Two reviews in this months packed Songlines magazine catch my eye. First up there’s a review of Moishe’s Bagel new release Uncle Roland’s Flying Machine – billed as another heath robinson contraption from the Scottish klezmerists. The band – come to Dartington on 24 Feb. Anyway back to the review – here’s an edited version of what Jan Fairley had to say:-
“Fans of this brilliant six piece have been expecting this disc and its been well worth the wait…While Klezmer and Balkan sounds are their springboard, the eclectic background of all concerned – they include members of Salsa Celtica and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, versed in Brazilian music, ceilidh, classical and jazz – and the skilled improvisation guarantees a different ambience for each piece. Each track is fired by superb levels of musician ship, fantastic rapport between all involved and subtly beautiful arrangements….This is an album to treasure: deeply affecting, with a wide range of emotional moods that will inspire you to play it over and over again”
I’m delighted that in the wonderful acoustic and surroundings of the Great Hall Moishe’s Bagel are going to be playing musically naked (aka without amplification) – just as we did for HOME. So it seems only natural that we’ll be making our initial announcements about the line up for the 2011 edition of HOME on 25 June just before the concert. Thomas Brooman, Drum and I have been quietly developing some really exciting ideas for this years festivals – building on 2010 and all the wonderful feedback we received from festival goers. I should just mention that we’ve released a very limited number of early bird tickets for Home which are available now from the Dartington web site. At just £30 each they are at £7.50-10 off the full festival ticket price (we’re close to confirming the headliner we really all want but if we do we might just have to push the price a little which will make the early bird even more of a bargain!).
One of last years magical moments from HOME was a mesmerising solo performance by Chartwell Dutiro (of Zimbabwe and Newton Abbott) in Dartington‘s private gardens. His new album Dendre Ngoma with Spirit Talk Mbira (which features polymath Max de Wardner on bass whose work also features in forthcoming gigs by Powerplant and Will Dutta) is also reviewed in Songlines. Heres an extract of what Max Reinhardt had to say:-
“Dendere Ngoma is an album steeped in Zimbabwean tradition, sung in Shona, influenced strongly by Thomas Mapfumo [and the Blacks Unlimited ..a band of which Chartwell was a driving force between 1986 and 1994] chimurenga. But these musicians are no mere imitators….Throughout the album, Spirit Talk Mbira develop the Mbira tradition with sensitivity, fearlessness and respect. On Machangwa a wah-wah guitar delicately underpins Dutiro’s gasping, yodelling vocals. On Huyai Muone the tight interplay between the guitar and the bass carries all the weight of a rock band. On the haunting ‘Shamba ya Mukwashi’ acoustic guitar and mbira swim through an electronic wash which would not be out of place in the post classical world of Max Richter. Spirit Talk Mbira assert themselves with a spirit and confidence that many Zimbabwean bands would do well to emulate’
And the album is really that good – if not better. I am guilty of ‘borrowing’ David Francis (Dartington’s Director of Arts) copy from his desk. I’ve just listened to the whole thing on a train journey from Devon to London – allowing myself to become totally absorbed in the sound of Spirit Talk Mbira as the train struggled through the snow. I’m rather hoping David isn’t expecting the album back!
I’ve also been privileged to hear – through a visit of the Independents programme (a cultural leadership programme run by Battersea Arts Centre for emerging producers) – Chartwell’s extraordinary story. Born under a regime that saw him segregated because of his colour by English settlers he found an escape, and a new life through the mbira. Many years later he must smile at the irony that he finds himself living and working in Britain – the country responsible for his segragation in the first place.
Chartwell is a quite extraordinary force – and if you fancy finding out more you could buy the album but I’m also really excited to say that Chartwell is developing some really bold ideas in partnership with the Dartington SPACE programme. A chance not only to listen but also to take part by singing and playing the mbira. Just reading his proposals makes my mouth water – lets hope that together we can find the means to make his ideas happen.
As ever watch this space..and if you haven’t already done so grab an early bird ticket for HOME before they go! Its definitely going to be worth it!!