Jazzlines Fellowship Blog

8th July 2013
During the first few months of my fellowship with Jazzlines I have been busy furthering my investigation into various relevant musical styles and sub-cultures, establishing the design for my Mbira-piano hybrid and planning my travels in West Africa in October.

My musical activity in this period has covered a number of different areas as detailed below.

Guo Music, Ghana
I have been working with Bex Birch on music from Guo, Ghana. We have been learning the traditional music aurally and then arranging it for our own instrumentation. Click the link below to listen...

Guo1.mp3 (MP3 Audio - 1.02Mb)

Rehearsing music from Guo, Ghana. Arrangements by myself, Bex Birch, Tom Challenger and Dave Smith.

Guo music with Dave Smith, Tom Challenger & Chris Brannik.

Duo with Dave Smith
I have been working on Sabar music from The Gambia with drummer Dave Smith, who has studied extensively with Gambian musicians. This Duo is currently performing concerts as well as starting to develop music for the Jazzlines project.
We are performing in November at the London Jazz Festival and at Cafe Oto in London.

SabarRhythm.mp3 (MP3 Audio - 1.75Mb)

Learning a Gambian Sabar rhythm with Dave Smith.

DanDave1.mp3 (MP3 Audio - 3.97Mb)

Performing an original composition based on Sabar rhythms at The Oxford, London.

Performances with Fofoulah
I have recently performed two concerts with the group Fofoulah, which comprises of Senegalese vocalist Biram Seck (who's family I will stay with during my trip to Dakar), Gambian Sabar drummer Kaw Secka, as well as Tom Challenger, Dave Smith and others. This experience has been very pertinent to my project as the group collectively composes music based on Senegalese and Gambian traditions but using Western instruments and elements of jazz and improvised music.
I enjoyed discussing my project with Biram and Kaw (whom I will be studying Sabar with in the coming months), who were both very enthusiastic and offered advice and contacts in their respective home countries.

Bene Bop from Fofoulah's self-titled EP

I have been researching and listening to a wide range of African musics, mainly focusing on Kinshasa, D.R. of Congo; Dakar, Senegal; Accra, Ghana; Guo, Ghana; Shona music from Zimbabwe; Sabar music from The Gambia.

The electronic Mbira music from Kinshasa gives an idea of the sound which inspired my keyboard hybrid.

Example track – Lufuala Ndonga by Konono N°1

Example track – Matonge by Masanka Sankayi

During this period I have begun designing and researching the keyboard instrument which I wish to build. After much deliberation and discussion with experts in mechanics including Joe Lawton (engineer and mechanic at Rolls Royce), James Rathbone (electric engineer) and members of the forum www.allaboutcircuits.com, I am currently planning to use a mechanism that utilises Solenoid motors. A very simple diagram of this idea can be seen below.

I have discussed this design in detail with James Rathbone, who I intend to work with at the end of July to put together the first prototype. I have also been in contact with Warren Defever who created this exhibition of electric Kalimbas in Detroit. He offered a lot of advice and sent photos such as the ones below of his own designs.