June 2020 and we were to perform Orchestra of Samples at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris this month for the launch of their new online magazine Humanities Arts and Society, the event was unfortunately postponed because of the Coronavirus situation. If you’re unfamiliar, UNESCO are an agency for the United Nations, and their name is an acronym for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, they encourage international peace and collaborations among nations.

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For over a year, working with East London community music project Stow-lab, we’ve been co-organising a series of music events and workshops called Plugged, with the ethos of connecting people through music. We were also successful in receiving funding from Arts Council England to organise a whole programme of events.

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We’re in France, taking the opportunity to meet and record the incredible multi-instrumentalist Nicolas Bras from the website Rare and Strange Instruments. We’d both become aware of each other and our respective projects in the last couple of years, realising we also know a lot of people in common… so heading over to Paris seemed the natural thing to do! His rather well known Facebook page now has over half a million followers and (in his words) is “dedicated to every unusual, creative, traditional, forgotten, experimental and original musical instrument”. You’ll no doubt know someone who follows his page and a short video posted there of someone on a mountain playing a bizarre instrument has surely turned up in your feed at some point!

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Having played together countless times and knowing France’s premiere mashup DJ for well over a decade, DJ Zebra is finally part of Orchestra of Samples! DJ Zebra is singer-songwriter and musician Antoine Minnie. He’s most famous for being France’s leading mashup artist and one of the pillars of the bootleg / mashup scene worldwide – alongside DJs like Partyben, DJ Earworm and Addictive TV’s own Mark Vidler aka Go Home Productions.

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Le Hangar, the excellent venue in the Ivry suburbs of Paris, recently began their first ever artists-in-residence programme and we had the wonderful pleasure of being their very first, with Orchestra of Samples.  The residency allowed us to work with young musicians from both Le Hangar’s music school and the Music Conservatoire of Ivry.

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It’s not often you get the chance to meet admired and long-time highly-regarded actual inventors of musical instruments, but this was one of those rare occasions! So we headed off to France to visit the Baschet studio, just south of Paris. The famous Baschet Brothers, François and Bernard, both in their 90s, pioneered a completely new way of combining sculpture and sound in the early 1950s. François was the musician and sculptor while Bernard was an engineer, and together they worked on creating both original installations and inventing new musical instruments.

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Growing up in Venezuela with French and Colombian-Spanish parents, Alejandro de Valera is a virtuoso fretless guitarist who now lives in Paris, France. Alex, as we know him, is a long time friend and collaborator of Addictive TV and we’ve worked on several projects together, including our 2004 live cinema performance The Eye of the Pilot.

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November 2012 saw us play at the Agora Festival in Bordeaux, France – an amazing festival. The very next day we hooked up with a few local musicians for a day of recording, including with the wonderful cellist and singer-songwriter Agathe Issartier. Despite studying classical music for over 10 years in a conservatoire, she has such a rock attitude and usually plays the cello standing up!

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In early 2012 French venue and recording studios Canal 93 came on board the project, helping to part-fund Orchestra of Samples, offering us a place on their artist-in-residence programme. In June 2012 we headed over to the French capital for a few days of recording in their studios in the Paris suburbs of Bobigny, working with over a dozen amazingly talented musicians, some from as far afield as Algeria and Togo.

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