At Sandblast we've been busy throughout the first half of the year developing the different strands of our music empowerment project Studio-Live. Here's a summary of activities:
January 2013 – The Sandblast Team travelled to Vitoria-Gasteiz (Spain) to help coordinate a Historical Encounter of Saharawi Musicians living in Spain at the Music Conservatory of Music ‘Jesús Guridi’. The meeting, organised in collaboration with legendary revolutionary singer Oum Reghia, gathered more than 40 musicians and cultural figures, including singer Oum Dleila, musician Bachir Sidi, composer and guitarist Ali Mohamed, poet Ali Salem Iselmu, and young musicians Yslem and Lehsen, among many others. Studio-Live was presented for the first time in Spain. Throughout the day, interesting conversations sparkled around Saharawi music, its role in the struggle and its current state. The day-long event concluded with a concert in the evening, given by a number of the attending musicians, who delighted the audience with legendary songs such as ‘Sahara is not for sale’, by Oum Reghia, and ‘A song to the martyrs’, by Oum Dleila, who had not sung in more than 8 years.
March 19, 2013 – Studio in the Sand by Robin Denselow. BBC Radio 4 and BBCWorld Service broadcasted this wonderful radio show about Saharawi music and Studio-Live. Presented by foreign correspondent and music journalist Robin Denselow, who had travelled to the Saharawi refugee camps with a Sandblast delegation last December 2012, the show features interviews with Sandblast’s Founding Director Danielle Smith and some of the Studio-Live workshop leaders and students in the Saharawi refuge camps. Robin also spoke to the Saharawi Prime Minister and Minister of Culture about the forgotten struggle of the Saharawi, whose plight has vanished off the international agenda, and about the role that their music can play to carry the story of their struggle to an international audience. Overall, Studio in the Sand is a wonderful account of the haunting energy of this unique musical tradition.
March-April 2013 – A third live sound training workshop took place in the Saharawi refugee camps, this time using the facilities of the Saharawi National Music School (Enamus), led by top sound engineer Andy Coules. Ten students, who had already participated in the previous workshop, received advanced training on the art of taking care of the sound of live acts. ‘By the end of it the students were noticeably more confident and competent not just operating the equipment, but also dealing with the musicians and coping with the demands of a live performance. I was quite happy leaving them in charge of the desk at the final gig.’ (Andy Coules) The Studio-Live technical crew has been born!
April 2013 – Sara McGuinness, sound engineer and musician specialised in African and Cuban music, travelled to the camps to give the very first Studio-Live sound recording workshop! Also using the facilities of the Saharawi music school, and in an attempt to try out the recording studio there, 6 students were introduced to how to set mics, cables and musicians depending on the recording environment, how to deal with the mixing desk, how to use open spaces in the desert to your advantage for recording purposes (especially on windy days!) and how to use editing software. They even had to have a lesson without electricity once! The students did some really amazing recordings of musicians who were rehearsing for several celebrations taking place in the camps… we’ll be posting some soon, watch this space! Sara was also joined by Leonardo Rossetti, a musician, music teacher and choir leader who spent some weeks in the camps playing with musicians there and working with children’s choirs as part of his trip throughout West Africa.
April 20-27, 2013 – Sahara Live Week. The London crowd enjoyed a fantastic week of live music and educational activities with sensational Saharawi singer percussionist Aziza Brahim. Through concerts, films, discussions and workshops Sahara Live Week‘s aim was to create a wider appreciation of Saharawi culture and promote Studio-Live. The event was supported by a grant from Arts Council England and involved collaborations with the MA Music in Development (SOAS), the World Heart Beat Music Academy (Southfields) and London-based Muslim rappersPoetic Pilgrimage and Algerian band Diwan el Maalouf. Sahara Live Week kicked off with the conference The Art of Struggle: addressing human rights through music (SOAS), a successful day of talks and debates about the potential of music to deal with issues of human rights (cultural rights, trauma, well-being and identity), followed by four concerts and two music workshops by Aziza. (See full program of activities here). An outspoken ambassador for her people’s culture and self-determination cause, she performed songs from her critically acclaimed debut album Mabruk (June 2012), named after her poetess grandmother, who has inspired much of her work. Aziza fully supports the Studio-Live initiative and headlined its official launch at the multi-arts Sahara Nights event at Roundhouse (June 2012).
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