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.
Continuing with our 2021 UK recordings, particularly looking for lesser known instruments, we read about Armenian duduk player Tigran Aleksanyan, so decided to get in touch. He’s one of few people in the UK who’s a master of the ancient Armenian instrument, which is a double reeded oboe-like woodwind hollowed out of apricot wood; it has a beautifully melancholic sound. We also recorded him playing pku, the single-reeded horn.
After just over a week in the Indonesian city of Solo – aka Surakarta – working with Indonesian artist Tesla Manaf as part of the British Council’s Connections Through Culture initiative, we travelled over night by train to Bandung, a city few hours south of the capital Jakarta. While there, as well as meeting up with the British Council, Tesla also arranged a recording session with the supremely talented multi-instrumentalist Manshur Praditya who plays (and built his own) Angklung.
Rumah Banjarsari – or Banjarsari House in English – is a fantastic independent arts centre run by artists for artists, and was first set-up in 2017 in the grounds of the former home of the extended family of the Mangkunegaran royals, the house itself is now a museum (Mangkunegaran is a small Javanese state located within Surakarta, in a similar way to Monaco or The Vatican). Quite a number of international artists come here to perform, practice and hold workshops – particularly in the field of ethnomusicology.
In a week of meeting so many great musicians in Surakarta (locally known as the city of Solo) and hearing so much about the ISI – Institut Seni Indonesia (the Institute of the Arts Indonesia), where many of those we recorded studied, we actually had the opportunity to visit the ISI and record a section of gamelan there. So one evening Indonesian artist Tesla Manaf, who we’re working with as part of the British Council’s Connections Through Culture programme, introduced us to ISI lecturer Mukhlis Anton Nugroho, who allowed us to attend a gamelan rehearsal of his students.
We’d timed our week in the Indonesian city of Surakarta, known locally as Solo, to coincide with its week-long festivities celebrating the 275th anniversary of the founding of the city, which was on the 18th February 1745. One of the week’s opening events was an outdoor concert by traditional local band Barona, and intrigued by their surprisingly Latin-sounding music we decided to speak to the group after their performance.
It’s February 2020 and we’re working on a different project recording traditional instruments in Indonesia supported by The British Council’s Connections Through Culture programme, collaborating with Indonesian artist Tesla Manaf (aka Kuntari – who’ll we host next month in London at Plugged, the event we’re involved with). The artists we recorded in Indonesia were all fascinated by the concept of Orchestra of Samples and were also happy to be part of the project too, which was great as we hadn’t recorded in Indonesia, although have performed in Jakarta some years ago.
During our Tamil Nadu trip in India, we decided to visit neighbouring Auroville – the experimental township founded in the late 1960s, when back then a roughly 5000 acre site of wasteland was chosen to build a future community on. In February 2018 Auroville celebrated its 50th anniversary and Indian President Ram Nath Kovind called it “a unique symbol of human unity.”
January 2020, and while taking a holiday in Tamil Nadu, in South India, to visit our musician friend Perumal Varudaraj, we decided to travel to Pondicherry.
While there we took the opportunity to meet up with Yatra Arts – a film, theatre and photography studio who produce media projects but also, through their Yatra Art and Culture Foundation…
October 2017 and we were asked to play at computer game Dota2’s All Star Weekend in Manila, The Philippines, at the huge Mall of Asia Arena. Alongside gamers competing with each other and artists from rapper Travie McCoy to New York dance act Kinjaz, we performed to the crowd, cutting-up Dota2 and at one point were joined by Travie McCoy himself who scratched on our Dota2 remix with us!
It’s October 2017 and we’re working on an amazing project with blind sitar master Baluji Shrivastav, funded by Unlimited – the arts body who support projects by disabled artists. Baluji also heads the UK’s only blind ensemble of musicians, the Inner Vision Orchestra, some members of which who’ve also taken part in our Orchestra of Samples project, including Baluji himself.
May 2016 and we were in China for some dates, including performing at the opening of the GMIC16, the Global Mobile Internet Conference, in (quite incredibly) the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium in Beijing (watch the video below) and at Club Tango, also in the capital.
During our recent trip to Almaty in Kazakhstan for a gig, we had the opportunity to record local musicians playing the dombyra! The dombyra is Kazakhstan’s nationally recognised instrument and is a long-necked, 2-stringed, acoustic lute but Kazakh band Aldaspan were the first to…
We first worked with Marcellus way back in 2003 when, as a promoter, he brought us to Japan for an event he was organising. A truly mega-talented chap, it really is fantastic to have him as part of Orchestra of Samples. He sings on the track Sundown (That’s a Fact) for which he also wrote the lyrics.
Whilst in Istanbul this month performing our other film remix and mashup set at Ghetto Club we also gave talks about our work at both Istanbul’s School of Audio Engineering and at Bahçeşehir University. The university also arranged for us to film on their roof terrace with the amazing tanbur player Korkutalp Bilgin. The tanbur is the very long necked stringed instrument usually found in Turkey, the Middle East and Southern & Central Asia.
March 2013 and we headed back to the French capital for another series of recording sessions at Canal 93, the venue in the Paris suburbs of Bobigny who are supporting Orchestra of Samples as part of their artist-in-residence programme.
As well as playing at the launch of her 2012 UK tour, joining Mixmaster Morris and Plaid, we also took the opportunity to hook up and record old friend Coppé, the delightfully sweet and eccentric Japanese electronic music producer/singer-songwriter, while she was in the UK.
Prior to creating this project but in many ways helping plant the seed for the whole idea of Orchestra of Samples, we had many hours of footage and field recordings we’d filmed in the small Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan in 2007, when we’d been invited as part of an artists expedition by London’s October Gallery aiming to record and preserve aspects of the country’s ancient ritual dance culture.