June 2020 and we were to perform Orchestra of Samples at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris for the launch of their new magazine Humanities Arts and Society, the event was unfortunately cancelled due to the pandemic.
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.
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!
We’ve just performed Orchestra of Samples in Paris at the world famous Musée du Quai Branly, the prestigious museum of world cultures by the Eiffel Tower! The night was part of their weekend L’Afrique des Routes (Africa on the Road), closing the museum’s year long Africa exhibition.
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.
Releasing Orchestra of Samples meant the selection of chosen tracks from the project needed mixing / engineering differently from the live show. The !K7 label introduced us to French producer Jérôme Caron (aka Blackjoy), who’s produced artists including singer and actress
Never away from Paris for too long, November 2014 saw us head back to the French capital for a weeklong artist-in-residence with the digital arts venue MISS – the Maison de l’Image et du Signe de Sevran. Over the week we filmed great recording sessions and gave a couple of talks about the project to very enthusiastic students from local schools, and at the end of the week performed Orchestra of Samples in their theatre / cinema space. Joining us on stage were Tunisian percussionist Seifeddine Helal and long time collaborator Alejandro de Valera.
Le Hangar, the excellent venue in the Ivry suburbs of Paris, recently began their first ever artists-in-residence programme and we had the incredible pleasure of being their very first, working with young musicians from both Le Hangar’s own music school and the local Music Conservatoire of Ivry.
November 2013 and while on a project in Epinal, France, we took the chance to head up the snowy roads of the Vosges Mountains to find Christophe Toussaint, a musician who builds and plays a rather unusual traditional French instrument called the Epinette de Vosges. A beautiful sounding kind of harp, he’s built more than 3000 of them…
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.
We’ve known guitarist Alejandro de Valera since the late 90’s, after we first met when he attended an early performance of ours in Paris. Specialising in fretless guitar, unique guitars without fret boards, which he custom builds as they are quite rare and not easy to buy, he became part of the team back in the early 2000’s, performing on a number of our projects.
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.
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!
Arranged via being artist-in-residence at Paris venue Canal93, we were ultra pleased that renowned French drummer Cyril Atef wanted to be involved with Orchestra of Samples, we took up the invitation to his studio and headed over to record a session while we were in Paris.
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.
During a trip to the small Indian Ocean island of Reunion, where we played at the Sakifo Festival 2012, we got to taste real creole music and culture and had the chance to meet a couple of young artists from Reunion Island and the even smaller next door Mayotte Island, both of which are French overseas territories.
February 2012 and we’re in freezing snowy Paris! Chris invited us over to his studio for a recording session, where we spent a great evening together recording samples on a number of different instruments – from piano to a Bouzouki previously owned by Vangelis.
Over the last year, Orchestra of Samples has introduced us to some amazing musicians playing really unusual instruments, but the Boudègue from Southern France, made from an entire goat that’s essentially skinned and turned into a huge bagpipe, has to be the oddest one yet!
We’ve begun work on our new project Orchestra of Samples! For our first official recordings, we headed off to France and beautiful Brittany for a short residency at the venue L’Echonova in the town of Vannes to record local band Lyse and other musicians playing celtic instruments.