Pop: Snow queen

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Indy Lifestyle Online
In London throughout June, July and August, hardly a weekend goes by without a scattering of festivals clamouring for attention. But there is an art to spotting the best outdoor freebie, and judging by the talent lined up for the Red Bull Air and Water snowboarding show, this is one event thousands will brave the Docklands Light Railway for. On a site a mere stone's throw from the Millennium Dome, the world's snowboarding champs will perform various feats of insanity while some of the freshest female names in pop - Hinda Hicks (right), B'Witched, Queen Pen and Lutricia McNeal - raid their song catalogues for hits.

Actually, snowboarding events are usually soundtracked by punker metal/rap crossover bands - the likes of Dog Eat Dog of No Fronts fame have been a fixture at many board competitions around the world. And, suspiciously, the bill has the whiff of being put together by Mr Big Shot Marketing Man with bags of cash. Have B'Witched recently professed a love of flying through the air while clinging onto a small strip of wood? Don't think so.

But this event will be fun, fun, fun, with good new voices to listen out for. Hinda Hicks is a 22-year-old Tunisian-born newcomer, part pop seductress (she tours with mates Boyzone soon), part honey soul mistress, who could join Eternal at the forefront of Brit R'n'B in the coming years. Brought up in the well-known hothouse for music radicals that is Billingshurst, West Sussex, it was only after she sent a tape to neighbour Phil Collins and received encouraging noises that she pursue music seriously. And, undoubtedly, the best track on her sultry, slightly too smooth forthcoming album is the single "I Wanna be Your Lady", which has the naked passion to send her into the Top 10, no question. Meanwhile, jetting in from America especially for the show is rapper Queen Pen, who may be a lower-key figure than Mary J Blige or Lil Kim, but sneaked into the charts recently with "All My Love", proving you can make a fine album in black music in America without namedropping Puff Daddy or Biggie Smalls.

And so to B'Witched, burdened by that none-to small problem of trying to get credibility and sustain popularity after a Number-one single. While they have yet to prove there's still plenty of fuel in their tank, they will be competing for attention with buzz-obsessed, Olympic-champ board kings with obviously more than enough energy to spare. It is going to be an interesting Saturday.

Royal Victoria Dock, London Docklands; Custom House Station. today, 12 noon onwards; free

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