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February 2019 – upcoming London eclectic/multicultural gigs at Poplar Union – Grand Union Orchestra (22nd February); Mishti Dance (23rd February) with Conspirators of Pleasure, The Tuts, Kapil Seshasayee and Soundar Ananda

15 Feb

I don’t go down to Poplar that often, but despite its more confusing aspects – the hurtling convergence of the eastern motorway routes out of London; that strange dislocated/disassociated/dispossessed neighbour’s relationship which it has with the glittering towers of Docklands to the south – the place has always felt welcoming; from the wry hardiness of its shopkeepers to the gentle courtesy of the djellaba-clad pair of Muslim brothers (one twentysomething lad, one eight-year-old kid) who spotted me wandering (a lost, bald, bearded middle-aged white bloke) all nonplussed by the Limehouse Cut, and were kind enough to redirect me to Poplar Union.

PU still feels like a beacon for the area’s future – enthusiastically aspirational in its bright, clean, modern bookishness but also happily embedded in the area’s colourful swirl of cultures; decidedly unshabby but also entirely inclusive. Here are another couple of gigs coming up there this coming week.

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Grand Union Orchestra, 22nd February 2019

Sporting a thirty-plus roster of musicians from all across the world, Grand Union Orchestra have spent two decades playing and personifying an ethic of joyous multicultural cooperation onstage. With a tradition of creative diasporan work, and with an additional set of roots in left-wing community theatre, they’re a living rebuttal to British insularity. Usually there’s about eighteen of them on stage, drawn from a flexible roster of around thirty top-flight musicians from a variety of cultures and generations. You’ll see Bangladeshi, Chinese, English, Turkish, Caribbean, Roma, Bulgarian, Mozambiquian people and more, from striplings to grandmothers, all playing together, long accustomed to assembling rolling caravans of sound into which assorted musics – Carnatic and Bangladeshi classical, salsa, jazz – can be folded.



 
You can pick out the various components (even a quick dip will turn up players like Jazz Warriors trumpet veteran Claude Deppa, Carnatic violin virtuoso Claude Deppa, Roma accordionist Ionel Mandache, guzheng star Zhu Xiao Meng and a poly-hued battery of singers with backgrounds including fado, jazz, opera and Bengali classical) but you’re better off just enjoying the sweeping palette. Just looking at their gig flyers reminds me of the happy, souped-up neighbourly multiculture festivals in and around my primary school. It makes me want to bare my teeth against the chilly white monocultural wind that’s blowing from the future, from Brexit and from the surly side of Englishness; or – if I can’t do anything else – to at least turn up my collar, turn my angry back against the freeze and head for the lights, the warmth and the rhythms.

GUO’s current, workshop-driven project – ‘Bengal, Bhangra and the Blues’ – is helmed by tabla ace Yousuf Ali Khan: it leans back towards the music of the Asian sub-continent with classical ragas, Bengali songs and the aforementioned bhangra at the heart of it. Various young participants, having already enjoyed the previous week’s free instrumental youth workshops incorporated into the project programme, will be joining the main band for the concert.

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Mishti Dance featuring Conspirators of Pleasure + The Tuts + Kapil Seshasayee + Soundar Ananda, 23rd February 2019

I know Grand Union Orchestra, but I’m less familiar with PU’s Mishti Dance evenings and their Asian club/dance initiative. The idea strikes a fond chord of memories stemming from the Talvin Singh Anokha nights I’d occasionally attend in the mid-‘90s, in which all of the sounds I’d been vaguely aware of during an upbringing in multicultural Haringey suddenly seemed to grow up and stream together. Anokha, though, had its road laid down for it by the bhangra grooves and post-rave dance culture of the times, and while you could skulk up to the chillout room to listen to Shakti if you wanted to, it was predominantly about immersing yourself in sub-bass, remix chops and tabla frenzy.

Mishi, however, looks like a much looser bag: admittedly hung on the same British Asian peg but more tenuously, with room for just about anything and anyone with a Asian connection and in particular those who are following their own path out of the immediate cultural confines and bringing their innate cultural qualities to question, alter and enrich other spaces. The closest Anokha-type dance exemplar in this month’s gig looks as if it’s DJ Soundar Ananda of Indigenous Resistance, a French-Asian “conscious beats” deliverer, promoter and compilation curator working with “cutting-edge, futuristic, nu-skool, Eastern electronic music influenced by dub, dubstep, d’n’b, breakbeat, jungle, reggae.”

 
The Tuts, on the other hand, are a long way from Anohka beat culture, although I think Talvin and co would have appreciated their ethic. A fiesty, witty, self-propelled female throw-forward from the all-too-brief days of ’70s post-punk inclusivity, they’re a young DIY pop-punk trio of “proud Caribbean, English and Indian/Pakistani origin” and an immediate, salty working-class attitude of immediate self-assertion and street wit. Full of chop-and-change musical sharpness and girl-group zest (they’ve happily covered Wannabe, though there’s as much Fuzzbox or Slits to their vigour as there is Spice Girlhood), they’ll be inspiring girl moshers and wallflowers alike from Wolverhampton to Leicester, with little for old white gits like me to do but gently get out of the way, smiling as we do so. Bluntly inspirational.



 
The remaining two acts take us into delightfully eclectic and weird experimental pop and noise terrain. Bringing the majority of the weird noises are headliners Conspirators Of Pleasure: multi-media artists Poulomi Desai (who’s been in here before a few times over the year, toting her polydisciplinary stage shows and their festoonings of gizmos and collated contradictory content) and onetime Pop Group/Pigbag post-punk/funk/dub bassist Simon Underwood (once compared by Dennis Bovell to a white Robbie Shakespeare). Their adventures together have included helping to set Joyce’s ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ to music, and touring with Stewart Lee and other restless upsetters in the ‘Usurp Chance Tour’. Using repurposed tools of the cultural trade (Poulumi’s context-yanked sitar played with everything from an axe to a massage vibrator, Simon’s prepared bass guitar) plus assorted noisemakers, drone-sources, toys, stylophones and radios and a battery of makeshift audio-visual, they’ll spend their time onstage forking over textures and flotsam, touching on the industrial, on dance culture, on noisy improvised chaos and on the voices and ideas which emerge from this conflation.


 
Glaswegian-Asian singer-songwriter Kapil Seshasayee has parked himself on a junction where a variety of different ideas and approaches are coerced into meeting. He takes his beats from hardcore machine punk and Arca-ian experimental electropop; his guitar choices from a superimposition of Carnatic traditions and skinny-wire Hendrixian note-bending, crashes and hammer-on blues; his song structures from the kind of improvisational bardic rock which itself is drawing from griots or the ecstatic traditions which bubble away in various cultures despite having been vainly tarmac-ed over by Western rationalism.

His voice… well, I’m not entirely sure where that comes from. A beautiful Western/Indian rock clarion with hints of boy angel, Quwalli pronouncer and open-ended Beefheartian abstractioneer, it barrels up out of a position of assured strength only to lyrically splatter itself across parts of the landscape you’d not even noticed before. I could wave in Tim Buckley, Thom Yorke, Nick Harper and Van Morrison as whiter comparisons; I could point to some of the fiery ecstastic pitches and timbres of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, or toward youthful bluesmen with an axe to sharpen; but I still wouldn’t get it across to you or do it the right kind of justice.

Bald and impressively bearded (beating me on both counts, in fact), Kalil additionally decorates his wrenched-cable music with electronic fizz and spookings plus the eldritch acoustic wails he can scratch out of a waterphone. As for his songs, whether they’re upended experimental blues or club-leaning avant-pop abstractions (and often they’re both), they sound like distracted revelations in train marshalling yards, Kapil as a spasming, pointing Blakean figure continually spotting and sweeping the hidden numinous into his narratives and fracturing them into cracked landscapes. Somewhere inside Kalil there’s a bloke who wants to sing straightforward young-man songs about love gone wrong. Fortunately, his own brain continually waylays him in between impulse and expression.



 
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Dates:

Grand Union Orchestra: Bengal, Bhangra and the Blues
Poplar Union, 2 Cotall Street, Poplar, London, E14 6TL, England
Friday 22nd February 2019, 7.30pm
– information here and here

Mishti Dance presents:
Conspirators of Pleasure + The Tuts + Kapil Seshasayee + Soundar Ananda
Poplar Union, 2 Cotall Street, Poplar, London, E14 6TL, England
Saturday 23rd February 2019, 7.00pm
– information here and here
 

October 2018 – singer-songwriter album launches in London and Wales – Hazel Iris (25th October), Emma Lohan (25th, 26th October)

21 Oct

Looking for events with singer-songwriting women in London? This coming Thursday, you can go big or go small.

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If you’re going for the bigger option, there’s Hazel Iris’ album launch in Smithfield, at St. Bartholomew-the-Great, no less. It’s an event that sprawls across the entire church: its varied acts located in different places within the building, like a cross between a miniature festival and a stations-of-the-cross procession. In one corner, two classical musicians – Katrina Sheppeard and Jayson Gillham (who between them have racked up appearances with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, ENO, Melbourne Symphony and the Sydney Opera House) will provide a piano-and-soprano duet performance of Richard Strauss’s ‘Vier letzte Lieder’ – the composer’s last work, a four-song death-and-transfiguration sealing of his legacy, composed during the dusk of the Romantic era. Next, in another corner, Kate Arnold – usually to be found as frontwoman for dark classical-folk fusioneers Fear Of The Forest – will be playing solo and acoustic with hammer dulcimer, violin and voice, providing a set of songs reflecting her folk, medieval and Middle Eastern influences.




 
And so to the headliner, who’s recently been making a name for herself as a standout performer at the Blind Dog Studio evenings. Hazel Iris is a storyteller with an overwhelming musical streak; her tales drawn from her travels, her own musings and her borrowings from the great stewpot of mythology and folklore. California-born and London-based but world-honed, her songs blend indie-folk habits, vaudeville brassiness, operatic training, lieder romance and a dash of country.




 
Bringing her brand-new ‘Nine Sisters’ album to life at St Barts is a similarly broad-based nine-piece band. The rhythm section – drummer Fred Harper and double-bassist Twm Dylan – come from the London and Leeds jazz scenes, while Winter Quartet violinist Aurora Del Río Pérez and French horn player Jessica Cottis are both established in the classical world (the latter, notably, as a conductor – she’s returning to a childhood instrument for this performance). Harpist Tara Minton straddles both jazz and classical worlds. Rounding out the ensemble is cellist and screen music composer Matt Constantine, classical accordionist Aine McLoughlin (Hazel’s regular collaborator at previous Blind Dog gigs), and up-and-coming guitarist Myles Peters (who plays anything and anywhere he can).

Also integral to the show will be the puppets of Alicia Britt, artistic director for Wondering Hands Puppet Theatre. Her usual gig involves using puppetry of all kinds for the entertainment and nourishment of all ages, with an undercurrent of healing, conversation and a restoration of our human nature: work that ranges from carefully-thought-out fairy tales of bereavement and development for children to bawdily sexual puppet-cabaret for adults. Quite possibly all aspects will be making a showing in her support work for Hazel. I’ve no idea whether huge rod-guided creatures will be leaping through the church or whether the puppetry will be on a smaller, more human scale with creatures the size of lutes or horns, but it should add an extra level of story texture.

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Speaking of smaller, more human scales – if all of the above sounds too grand, then on the same London night another songwriter – Emma Lohan – is launching her own debut album up in the south end of Hackney. ‘Black Atlantic’ pulls together Emma’s own particular blend of Irish hometown influences (she’s a Galway woman), pop leanings and traveller’s scraps, drawn from her footloose global roamings. Impressions and stories, a kind of global coast-combing or, as I put it last time, “beautifully-constructed cloud-tossed songs imbued with the flicker of constant motion.” The album itself is a small, quiet-reveal treasure imbued with a bouncing, soft-chatting liveliness. There’s jigs and kalimba, there’s age and youth, there’s plenty of story to unspool.

She’s doing it all again the following night in Wales – in an unusual display of synchronicity, at a puppet theatre in Cardigan – in a puppet theatre. Elusive ska band Julian’s Reluctant SKAfterparty are in support: no more info on them, I’m afraid. (Update, 24th October – sadly the Cardigan show has had to be cancelled, but they’re promising to reschedule it soon…)



 

All dates:

  • Hazel Iris + Kate Arnold + Jayson Gilham & Katrina Sheppeard – St Bartholomew the Great, Cloth Fair, West Smithfield, Clerkenwell, London, EC1A 7JQ, England, Thursday 25th October 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • Emma Lohan – NT’s Bar, 1 Westgate Street #207, London Fields, London, E8 3RL, England, Thursday 25th October 2018, 7.00pm – information here
  • Emma Lohan – Small World Theatre, Bath House Road, Cardigan, Ceredigion, SA43 1JY, Wales, Friday 26th October 2018, 8.00pm (with Julian’s Reluctant SKAfterparty) – information here and here

 

August 2018 – more Woodburner world-acoustica sessions at Dalston Eastern Curve Gardens – Solomon’s Garden, The Hungry Mothers and Miranda Joy (7th August); Sannie Fox, Harvey Causon and Gus Harvey (14th August); Whiskey Moon Face, Meïkhâneh and Tommy Ashby (21st August); Gnawa Blues All Stars, James Riley and Michael Sebastian (28th August)

2 Aug

More outdoor summer Woodburner gigs at Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, as the season moves into its third and penultimate month.

Here’s what they say they’re offering…

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The 7th August show features neo-soul collective Solomon’s Garden, Brighton-based Americana band The Hungry Mothers, and the singer-songwriter Miranda Joy.

Solomon’s Garden is a collective of three university friends who came together to make music with cleverly worded and thought-provoking lyrics, and soulful, catchy, head-bopping beats. After spontaneously releasing their first song ‘Sand Dunes’ in January 2016, the group had an incredible reaction from the general public and within a short period of time the song hit its first thousand plays. It was then that the group knew they were on to something special. Two years, one hiatus and three EPs later the band continues to thrive as a dynamic four piece. Between landing a slot at Latitude festival ‘17, being chosen for BBC Introducing’s record of the week, and becoming a favourite with Sofar Sounds London; the band are fast becoming a name to be recognised on the emerging music scene, with a distinct and resonant sound that continues to evolve.


 
“Producers of feelgood Americana residing within the south-east of the UK, The Hungry Mothers immediately began winning fans since their birth last year as a four-piece comprised of warming harmonies, laid-back roots and country blues. Their debut single Tiger Song (released on At The Helm Records) is the confident and mature start for a band who are inviting everyone on their journey.


 
Miranda Joy is a twenty-two-year-old singer-songwriter currently based in London. She performs her meaningfully-written songs with a powerful and soulful voice with moving piano accompaniment. She has performed at many venues, festivals and events, including the Vortex Jazz Club, The Village Underground, Rye International Jazz and Blues festival, the Great Escape Festival and Nasty Women UK. Last year one of her original songs, The Fall, was featured on BBC1’s coverage of the NFL Super Bowl highlights. Currently, she is continuing to perform at venues across the UK and working on releasing her first EP.”


 
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The 14th August show features South African blues artist Sannie Fox, electronic/jazz from Harvey Causon, and trip hop act Gus Harvey.

Sannie Fox is a singer and guitarist who has released two critically acclaimed albums and will release her third studio album ‘My Soul Got Stranger’ this year. With her voracious voice, and her fingers to her electric guitar, Fox sways across an evolving sonic tapestry of desert blues, soul and psychedelic rock sounds. Last decade, Fox formed the blues-rock 3-piece Machineri and released a self-titled album in 2010; in 2015 she released her debut solo album ‘Serpente Masjien’. She has toured South Africa, the UK and Asia and is currently based between the UK and South Africa.


 

“Calm and understated, Bristol’s Harvey Causon is turning heads with his deft take on contemporary R&B and percussive electronica, and with the powerful, brooding vocal that sounds far more world-wearied than his twenty years. After moving to Bristol last year, Harvey quickly released his ‘Introspect’ EP’, a collection of songs that he had been sitting on for a while. Eclectic but polished, the stand out song from the release, ‘Systems’ was given a remix from rising hip hop duo Cabrakid (earning Harvey an appearance at Cabra’s support slot with Loyle Carner after the rapper heard the track).

“In October, Harvey released his single ‘Frisson’ with local Bristol label Leisure Records: ‘Worn You’, his most recent release with production collaborator Gabriel Gifford, was playlisted by Radio 1 as the BBC Introducing Track of the Week and added to the Burberry and Radio 1 Spotify playlists. With nods to other contemporary artists the ambient piano ballad has a nervous energy but its dub tinged rhythm, clever lyrical content and fragile yet soothing vocal set it apart. Having already played sold-out shows supporting Tokio Myers, Puma Blue and Porches as well as Dot to Dot and 2000 Trees festivals, the summer bookings are shaping up to be just as imposing with The Great Escape, The Downs Festival and All Points East all in the pipeline. His impressive live set features both Gabriel Gifford and drummer Ben Toon.


 
Gus Harvey is a London-born soul singer with roots in hip hop and jazz. This August she releases debut EP ‘? History (1 of 4)’ on her own label. Her first single – Witches – was pure hip hop and received radio acclaim from DJs including Lauren Laverne and Nemone on BBC Radio 6 Music, as well as being Clash Music’s Track of the Day. The new EP exhibits four different styles; acoustic soul, jazz-hip hop, trip hop and bi gbeat (from collaborations with Audiobullys’ Tom Dinsdale). ‘? History’ is Harvey’s self-portrait and DIY protest against an industry squashing emerging artists into one genre. As sole mistress of all her ships, Harvey creates her visuals with close friend and London visionary Netti Hurley. Tonight she performs a unique, stripped acoustic soul set especially for Woodburner.”


 
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The 21st August show features transcontinental jazz-folkers Whiskey Moon Face, Persia/Mongolia/Eastern Europe-influenced folk trio Meikhaneh and sessioneer-turned-ancestral-folkie Tommy Ashby.

“The result of a thousand drunken nights, countless dreamy days, and years of musical adventuring, Whiskey Moon Face take you on a voyage into a bohemian underworld which you never knew existed. Born into a puddle of whiskey beneath a stark winter moon and raised by cold winds, schooled in the warming spirits and hungry for more, Whiskey Moon Face manage a natural, graceful sound built from many ports. Always innovating and improvising with stark originality, Louisa Jones’ troupe of underground musicians play with a virtuosity you could never expect. Songs which speak of the unspeakable, with understated humour, captivating storytelling and a transcendent spirituality. ‘Folk Radio UK’ compared them to “having been at one of those wild and joyous youthful parties in somebody else’s parents’ house that you’ll remember for years.”


 
Meïkhâneh’s compositions are fed by imagination, improvisation and traditional music from Europe, Mongolia and Iran. The luminous and captivating voices carry the power of East European singings, the aerial melodies of the great spaces, as well as the depth of the khöömii, Mongolian overtone singing. One can hear traveling cords recalling the steppes of Asia and Andalusia. The chiseled rhythms of percussion draw on the Persian tradition. Meïkhâneh takes us to the heart of a music without borders that caresses the soul. Its name borrowed from Persian poetry means the «House of Intoxication». We let ourselves be carried…


 

Tommy Ashby’s childhood was always going to be musical. Travelling the country playing guitar in his father’s traditional blues band and raised on the Scottish pub singaround culture, his initial musical experiences were immersive and natural. His teens were spent pouring over his parents record collections of American songwriters such as Neil Young, Simon and Garfunkel, Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings and Jeff Buckley. The eclectic mix of American roots, blues and country, combined with his Scottish folk roots, all seeped into his music.

“After acquiring a PhD focussed on studying and modelling the human perception of sound, Tommy cut his teeth behind the scenes as a session musician for the likes of Nina Nesbitt and Holly Macve, toured the UK and Europe as support act for Rhodes and Tom Speight as well as playing a number of headline sell-out shows in London this year including events curated by Communion, Never Fade and the Southbank Centre. His debut EP, produced by Chris Bond (Ben Howard) was self-released in late November 2016 and entered at No.5 in the iTunes singer-songwriter chart. His new EP, Restless Love, was recorded and mixed with Grammy award winner Sam Okell in his home studio near the wild North Cornwall coast.”


 
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The 28th August show features Moroccan guimbri sensations Gnawa Blues All Stars, Anglo-American guitarist James Riley, and improvisation/loop wizard Michael Sebastian.

“Simo Lagnawi is an ambassador of Gnawa culture in the UK. This charismatic creator is the leader of Gnawa Blues All Stars and has featured on BBC World service, CNN World, BBC 3, Vox Africa, & many more radio shows and magazines around the world. He has performed at a host of festivals including Glastonbury, Secret Garden Party, Latitude and Boom Town. Playing traditional Gnawa music from Morocco, this sacred trance music forms the core of his work with his bands Electric Jalaba, Gnawa Griot, and Gnawa Blues Allstars. Simo continuously pushes new boundaries fusing Gnawa with music from countries such as Gambia, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Guinea, Mali, India, Japan, Venezuela and the Caribbean. Look out for special guest musicians playing with the band!


 
Born of a transatlantic relationship, James Riley grew up in south-east London listening to the folk and soul sound of ‘70s America and wrote his first melody at the age of four. His first guitar, acquired at the age of nine, became the tool for surviving the tumult of a nowhere place, and helped James find somewhere he felt he belonged. In his early twenties, he took off, alone once again, hitchhiking and busking through Europe from Amsterdam to Istanbul, writing songs along the way. Back in the UK, these songs became a band, but eventually James had to shed another skin, and disembarked in Nashville, Tennessee. Here he found his producer and they set about making the album which had travelled with him to his maternal homeland, where it could finally get free.


 
South African-born, Edinburgh-educated, and living in London, Michael Sebastian is a musician and loop-artist who improvises to uplift the capital. Whenever possible, Sebastian is on the streets of London, improvising with a loop-pedal, a mic and a bright pink guitar. He will attest that this has been the most important part of his musical education, and has taught him to speak to people through his instrument. he creates music from a broad range of experience and styles. His affinity for groove and feel allows for conflicting styles to fluidly co-exist, feeling human and natural. His most recent album, ‘Kayanda’ demonstrates him harnessing live, improvised looping onto record. After developing the recording software himself, Sebastian went into a shed in the country for two weeks to improvise an album, and came out with fourteen tracks. The album is written with the sensibilities of modern dance and electronic music, and retains the freedom, rawness and depth of world music and jazz, while still creating melodies that are hard to forget.”


 
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All events are at Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, 13 Dalston Lane, Dalston, London, E8 3DF, England on Tuesday evenings. Dates below:

  • Solomon’s Garden + The Hungry Mothers + Miranda Joy – Tuesday 7th August 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • Sannie Fox + Harvey Causon + Gus Harvey – Tuesday 14th August 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • Whiskey Moon Face + Meïkhâneh + Tommy Ashby – Tuesday 21st August 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • Gnawa Blues All Stars + James Riley + Michael Sebastian – Tuesday 28th August 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here

 

July/October/November 2018 – upcoming jazz gigs – Eddie Parker’s Debussy Mirrored Ensemble make their live debut in Cheltenham (13th July) and play York, Bristol and London in the autumn (24th & 26th October, 20th November); Algerian-influenced world shapes from the Seddik Zebiri Trio in London (13th July); Tori Handsley’s ‘Afro-Harping with Dorothy Ashby & Alice Coltrane’ in London (28th July)

5 Jul

Quick news on three upcoming jazz gigs… well, three gigs and a tour. An impressionist jazz ensemble takes its first assured steps around the country, an Algerian/Parisian veteran brings his trio to the deep East End, and there’s a jazz tribute gig that’s unusual enough for me to drop my usual reluctance to cover such things.

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“Former Loose Tubes flautist and composer Eddie Parker and his Debussy Mirrored Ensemble take cues from the important French composer Claude Debussy in a new show.

“2018 is the centenary of the death of Debussy. Eddie Parker’s Debussy Mirrored Ensemble is both a celebration of and a creative response to the composer. Famously, Debussy never wanted followers or imitators, and yet his music is enormously influential and has gone deep into our sensibilities.

“Eddie Parker has spent his life immersed in music – absorbing, creating , teaching, inspiring, and building trust and respect in a wide range of musical genres as a musician and composer. He also has a life-long passion for Debussy’s music. Building on previous Debussy transformations(2013’s ‘Windgames’ for solo piano and 2015’s ‘Snowsteps’, written for the Will Gregory Moog Ensemble, Eddie has now handpicked a unique new twelve-piece ensemble to turn his creative vision into reality.

“These musicians, from classical, jazz and improvisation disciplines, collaborate to transform a dozen of Debussy’s pieces into something incredibly unique, powerful and contemporary whilst capturing the composer’s revolutionary spirit – leading our ears on a fascinating journey while showing how important this influence is, not only for composers but for improvisers too.

“The high-order ensemble features Rowland Sutherland, Gareth Lockrane and Eddie himself on flutes, Jan Hendrickse on vocals and Turkish ney flute, James Allsopp on clarinet and bass clarinet, Alcyona Mick on piano
Imogen Ridge on harp, percussionist/vibraphonist Simon Limbrick and Loose Tubes drum-and-bass team Steve Watts and Martin France, with vocals by classical tenor James Gilchrist and jazz singer Brigitte Beraha.”


 
When presenting ‘Windgames’ four years ago, Eddie reflected as follows:

“My dad, Frank Parker, concert pianist manqué – whose professional career consisted of performing music for variety theatre, musicals and ice skating shows – used to play Debussy on the piano to me when I was a child… then as a teenager my school music teacher Len Sartin would hold one spellbound not only with his prodigious pianistic abilities (he performed ‘Feux D’Artifice’, the notoriously difficult final Prelude of Book 2, in a school speech night, to the utter bewilderment of assembled parents), but his comprehensive knowledge of the art, poetry and literature that each Prelude was alluding to: Baudelaire, Mallarme, chinoiserie, Arthur Rackham, etc. This in a comprehensive school for boys in Liverpool.

“Debussy’s music for piano, especially from the two books of Preludes, went in deep for me and stayed there. The feeling of a kind of kinetic sculpture in sound, involving a synthesis of harmony and sonority, a precise choreography of pianistic gesture, all bound together by an amniotic envelope created by the subtle use of the pedals – “like a kind of breathing”, as Debussy himself described it – these are the alchemical elements that have been infusing in my mind over the decades… One could foresee a series of Debussy transformations (or ‘Busygames’!): ‘Snowgames’, based on ‘The Snow Is Dancing’ from ‘Children’s Corner’; ‘Raingames’, based on ‘Jardins Sous La Pluie’; ‘Soundgames’, based on ‘Les Sons Et Les Parfumes…’ from ‘Preludes Book 1’; ‘Chordgames’, based on ‘Pour Les Chordes’ from ‘Pour Le Piano’… It may take me a while.”

Sounds as if he’s got there.

The Debussy Mirrored Ensemble project debuts at the Cheltenham Festival next week, with further dates in York, Bristol and London in the autumn. Details below:

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This in from Poplar Union in the east of London…

“You’re in for a treat this month! We have the brilliant Seddik Zebiri Trio with us for Live in the Library – Seddik Zebiri on vocals and Algerian mandole, Oli Arlotto on saxophone and Paolo Forcellati on percussion.

“Seddik Zebiri defines himself as a “music activist.” He’s a seasoned and experienced musician – a pioneer and a trailblazer. Since beginning his musical journey in the Parisian scene of the ‘60s, the cultural scenario has deeply changed. But, as he likes to affirm, he is “always the same: for me music is always the same thing, there is no difference between the one which I played during the ‘70s, the ‘80s or the one I’m playing today”.


 
“His sound is closely related to his Algerian roots, fused with modern influences. Seddik continues, “When you listen to my music you can initially define it as traditional, Algerian or Berber, but is has also some classic Middle Eastern elements. Then, when you listen further you can also identify other ingredients coming from rock, reggae, Latin or funk.” The trio will offer a distinctive take on jazz, drawing on Arabic and Afro-blues influences, and creating an absorbing, compulsively danceable sound: a fusion of traditional North African combined with funk, reggae and beyond.”…”

Poplar Union presents:
Live In The Library: Seddik Zebiri Trio
Poplar Union, 2 Cotall Street, Poplar, London, E14 6TL, England
Friday 13 July 2018, 7.30pm
– information here and here

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“The sound of the harp has always held a special place in the world of jazz, and that’s down to the work of two artists alone; Dorothy Ashby and Alice Coltrane. Despite both using the same instrument, their music could have hardly been more different. Ashby’s sound ranged from the trad to the plaintive, with standout albums ‘Hip Harp’, ‘Afro Harping’ (celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year) and ‘Django/Misty’ across her oeuvre showcasing the harp’s versatility. By contrast, the harp for Coltrane worked as an extension of her profound spirituality whilst also indulging her avant-garde tendencies (as heard on her magnum opus, ‘Journey In Satchidananda’).



 
“Putting together the bespoke show will be London based harpist Tori Handsley, who has played with everyone from Nigel Kennedy and Orphy Robinson to Shabaka Hutchings and Moses Boyd and who’s been called “an essential music force that needs to be experienced by as many thinking musicians and audiences as possible” by Orphy Robinson, who’s also noted that she is “without doubt steadily becoming one of the most exciting and original musicians on the UK scene.”

Tori Handsley: Afro-Harping with Dorothy Ashby & Alice Coltrane
The Jazz Cafe, 5 Parkway, Camden, NW1 7PG London, United Kingdom
Saturday 28th July 2018, 7.00pm
– information here, here and here


 

June 2018 – upcoming London pop gigs – electro-acoustic pop and world-folk with Gazel + Seaker at Birthdays (15th June)

13 Jun

Another quick, late-in-the-day signal boosting – this time for an interesting-sounding female double bill of experimental cross-cultural singer-songwriters, over in Dalston (inevitably)… so from here on in it’s the press release.

 
Piu Entertainment UK present:
Gazel + Seaker
Birthdays, 33-35 Stoke Newington Road, Dalston, London, N16 8BJ, England
Friday 15th June 2018, 7.00pm
– information here and here

“Turkish-rooted, London-based singer-songwriter Gazel‘s music is a blend of electronic pop with Middle Eastern folk and philosophical influences: a unique sound that gained nominations in the 15th Independent Music Awards with her debut EP, ‘Bone Key‘ (Best Pop EP, Best Electronic Song). She is a mesmeric live performer and multi-instrumentalist. Since 2017, Gazel has headlined shows at the Waiting Room, The Lexington and Borderline, as well as playing support shows at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire and a sold-out Hammersmith Apollo.

“At Birthdays Gazel will play new music from her upcoming debut album ‘Gazel’s Book of Souls’, which she’s described as “a collection of songs that tell the story of a curious nomad girl abandoned in the desert, and the strange encounters she has with a cast of surreal characters as she embarks on a journey in search of her soul”. The production team behind it includes Shuta Shinoda (Hot Chip, Ghostpoet) and Haydn Bendall (Kate Bush, Massive Attack). For this show, she’ll introduce projected scenes from a musical she is developing based on the album, with the first in a series of animations developed by close collaborator Acid Lake.



 
“Having cut her teeth as a folk singer-songwriter, Seaker‘s sound has evolved to become ethereal, layered and sparkling. In a world that sits somewhere between Portishead and Sufjan Stevens, Seaker’s intimate songwriting is enveloped in expansive and atmospheric soundscapes. Lead by her unique and rare voice, Seaker’s songs cycle interminably between a sense of loss and hope. Shortly after the May 25th release of her new single, ‘Words’, Seaker will take to the Birthdays stage to bring audiences through soft and roaring, delicate lightness and raging inner fire.”


 

April 2018 – upcoming London classical/experimental/folk gigs – Caterina Barbieri solotronic set at Kammer Klang, plus Zwerm Ensemble and the RAM’s Experimental Music Ensemble playing Feldman, Dowland, Brown and Baillie (3rd April); the ‘What is England?’ festival including Bishi/Jeff Cook’s ‘The Good Immigrant”, Ansuman Biswas, Suna Alan and John Spiers (20th-23rd April)

28 Mar

Dips into the mid-twentieth century New York School (including its work with graphic scores) and into unintentionally sprightly electronica characterise a surprisingly sober, instrumentally-based April show for Kammer Klang.

Kammer Klang, 3rd April 2018Kammer Klang presents:
Kammer Klang: Caterina Barbieri + Zwerm Ensemble (playing John Dowland, Earle Brown and Joanna Baillie) + RAM Experimental Music Ensemble (playing Morton Feldman)
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Tuesday 3rd April 2018, 7.30pm
– information here and here

Opening, the Royal Academy of Music’s Experimental Music Ensemble present Morton Feldman‘s rarely-performed, highly textured septet piece ‘The Straits Of Magellan’. Dating back to 1961, the piece’s graphical score is an array of coded time boxes, each containing representative symbols for single or simultaneous notes/durations/colourations; while the dynamics of the composition are explicitly and sternly noted (with minimal note attacks, a generally quiet approach but multiple instructions for glissandi, harmonics etc), the pitches are left entirely up to the players’ choices. Here’s one of the many possible interpretations:


 
In the middle of the bill are Belgian electric guitar quartet Zwerm Ensemble (avant-garde favourites whose collaborations and performance credits include Fred Frith, Mauro Pawlowski, Larry Polansky, Eric Thielemans, Yannis Kyriakides and Etienne Guilloteau) The four members (Toon CallierJohannes WestendorpBruno Nelissen and Kobe van Cauwenberghe) will present arrangements of ‘Semper Dowland, Semper Dolens’ (by peerless Renaissance lute composer John Dowland), ‘December 1952’ (by twentieth century “open form” pioneer Earle Brown,and, like the Feldman piece, sourced from a graphic score) plus a performance of ‘Last Song From Charleroi’, a new seventeen-minute work for four electric guitars and tape composed by Joanna Bailie. Examples of playing, pieces and general composer tone below…





 
Headlining, Italian composer and voltage-controlled-sequencer specialist Caterina Barbieri will perform a solo electronic set of her “ecstatic computation” music. Berlin-based, she explores “themes related to machine intelligence and object oriented perception in sound through a focus on minimalism” and “psycho-physical effects of repetition and pattern-based operations in music, by investigating the polyphonic and polyrhythmic potential of sequencers to draw severe, complex geometries in time and space.”

In practise, this is surprisingly accessible. Her work (including her recent ‘Patterns Of Consciousness’ album, composed entirely on Verbos Harmonic Oscillator and ER-101 Indexed Quad Sequencer) initially sounds closer to the pop-synth airiness of Kraftwerk or Tangerine Dream records from the ‘70s; even to the rhythmic clink of Larry Heard or the warm chitter of Jean-Michel Jarre. But even if there are similarities to ‘Pong’ or ‘Popcorn’ – especially live – this is merely a side effect of structure. Caterina’s work is intended as an austere examination of qualities: its primitive but plaintive blippery coming about due to her wish to avoid signature synth sounds, concentrating instead on careful shifts of accenture, attack and shaping on basic sine tones, accelerating and decelerating. The emotional content – like the unexpected danceability – apparently comes despite her intentions. Live, she fits right in with populist EM; sometimes, though, in the studio, she can come across as more raw, glitchy and forbidding. Perhaps in the tougher Kammer Klang environment, more of this side will will emerge.


 
* * * * * * * *

Information’s starting to come through on a defiantly heterogenous and diverse festival springing up in Stoke Newington towards the end of the month, delving into electroclassical and folk music forms, queerness, multiculturalism and the concept of English nationality in (and in spite of) ugly times. Details on this are still taking shape, so I’ll drop in what I’ve got now and add to it later, when I can…

The Old Church, The Nest Collective & others present:
‘What is England?’
The Old Church, Stoke Newington Church Street, Stoke Newington, London, N16 9ES, England,
20th-23rd April 2018, various times
– information here

'What Is England?', 20th-23rd April 2018“A four-day festival in the run up to St George’s Day, ‘What Is England?’ offers a chance for everyone to reimagine ‘Englishness’ in an inclusive, welcoming way, at a time when a toxic form of nationalism is on the rise.

“The festival includes the European debut of ‘The Good Immigrant’, an electroclassical song cycle for voice looper, sitar and electronics about race and identity by vocalist/composer Bishi. Co-produced with composer and sound designer Jeff Cook, the song cycle received its world premiere at The Ferus Festival in January 2018 in New York. The music is inspired by ‘The Good Immigrant’ by Nikesh Shukla, a collection of essays by 21 BAME writers, ruminating on race & identity in contemporary Britain. Each song is a response to a particular essay in the book, with special audio quotes sampled in from personal interviews conducted with writers Nikesh Shukla, Salena Godden and Darren Chetty, ending with a choral setting of Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Where The Mind is Without Fear’.

“In this work, Bishi takes a personal & intersectional journey reflecting on her experiences. As a British-Bengali daughter of immigrants, adopted by London’s community of alternative queer nightlife, she has lived through a unique cross-section of London’s contemporary urban landscape. ‘The Good Immigrant’ is a call to arms to explore our differences so that we may find more unity and empathy in a divided world. Having been trained in eastern and western classical music, and experienced performing in a Bulgarian choir, Bishi takes her influences from a variety of musical styles. Major musical influences include electronic producers Burial and Arca, and vocalists such as Meredith Monk and Lisa Gerrard.


 
“Also as part of the festival, modern folk initiative The Nest Collective presents a very special St George’s day involving established and merging talent in English folk, again looking at the idea of Englishness. Confirmed artists so far include Ansuman Biswas, Suna Alan and John Spiers.

“Believing that “music spreads throughout the environment like a perfume.. it soaks into the fabric of other things and people”, Ansuman is an Kolkata-born percussionist, interdisciplinary artist and composer who has been commissioned by Tate Modern, National Theatre, English Ballet and has worked with Bjork and the London Philharmonic Orchestra and in world music hybrid quartet Newanderthal (“four humans, three continents”). Suna is a Kurdish/Alevi singer based in London whose family moved to Smyrna (Izmir) in her early childhood (meaning that much of her formative years were spent surrounded by traditional Kurdish dengbêj music and Kurdish-Alevi laments within a rich cosmopolitan cultural environment). Her main focus is Kurdish folk songs from the four regions of Kurdistan, namely Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey, but her repertoire also includes Armenian, Greek, Sephardic and Turkish songs. John Spiers, known better in folk circles as Squeezy, has made a name for himself as one of the leading squeezebox players of his generation, playing with Eliza Carthy’s Ratcatchers band, Bellowhead and the duo Spiers and Boden (with Jon Boden).”




 
Rough details on the festival dates and events below: with panel events, DJs and an as-yet-unrevealed event for the Sunday slot, expect things to expand. With ‘The Quietus’ involved, I wouldn’t be surprised if a New Weird Britain strand began to weave its way into proceedings…

  • Friday 20 April, 7.00pm – festival launch: ‘The Good Immigrant’, plus NTS and The Quietus DJs and What Is England? panel eventtickets
  • Saturday 21 April, 10.30am – OPEN: Morning including “make-you-own-flag” event with OPEN:Art/Output Arts tickets
  • Saturday 21 April, 7.00pm – The Good Immigrant, with DJs and ‘The Good Nationalist?’ panel eventtickets
  • Sunday 22 April – details t.b.c.
  • Monday 23 April, 7.00pm – Nest Collective’s St George’s day event featuring Ansuman Biswas, Suna Alan, John Spiers and others t.b.c.tickets

 

March 2018 – London classical gigs – composers fresh from the Royal Academy of Music (20th); an International Women’s Day event for London Composers Forum (8th March); an evening with the Ligeti Quartet and cyberpianist John Kameel Farah (14th March); ‘Rise Of The Machines’ at the Converge Festival fuses classical music and artificial intelligence (18th March)

21 Feb

London Academy of Music: Composer's Platform, 20th March 2018Late in March, the composition department of the Royal Academy of Music makes its way over to IKLEKTIC for “an evening of cutting edge new music, specially written for academy performers. The concert will showcase a hugely diverse range of musical influences. Come along and hear new music from the next generation of composers.” No names have been announced yet… but then, that’s part of the point. Come and be in at the start of some new careers.

Just under two weeks earlier, the London Composers Forum will be running a Composer’s Voice event for March, coinciding with International Women’s Day, with a concept which speaks for itself:

The Composer's Voice (IWD), 8th March 2018“This concert will feature exclusively new live and recorded music composed by the female members of LCF, performed by women. With a mixture of choral, vocal and instrumental pieces, it is sure to be full of variety and interest.

“There will be a discussion on the theme of “music by women” between the composers and performers that we hope the audience will participate in also; and an opportunity to discuss several hot topics relating to IWD, music by women, parity and what happens next…”

The LCF IWD event is free and open to all. Forum composers involved and represented are Janet Oates (director of and participant in the Philomel soprano sextet), wind multi-instrumentalist Liz Sharma, Miriam Mackie (founder of Illumination Chamber Choir), experimental performer and Bastard Assignments cohort Caitlin Rowley, singer/actor/songwriter Jane de Florez, Zillah Myers (a member of and repertoire contributor to The Addison Singers who’s also composed for Bude Choral Society) and Pamela Slatter (who’s composed for the London Concert Choir and, more recently, has set Edward Lear’s ‘The Pobble Who Has No Toes’).

Royal Academy of Music presents:
Royal Academy of Music: Composer’s Platform
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Tuesday 20th March 2018, 7.00pm
– information here and here

London Composers Forum presents
The Composer’s Voice: Music and Discussion for IWD 2018
Tea House Theatre, 139 Vauxhall Walk, Vauxhall, London, SE11 5HL, England
Thursday 8th March 2018, 7.30pm
– information here and here

* * * * * * * *

Taking a break from performing on ice sculptures and space shuttles in favour of a pub backroom, the Ligeti Quartet have set up a regular monthly gig with Nonclassical in Dalston, to showcase contemporary exploratory string music.

Ligeti Quartet + John Kameel Farah, 14th March 2018

Nonclassical presents:
Ligeti Quartet + John Kameel Farah
The Victoria, 451 Queensbridge Road, Hackney, London, E8 3AS, England
Wednesday 14th March 2018, 8.00pm
– information here and here

This March, they’ll be presenting the European premiere of Anna Meredith’s ‘Tuggemo’), as well as performances of Kate Whitley’s ‘Lines’, Christian Mason‘s ‘Eki Attar’ and Tanya Tagaq‘s ‘Sivunittinni’ (as originally rendered by the Kronos Quartet, with the strings emulating Tagaq’s barrage of Inuit vocal effects via an array of frictional and percussive bow techniques devised by arranger Jacob Garchik).

Here’s a clip of the Ligetis performing an earlier Meredith work, plus the original Kronos performance of ‘Sivunittinni’, an earlier Kate Whitley strings-and-piano piece, and Christian Mason’s ‘Aimless Wonder’.



 
The Ligetis’ guest on this occasion is a pianist – Canadian musician John Kameel Farah, who surrounds and combines his piano playing with an array of synthesizers and processors which filter, warp and orchestrate his performance, which itself allies contemporary classical music with baroque, electronic, Early Music and Middle Eastern elements.

John will be premiering his new composition ‘Spinning Thread’ as well as drawing four more pieces from his back catalogue and from recent album ‘Time Sketches’ (‘Fantasia’, ‘Distances’, ‘Behold’ and ‘Maqam Constellation’) plus a performance of William Byrd’s ‘Hugh Ashton’s Ground’.



 
DJ sets will be provided by Ben Vince (a musician better known for his frenetic sets of improv/loop saxophone playing).

* * * * * * * *

More Nonclassical DJs (in the shape of Laurence Osborn and others) and more technological approaches and motifs will be showing up for the last of the four events covered in this post. While much of this year’s Convergence festival leans towards avant-garde pop artists with a foot in the contemporary classical world (John Cale, Kamaal Williams, Ben Frost, Simian Mobile Disco and Charlotte Gainsbourg are all appearing over the course of the month), the second in the festivals’s ‘Rise Of The Machines’ concert series takes a witty but serious look at the ongoing crossover between classical music and computer/systems thinking.

Convergence: Rise Of The Machines #2, 18th March 2018

Convergence 2018 presents:
‘Convergence: Rise Of The Machines #2’
Village Underground, 54 Holywell Lane, Shoreditch, London, EC2A 3PQ, England
Sunday 18th March 2018, 8.00pm
– information here, here and here

Conductor Jessica Cottis (who also contributed to the City of London Sinfonia’s ‘Modern Mystics’ series last year) will be leading a thirty-piece orchestra, bolstered by live devices operated by members of Langham Research Centre (who maintain vintage electronic instruments in order both to safeguard the performance of 20th century classic electronic repertoire and to apply “period electronica” to newer compositions). Composers Beni Giles, Laurence Osborn, Josephine Stephenson, Jo Thomas and Max de Wardener have all collaborated on the event’s world premiere centrepiece, ‘Concerto for Drum Machine & Orchestra’, each of them contributing one of five movements to a composition which “places the drum machine centre-stage as solo musical instrument, bringing the sounds of dance music and hip-hop to the classical world.” Plenty of young and youngish contemporary composers have attempted to bring forms inspired by rave, techno, house into New Classical. As far as I know, this is the first such piece to surrender entirely to the primacy of beat and box.

In Nick Ryan and John Matthias’ violin-and-string-ensemble piece ‘Cortical Songs’ “the orchestra is partially controlled by the neural patterns of a tiny computer brain. The resultant work takes the orchestra into an ethereal sound world of lush strings juxtaposed with the skittering crackles of neural activity.” Magnus Lindberg ’s ‘Engine’ (which dates back to 1996) “(was) inspired by the computing language associated with using the Patchwork1 programme. ‘Engine’ is a sort of generator of musical material, which operates according to the rules pre-established by the composer. The texture is composed by the machine, on which the composer imposes dozens of constraints.” Finally, Barry Guy’s 2015 piece ‘Mr Babbage is Coming to Dinner!’ “was inspired by Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine No. 2… The graphic score – hand-drawn and partially coloured by Barry Guy – is a work of art in itself (and) calls on spontaneity and improvisation from the orchestra.”

I tracked down a couple of previous performances of ‘Engine’ and ‘Cortical Songs’ for illustration, so here they are:



 

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