Over the years, taking us far and wide, this project and has brought us into contact with many wonderful artists with a refugee background, from Afghan santur player Ebrahim Mohammadi (who we filmed in Portugal, where he now lives) to the folks behind Germany’s RapfugeeCamp and organisations such as the Journeys Festival (with our Sounds of Sanctuary project).

So it was a real privilege to be asked to perform at the Bristol Refugee Festival 2024 fundraiser and in fact take Orchestra of Samples to Bristol for the first time.

Founded in 2005, the festival takes place every June during the UK’s Refugee Week. The festival also coordinates a collaborative year-round programme of arts and educational events, bringing together communities across Bristol and beyond. We’d been introduced to them by London based Counterpoints Arts (the organisation behind the UK’s Refugee Week) whose core belief is that arts can inspire social change and enhance cultural integration; which it definitely can and certainly does and why funding arts is so important.

In turn, the festival – asking us to perform at their event – introduced us to Alphonse Touna, the amazing Cameroonian multi-instrumentalist and frontman of the band Hélélé. Alphonse performed with us, singing and playing guitar and an assortment of percussion including his west African balafon, which he actually built himself. It was a packed and fantastic night at the Bristol city centre venue Strange Brew, close to Castle Park and the canals, other performers included the kora and trumpet duo Bristol Griot and the event was also supported by Bristol’s Lorraine Ayensu Refugee Arts.

With massive thanks to Counterpoints Arts and Bristol Refugee Festival for a fantastic night.

While in the Portugal for the music industry conference WOMEX (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.

Based in Parede, an hour or so along the coast from the Portuguese capital Lisbon, Kabeção’s been instrumental in recent developments of the handpan (also known as the pantam), working closely with instrument maker Yishama, helping create new designs in what is more akin to a new generation of lap played steelpan drums than to what may look like a hang drum (such as we recorded in Madrid some years ago). If you’re interested, here’s an article on the difference between the instruments.

Since his early youth, and with no formal training, Kabeção has always loved exploring sounds with percussion and rhythm, from strings to woodwind he experimented, composed and recorded. He’s since collaborated with a number of different projects, including ethno-contemporary group Khayalan and electro tribal dance band T3ka and in 2015, he was finalist on television’s Portugal’s Got Talent – you can see a clip of his performance here.  As well as a compilation and an EP, he’s released three albums to date, Touching Souls (2017), live album The Bell Cave recorded at the bell shaped caves of Beit Guvrin National Park in Israel (2018) and Freedom Expressions (2020).  Also in 2020 he set-up a weekly school with instrument maker Yishama, teaching the handpans / pantams.

It was an absolute pleasure spending the afternoon together and we were really appreciative of the time Carlos gave us, as we ended up recording a whole number of instruments with him from his huge collection, including a handpan, a cajonico, (a newly developed percussion instrument combing elements of a cajón and bongos), a customised udu (the Indian clay drum) that he’d designed, adding a small drum skin to close one of the openings like the Indian ghumot clay drum, a Chinese hulusi gourd flute, and adufe (the traditional Portuguese square frame drum typically played by women).

Do check out his Spotify and his Bandcamp!

Massive thanks to Helena and Nicole Anna Maria from Primal Gathering for all the introductions!

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.

Each event features two acts offering an original perspective on worldwide sounds, and they asked us to perform Orchestra of Samples at their second edition – a fantastic night which took place on October 7th 2022.  Was good to see local magazine Weekender feature the event on it’s cover and a short article inside (image below).

Similar to the night we performed at Plugged earlier this year, we were once again paired up with Iranian producer Pouya Ehsaei and his Parasang project, here’s some photos from the night.

With huge thanks to Marco Canepari and Rhythm Passport, František Holčík, Dave Gallagher and to Francoise Lamy for the photos!