Former 80s girl group Zenana is back after discovering a record

Former 80s girl group Zenana is back after discovering a record

  • Written by Alex Pope
  • BBC News, Bedfordshire

Image source, Maggie Glenn

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On her day, Anita said the group “challenged stereotypes”.

A chance discovery of a single by an 80s female band in a thrift store inspired a reissue of their songs.

Zenana, consisting of Anita Gabrielle Tedder, Penny Griffiths and Ruth Elder, formed in Milton Keynes in 1984 and disbanded in 1987.

The DJ called them out of the blue to tell them he had bought the Witches’ 1986 single, prompting them to reissue it.

“People are listening to our music now more than ever before during our heyday,” Tedder, 69, said.

In addition to the downloads, vinyl copies of The Witches With The Spell Of Love EP have been sent around the world, she said.

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The band (from left to right – Ruth Elder, Penny Griffiths and Anita Garbriel Tedder) came together again in September to launch their new EP

Tedder said the group used to perform on a backing track, and she wrote and produced the music with her brother, Michael Tedder.

Zenana has played local pubs and clubs such as The Point in Milton Keynes and The Angel in Bedford, while in London she has appeared at the Hippodrome, Dingwalls and Le Beat Route.

They recorded a single called “Witches” in 1986 for the PRM label, but it never charted “so we dove into the obscurity,” she said.

“It didn’t happen for us. We lost our energy.”

The group “was obsessed and very accepting of me as a lesbian,” said Tedder, a retired psychotherapist.

She added: “Some of the words were political and touched on the AIDS crisis, and Clause 28, which was the Conservative government’s anti-gay legislation.”

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The band wore similar scarves in 1985

Last summer, the trio, who still live in the Milton Keynes/Bedford area, performed the Witches “for a laugh” at a garden party.

By coincidence, the next day, Anita received a Facebook message from Kiernan Abbott, a 24-year-old Bristol-based DJ, telling her he had found their single in a second-hand shop in Cornwall and thought it was great.

Then he played it in clubs in Los Angeles, Paris, and venues specializing in 80s music.

This led to Tedder working with her brother again to digitize, remix and remaster four tracks from nearly 40 years ago.

The process involved having to bake the original master tapes in an oven to make them playable.

The songs are available for download as a five-track EP or as a four-track 12-inch vinyl single.

DJ Matt Anniss also remixed the song Witches and called it Bedmo Disco’s Witches ’85, but this is not available at the moment.

“Witches is truly a sleeper gem – an infectious, club-ready treat that’s finally getting the love it deserves,” he said.

“Zenana’s new EP adds up to a striking, eye-catching celebration of an extraordinary, forward-looking female band.”

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Mike Tedder works on the group’s music with his synthesizers in his front room

“It was amazing, I can’t believe it, it was completely unexpected,” Tedder said.

“We have sent recordings to Australia, Italy, Sweden, Holland, France, Iceland, the USA and Canada – and people hear our music all over the world.”

“If it takes off in a big, big way, it will be great and great for older women,” said Ellis, 63, who works as a makeup artist at Leighton Buzzard and still sings in two bands.

“The music speaks for itself; at that time we were ahead of our time, and it has stood the test of time.”

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The band took on different personalities – Anita was Boudica, Penny was the pirate Grace O’Malley and Ruth was her own version of Cruella de Ville.

Griffiths, 56, who has since worked as a lecturer at Coventry University in events management and a pet sitter, said: “I’ve just lived through one of the worst and best years of my life with the death of my mum and aunt. And separation from my husband.

“I also had a hysterectomy five years ago, but have remained cancer-free since.

“Rekindling our adultery this summer and the warmth from our friendships has been a huge boost.

“I feel optimistic and happy again.

“I just have to find a way to get us all together to do the final party.”

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The band sang live over backing tracks recorded in the 1980s

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