The face behind “Toy Soldiers”

It’s almost 6 years since I released the Complex Simplicities EP and when I recently listened to my track titled “Toy Soldiers” it brought back memories of the photograph that inspired the music.

As a musician I have always set myself a challenge of transforming a human emotion into music. When I was in medical school I was revising for an exam at the Birmingham library over the holiday period when I was back home in Walsall.  The famous award-winning photographer had an exhibition at the Birmingham Art Gallery which caught my eye on my home from the library so I wandered in with curiosity and intrigue, but nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to see…

McCurry’s work has an awesome intimacy through which he is able to capture the invisible electricity of a human emotion without losing the intricate collaboration between skin, bone and environment. As my eyes bounced from piece to piece, I became uncomfortably fixated on this image of a distressed young boy holding a gun to his head.

McCurry, Steve. Young Boy holding toy gun to his head – Alto Churumazu, in Yanesha, Peru 2004. This photograph is copyright of Steve McCurry. No copyright infringement intended.

The image brought about mixed emotions in me. I felt sympathy and gratitude as well as a deep concern and fear for the world we live in.

This boy with his worn out spiderman t-shirt and snot dripping down his face had enough insight to think about taking his own life. That gesture of putting the gun to his head even if only as a threat takes some serious thinking.

The eyes pierced my mind and soul and screamed out to me “I’ll do it..I’ll do it”. I had been living in an oblivious state with me failing an exam signifying the end of my world, where as across the globe young children are victims of a war beyond their choice or control.  I felt grateful that I grew up with freedom here in the UK and the most difficult choice I had to make was what should I watch on TV or whether to eat coco pops or cornflakes for breakfast.

In the following days, this image would replay in my mind to the extent where I could barely sleep. I decided to pick up my guitar and record an improvisation of the emotion I saw in this boy’s eyes.

The final track is Toy Soldiers. It speaks from the crying eyes of this young boy. It is a cry to escape the world. The track is a conversation between that subtle yet powerful innocence of a child battling the anger, greed and destructive ignorance of the adult.

Check out the track here:

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