Guest column - World party! BT River Of Music Festival's international collaborations explained
The BT River Of Music Festival takes place this weekend (21-22 July) in London to herald the forthcoming Olympic Games. Taking place at a number of Thames-side venues (including Battersea Park, Somerset House, The Tower Of London and more), music from every continent will represented with the likes of Scissor Sisters, Fyfe Danger Field, Jools Holland and more set to play. As part of the festival, the British Council has curated a series of international collaborations with artists including Matthew Herbert and Transglobal Underground. In a guest column, their Senior Music Adviser, Joel Mills, explains what to expect.
The original idea for the project came about back in 2010 when we were contacted by Serious International Music Producers, who are curating the overall event as part of the London 2012 Festival. As the UK's cultural relations body, we aim to connect artists and organisations in the music industry and through our international network, we are perfectly positioned to develop performances from our ongoing music projects. For us, it's a fantastic opportunity to create something very special and to shine a light on the work we do, connecting artists, creating projects and bringing musicians and other music industry specialists together to share their experiences and expertise.
Each project we've developed for BT River Of Music is a collaboration between a UK artist and an overseas musician. Each has its own story, and reflects the way we create specific partnerships that respond to a particular country. We want the projects we develop to be meaningful, and have impact on the audiences and the sector in which we're working.
Bringing artists together from across cultural boundaries can produce incredible results, but it's not always a straightforward process. It's often said that music is a universal language but there are so many variations in the way musicians work. While many non-Western regions use different scales and rhythms, values and expectations are often different. An open spirit of curiosity is essential, as is a willingness to share and try new approaches. Sometimes something magical happens and a real connection is made which appears in the music.
Collaboration provides great opportunities for artists to explore working with other musical cultures and can be quite a transformational experience, offering an artist the opportunity to stretch their limits. On all of the five projects we're working on we've been lucky to work with artists who are really open to the experience, and thoughtful about how to engage across cultures.
As well as the musical material, a lot of thought has gone into set development and how each performance will work in a large outdoor setting. Many bands who play large venues work for years to hone their craft, set dynamic and presence on stage, but with such new projects extra thought needs to go into transforming fresh material in a short space of time . On each of the projects, a creative producer has worked with the artists, helping shape the pieces into a live show.
We're really proud to have Transglobal Underground leading on a collaboration with musicians from the Gulf region (7pm (BST) Sunday, Asia stage, Battersea Park). Over the years they have been real pioneers in collaborating with artists to create a global dance music sound. They will be working with musicians representing seven different countries, a challenge which they have completely embraced.
Matthew Herbert (top) is bringing an All Russian Big Band to Trafalgar Square (3.45pm Sunday, Europe stage), with new material that has some exciting participatory and found sound elements including recording of Russian babies. His shows mix thought provoking sensibility with fun and an intelligent wit.
Nigerian juju star King Sunny Ade (6.30pm Saturday Africa stage, London Pleasure Gardens) will be working on a cross-generational project with emerging artists.
Australian indigenous collective Black Arm Band have bonded with Welsh alternative folk artists 9Bach while creating their new work exploring preservation of language through music (midday Saturday, Oceania stage, Old Royal Naval College).
Ondatropica is a project that UK producer Will Quantic has developed with Colombian artist Mario Galeano from Frente Cumbiero and brought together a myriad of Cumbia artists, along with special guests from Mexico and Venezuela (3.35pm Sunday, Americas stage, Tower Of London).
The final stage of these partnerships will see the artists coming together in July to rehearse for the last time ahead of their performances on the 21 and 22 July. This is the time for them to tweak and perfect their work and to prepare forthe big stage! While the shows might be the end of this particular project, we feel certain that this is just the beginning of a much longer cross-cultural creative process for the artists.
For more, including the full line-up head to btriverofmusic.com.
10:19 AM | 19/07/2012
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