth Ali chopping spices and Mahfuz, the Tandoori chef, in the kitchen of the Reema Balti House.
In Lamb St
Yasin contemplates his reflection set against the ruins of the medieval charnel house.
At Bishop’s Sq.
Looking down Commercial St from the top of White’s Row car park.
King Sour DA MC, also known as Yasin Ahmed
Lucinda Rogers‘ drawing of King Sour performing at Rough Trade in the Truman Brewery
You may also like to read my original profile of