October 2023 and we were invited to be part of the Shekou Theatre Festival in southern China, a trip organised by Lesley Zhang from Creative China. Shekou is a district in Shenzhen, China’s third largest city with a population of around 18 million; the city is often referred to as ‘China’s Silicon Valley’ because of its status as a global technology centre.
November 2022 and we were back in Portugal, this time performing Orchestra of Samples at well-being and land-regeneration event Primal Gathering in Odiáxere, near Lagos in southern Portugal.
While in the Portugal for the music industry conference WOMEX (an abbreviation of World Music Expo, as it focuses on world music), we were introduced to multi-instrumentalist Carlos Rodrigues aka Kabeção – a wonderful self-taught musician, instrument developer and sound explorer.
October 2022 and we were in Lisbon, Portugal, at the huge music industry conference WOMEX (abbreviation of World Music Expo), an event that focuses on world music, with talks, showcases and evening concerts. While there we also took the opportunity to record musicians, some being members of Portuguese 10-piece band Criatura, particularly those playing traditional instruments, such as adufe drums, bagpipes and fado guitar.
Since last month, September 2022, world music website Rhythm Passport have begun running Arsenal of Sounds – a new monthly night at southeast London venue Woolwich Works in Woolwich Arsenal.
Since launching in 2014, Sheffield based Talking Gigs have featured an incredible line-up of performers including Bassekou Kouyate, Robyn Hitchcock, Tinariwen, Sam Lee, Emmanuel Jal and many others. Supported by Songlines magazine, and half interview / talk show and half concert and it’s an innovative format that gives audiences a real close-up insight into an artist’s work, life and culture. More than just an interview, artists perform particular songs in the first half, discussing them with the interviewer, before performing a full concert in the second half.
May 2022 wrapped up a year of events for Plugged, the music initiative set-up by Addictive TV’s Francoise Lamy and east London producer Rob Parton, and for the last event a night of global beats and ethno-grooves was staged at east London venue the Walthamstow Trades Hall.
After a week in Pondicherry, India, where we performed Orchestra of Samples, we headed to the huge metropolis of Bangalore. With a population of 11 million, the city is regarded as the ‘Silicon Valley of India’, with technology companies and many educational and research institutions all based there.
While in India, for our performance of Orchestra of Samples in Pondicherry, we were introduced to the wonderful composer and mandolin master Uppalapu Rajesh, known as U Rajesh. Renowned for his innovative take on Carnatic Indian classical music, Rajesh feels musical techniques come after savouring the music, saying audiences should use their heart to enjoy music first.
Having recorded a number of times in India for Orchestra of Samples and with the project being a UK-French venture, in early April 2022 we were invited to performed the show in India at the French Rendez-Vous Festival in the coastal city of Puducherry, organised by the French Institute of India and international cultural organisation Les Francophonies.
This month we were invited for a residency at More Music, the forward-thinking community space and education charity in the UK’s northwest Lancashire coastal town of Morecame. As well as being a performance venue, they have a recording studio, education activities and youth centre with outreach programmes working with local schools via Lancashire Music Hub.
The current issue of Future Music Magazine features a three page article about us and our 2017 Orchestra of Samples album in their ‘Classic Albums’ section. Each issue of the magazine focuses on an album they see as breaking the mould, doing something innovative, making its mark and so on; it was a real honour to have been asked. As well as interviewing us, they asked us to write about each track on the album, and how that track came about.
As part of our collaboration with Indonesian artist Kuntari for the British Council’s Connections Through Culture programme, we’ve now released two new Orchestra of Samples tracks, both sampling field recordings made in Indonesia and elsewhere. Our two new tracks, Somewhere Else and 4 Times, are part of the release called Pararatronic, together with two tracks from Kuntari and released by Dutch label Audiomaze.
As pandemic restrictions ease in the UK and more live events begin to happen again, it felt fantastic to be back on the road for our first gig of 2022, having already had a gig cancelled in early January in France! We headed to Ipswich, in the east of the UK, to perform at The New Wolsey Theatre, who – as part of their opening season – hosted a few nights of music performances, including a jazz night from the Ronnie Scott’s All Stars and from ourselves with Orchestra of Samples.
November saw us complete our Arts Council England funding, which has enabled us this year to record many more musicians, hold workshops and release 3 tracks, Return of Django, Ribab Jam and Dr Junkenstein.
We’ve been commissioned by cultural arts organisation ArtReach, who were inspired by our creative process of working on Orchestra of Samples, to create a performative installation for their Journeys Festival with Somali-British poet Momtaza Mehri, sampling a number of musician sanctuary seekers and refugees now settled in the UK and Europe.
After performing a number of times together on Orchestra of Samples in recent years, we finally organised a session with the maestro himself, trombone virtuoso Dennis Rollins MBE, on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year in London!
Meeting and recording musicians is always a joy, and two wonderful artists – both local to us in east London – that we’d met through separate projects but only now got to record for Orchestra of Samples are multi-instrumentalist Layil Barr and clarinettist František Holčík.
Originally from Sri Lanka and blind from birth, percussionist Ghow Ratnarajah is an expert with mridangam and kanjira drums – the primary rhythmic accompaniment in Carnatic music ensembles – he also sings in both Tamil and occasionally Hindi. We’ve both performed and worked with Ghow a number of times, including on shows in the UK and in India, and last year on our documentary project Our Journeys for the London Borough of Culture 2020, so it was great to finally recorded him for Orchestra of Samples.
With Covid restrictions in the UK easing more and more, we headed north to the city of Manchester for our first trip outside London since the pandemic began! Just east of the city, in the foothills of the Pennines is the small town of Ashton-Under-Lyne, where we were recording Sufi singer/songwriter, musician and peace activist Sarah Yaseen.
Originally from Italy and now living in the UK, Alex Akal is an experimental musician who connects traditional instruments with contemporary music. A multi-instrumentalist with a taste for progressive and psychedelic rock, he blends instruments and sounds from around the world, creating his own unique style of music. As well as singing, he plays didgeridoo, drums, electric guitar, bass guitar, fujara (a Slovak flute), dan moi (a Vietnamese mouth harp) and both Native American flute and dvojnice (a flute played in many parts of the Balkans); as it happens, we previously recorded dvojnice in Croatia and then very recently a fujara too, with its beautiful deep bassy sound.
London based ‘Fordey’ Forde, who’s actually now performed with us a number of times, especially as part of our Dhol Addiction project with east London’s Dhol Academy, is an incredibly talented percussionist we’d met through our old friend Paul Gunter from Stomp.
With east London’s Big Creative Academy supporting Orchestra of Samples with the use of their recording studios, we organised a filming and recording session with Saul Eisenberg aka The Junk Orchestra. From performing, teaching and workshopping to appearing on numerous television shows, The Junk Orchestra rock ‘n’ recycle a huge collection of re-invented objects all salvaged from “the industries of the sprawling metropolis” as he puts it!
Having set-up recording sessions with both multi-instrumentalist Andrew Cronshaw and duduk player Tigran Aleksanyan, both introduced us to their fellow musician friend Ian Blake. A talented composer and producer himself, Ian plays woodwinds, keyboards and bass, and we recorded him improvising on bass clarinet and soprano sax.