The British Council curated a series of high profile collaborations connecting British musicians with artists and performers around the world to form part of BT River of Music, a spectacular weekend of free music from across the 204 Olympic and Paralympic nations presented at iconic sites along the River Thames on 21 and 22 July 2012. Visit the BT River of Music website for details on the wider programme.
The collaborations, one for each of the five stages at the festival representing all five continents, are the result of ongoing British Council projects around the world.
Watch a short film about the five international collaborations that were part of BT River of Music
Matthew Herbert’s Russian Big Band (Europe Stage):
Lauded for the use of ‘real’ or ‘found’ sounds, British electronic musician and DJ Matthew Herbert created a new Russian Big Band made up of British and Russian musicians who performed both in Moscow, at Strelka, and as part of BT River of Music at London’s iconic Trafalgar Square on Sunday 22nd July.
The band played two original pieces of music composed by Matthew Herbert and based on the ‘sounds of Russia’. Matthew commented: "Instead of just writing music about Russia, we are trying to create music out of Russia and its people. For example, we have asked them to send us the sounds of their babies. What better way to state both the particularity and universality of the Russian experience than through the gurgle and scream of newborns?"
Produced by the British Council with Accidental Records
King Sunny Ade & His African Beats featuring Byron Wallen's Adventures in Brass (Africa Stage):
King Sunny Ade, one of Africa's biggest forces and the man who put juju on the music map, worked with some of the top brass of British music, led by trumpeter and music director, Byron Wallen. Celebrating the musical common ground to be found between the UK and Nigeria, the irresistible funky psychedelic sound of juju formed the backbone of the project using an instrumental core made up of members of King Sunny Ade's band and embellished by the cream of UK talent.
The UK line up included Oren Marshall, Shabaka Hutchings, Rowland Sutherland, Trevor Mires and The Bays' keys and electronic wiz, Simon Richmond. Special guest Nigerian artists Wizboyy and Weird MC also took centre stage, fusing different styles from different generations from hi-life to hip hop. Their performance took place at the London Pleasure Gardens on Saturday 21st July.
Produced by British Council with No-Nation
Mamiaith - Mother Tongue (Oceania Stage):
Mamiaith - Mother Tongue is a project that saw Australian indigenous arts collective The Black Arm Band Company collaborating with alternative Welsh folk roots group, 9Bach. They share a common experience, exploring musical connections and the preservation of language and culture through music and song.
In 2011, members of 9Bach travelled to Australia to meet and work with artists from The Black Arm Band Company and travelled with them to the remote Aboriginal community of Papunya, situated roughly 240 km northwest of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. Black Arm Band were able to share stories, and allow 9Bach to experience the Indigenous Australian culture.
The two groups have continued working together, and in March 2012, songwriters and performers Lou Bennett and Shellie Morris of The Black Arm Band Company travelled to North Wales to work with 9Bach’s Lisa Jen and Martin Hoyland to develop joint material and learn about the thriving Welsh language speaking community.
Mamiaith - Mother Tongue was showcased in a warm up performance in July at Galeri Caernarfon in Wales. The final production was premiered on Saturday 21st July in Greenwich Park.
Produced by the British Council
In Transit: Music from the Gulf States (Asia Stage):
UK dance outfit and cross-cultural globetrotters, Transglobal Underground led a new collaboration with standout musicians representing UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. The group featured a powerhouse of vocalists: Hamdan Al-Abri, Mansour Al Mohandi and Nizar Al Issa. Teaming up with them were trumpet player Yazz Ahmed, rapper and guitarist Heitham Al-Sayed, qanun player Wahab Abdullah Wahab Al Dhanki, keyboard player Tarik Saeed, and percussionist Mohammed Kaatabi.
As the Middle East enters a new era of self expression, the Gulf States have a story to tell and music offers a unique way of relaying their diverse experiences. Bringing together musicians from a mix of different musical and cultural backgrounds, this collaboration told a story of urban lives unfolding within an ever evolving landscape; of change and opportunity; of people and cultures in transit.
In Transit was showcased at the Dubai Chill Out Festival in April and in Battersea Park for BT River of Music on Sunday 22nd July 2012.
Produced by the British Council with Musicians Incorporated
Ondatrópica (Americas Stage):
British musician and producer Will Holland (Quantic) and Colombian Mario Galeano, the creative mind behind the band Frente Cumbiero, have joined forces to create Ondatrópica. Built on the success of the British Council’s recent three-year Incubator project, Ondatrópica aims to explore and expand the tropical sound of Colombia in its rawest form and to marry it with the sound of London.
Los Irreales de Ondatrópica, a group of Colombian musicians representing the old style, have been joined by a group of younger Colombian musicians and the UK’s Quantic to record an album of new material and adapt the legendary Discos Fuentes repertoire. You can watch a series of films about their collaboration on the Ondatropica website.
Ondatrópica performed at the Tower of London on Sunday 22nd July 2012 as part of the BT River of Music.
Produced by British Council with Como No!
Cathy Graham, Director of Music British Council: "The projects we are contributing to BT River of Music represent just a small part of the rich and varied ongoing work of the British Council Music Department. We are delighted that these performances will contribute to the international and collaborative elements of an outstanding musical celebration, while allowing UK and guest audiences a glimpse of our activities and the long-term projects that we support. Together, these overseas performances and collaborations will demonstrate the UK’s creativity and innovation on the international stage, developing new links and strengthening existing connections with the rest of the world."
Ruth Mackenzie, Director of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad: "Thanks so much to the British Council for the vital part they have played in bringing musicians from round the world to the BT River of Music, just one of many of the great London 2012 Festival projects they have helped to make possible."
BT River of Music is part of the London 2012 Festival. It is supported by National Lottery Funds through the Olympic Lottery Distributor and Arts Council England and is produced by Serious.