Posts Tagged ‘queen elizabeth hall’
Susheela Raman (Mon April 16) delivered what was probably the highlight of the whole festival, weaving together Tamil, Bengali and Rajasthani ingredients and combining them with the qawwali singers of Mian Mir form Lahore, Pakistan. Alchemy is about collaborations and creating something new – gold perhaps – out of different ingredients.
Susheela always looks slightly scary onstage, delivering her intense vocals and raising her arms like she’s climbing wallbars, but the emotional trajectory of the concert was direct. Hundreds of people were clustered round the stage dancing at the end. This has the makings of a fantastic album and bigger things.
Raghu Dixit from Bangalore (Wed April 18) – a Songlines favourite – was slightly disappointing, but through no fault of his own. He was suffering from a throat problem and cut short his set. While his vocals were incandescent in what he managed to do, we never got to hear much of his new material. Although he did get a shy Queen Elizabeth Hall audience singing four lines in Kannada – a pretty impressive achievement.
Most intriguing was the Sachal Jazz Ensemble (Tues April 17, pictured). It didn’t all work, but had great moments and revealed tempting possibilities. The orchestra has been put together in Lahore by Izzat Majeed from musicians no longer employed in the ‘Lollywood’ film industry. There was a nine-piece band from Pakistan, driven by a percussion section of tabla, dholak and other instruments, plus sitar, bansuri flute and sarangi and guest sarod player Soumik Datta. They were backed by a London string section and jazzers on piano, trumpet, bass and guitars.
Sachal Jazz’s version of Dave Brubeck’s ‘Take Five’ has been a huge internet success – and it was the finale everyone was waiting for. It’s one of the pieces that work best in this hybrid format. Some of the tunes work well – ‘Take Five’, ‘The Pink Panther’ and, of course, the Pakistani tunes – I loved ‘Barkha Bahar’, which was the highlight of the evening.
But there were horrendous tuning problems with pieces that had more complex harmonies – particularly the bossa nova ones. At first I thought ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ was ‘Desafinado’ because it was all so out of tune – the Indian instruments and the Western instruments were just not getting along. And I wondered who was leading it all, because the conductor Nijat Ali seemed to be just waving his arms to the music. And many of the arrangements were too formulaic with a sequence of solos from sitar, flute (the excellent Baqir Ali), sarangi and sarod.
It’s worth writing about this because I think there’s real potential here. The Queen Elizabeth Hall was full, there are great musicians and there’s a good story. What it needs is a professional arranger and then Sachal Jazz can become more than just a quirky story, but a sophisticated musical product within Pakistan and outside.
The current issue of Songlines contains a Sounds of South Asia bonus CD featuring a taster of the great music to be heard during Alchemy, Milapfest & Darbar festivals at London’s Southbank Centre.
Southbank Centre’s third annual Alchemy festival returns with another potent mix of music, dance, literature, film, fashion and design that will cast an illuminating light on the fast-changing economic and cultural landscape of the Indian subcontinent. In a first for Alchemy, 2012 sees Southbank Centre’s riverside venues and spaces become a film set, complete with a Taste of India food market, and festival-goers can enroll as dancing and singing extras in a Bollywood-style movie to be made throughout the festival and screened as a finale.
As part of this 10 day celebration on April 18-19, former Songlines’ award winners Raghu Dixit & members of Bellowhead team up to perform in the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Continuing a collaboration that began at Alchemy in 2011, Raghu Dixit performs new work based on one of India’s favourite myths with members of energetic multi-instrumentalists Bellowhead, Southbank Centre Artists in Residence, and featuring choreography by Gauri Sharma Tripathi, also Artist in Residence at Southbank Centre.
Sure to be one of many highlights from Alchemy 2012, tickets for both days are still available here.
The Alchemy 2012 Festival will take place at the Southbank Centre from April 12-22. For full line up details, visit the Alchemy website.
A very nervous Arthur Jeffes took to the stage of the Purcell Room in the Queen Elizabeth Hall last week to perform as part of his latest offshoot project – Sundog.
Pianist and composer Jeffes – who is the son of the the late Simon Jeffes, founder of Penguin Café Orchestra – played the London-based venue, alongside violinist Oli Langford, to an audience packed with friends and family-members, hence the nerves I imagine. Together they played original pieces as well as those made famous by the PCO and Arthur’s ‘reboot’, Penguin Café.
As usual, Jeffes took the time to explain to the audience the often mathematically intricate and precise rhythms behind his pieces – an aside that I have enjoyed every time I have seen him play. In front of him, his grand piano was literally covered in post-it notes serving as reminders of versions of these stripped-down tunes.
It was back in 2010 that Jeffes began working on solo projects as a way of exploring his sometimes more post-minimalist ideas outside the framework of the Penguin Cafe’s older and more established sound without endangering the balance of the it’s delicate and unique history.
Taking Philip Glass, Wim Mertens and Simon Jeffes’ work into account, Jeffes’ aim is to create music that can be both intellectually satisfying and quietly touching. This is music which, because of its origin, can work happily under any number of names; classical, minimalist, chamber, or electronica.
Nerves aside, Jeffes was, as ever, a delight to watch and listen to and watch. I look forward to seeing what the future has in store for this duo.
Appointed an MBE in 1998, the godfather of English folk Martin Carthy reaches the personal milestone of 70 this year, and to celebrate he will be throwing a concert party at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on London’s Southbank on May 14.
Alongside him for the 70th birthday concert will be longtime musical partner Dave Swarbrick, daughter Eliza Carthy and radio DJ and musician Tom Robinson. To mark the event, Topic will also be releasing the album Essential Martin Carthy in mid-March.
Having become a regular at the Troubadour folk club in Earl’s Court, London, the young Martin Carthy released his eponymous debut album in 1965, including an arrangement of ‘Scarborough Fair’ adapted the following year by Paul Simon. On his debut was fiddle player Dave Swarbrick, with whom he would develop a lifelong musical collaboration.
Since 1972, Carthy has also worked with the Watersons, these days in the guise of Waterson:Carthy with his partner Norma Waterson and their daughter Eliza Carthy.
Carthy has influenced more musicians than it is possible to count, and although a stalwart of the return to traditional English folk music, he has always been ready to experiment and develop the sound of the genre – from the electric folk of Steeleye Span in the 70s to the urban re-imaginings of folk music with the Imagined Village in recent years.