Leeds-based company Opera North has revealed the names of the six lead artists for the new ‘Lockdown Edition’ of its successful Resonance programme for UK-based Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) music-makers.
Part of Opera North’s commitment to increasing diversity within its programme, artists, staff and audiences, Resonance has seen research and development residencies for projects including operas, musicals, a film soundtrack and even a multi-sensory work bringing together fragrance, light and music. This special ‘Lockdown Edition’ will support the selected artists in exploring new ideas and remotely collaborating with others.
Singer-songwriter Tawiah has been described as an alt-soul trailblazer. Her Resonance project will be a collaborative work with spatial artist/art director Myrrh, working with conductor Matthew Kofi Waldren and mezzo-soprano Lydia Marchione.
The collaboration will bring together choral music from the European tradition with vocals influenced by Black worship, taking in tribal chants, spoken word and sermons, hymns and gospel improvisation. “I want to explore themes around my personal spiritual journey, re-engaging with my gospel roots, and worship music more generally,” commented Tawiah.
Nicole Raymond – known as NikNak – is a DJ, producer and composer based in Leeds. She is set to work with Leeds-born Khadijah Ibrahiim, a poet and researcher, who combines artforms to re-imagine poetry as interactive, interdisciplinary performance theatre.
They will collaborate using material from Khadijah’s most recent work ‘Dead & Wake’, an exploration of African Jamaican/Cuban rituals and beliefs in popular culture. The idea is to reveal and preserve the importance of Black British narratives and to extend the diasporic cultural disciplines already being practised abroad.
Originally from London and now based in Yorkshire, Dirty Freud, aka Danni Skerritt, will work with Dr Shu Jiang, an ethnomusicologist and expert player of Chinese zithers. “I’m interested in learning more about the structures of Chinese music, as well as sharing my British Caribbean heritage, which has so shaped my artistry, with Shu,” Danni said of the ambitious collaboration.
DJ, producer and musician Balraj Samrai will collaborate with Asian Dub Foundation’s Pandit G (John Pandit) to showcase spoken word and poetry from artists in his community, and explore how the COVID-19 crisis has particularly affected the lives of BAME people.
Balraj is determined to turn working remotely to the project’s advantage: “John has already shared some amazing ideas, and once the tech hurdles are overcome, two people thinking about and working on the project at the same time as opposed to sharing a physical space in a studio can prove to be really beneficial to collaboration.”
Singer-songwriter Emmanuela Yogolelo is steeped in the musical traditions of her native Democratic Republic of Congo. She will work with award-winning British Asian guitarist, percussionist and music technologist Jaydev Mistry to broaden her palette with Indian classical raag and vocal improvisation.
Emmanuela said: “I have a rich repertoire of African melodies in major or minor modes and my singing rigidly follows essential features of African music such as rhythms or beats. I’ve always wondered what melodies I would produce if I had an opportunity to learn about musical traditions from other parts of the world, and mix them with my African traditions.”
Sarah Wilson is an electronic producer, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who lives in Mid Wales; Nicole Justice is an experienced hip-hop artist. For Resonance, the two musicians will create a new piece of music collaboratively, using Foley and recordings of sounds that they encounter over the course of their daily walks as a starting point.
“One of the core aims and strengths of Resonance is its adaptability to the processes and the needs of a very diverse cohort of artists,” said Opera North’s Head of Projects Jo Nockels. “With restrictions on movement and gathering now in place, we wanted to find a new way of enabling artists to develop what they do and try out ideas, through collaboration with another artist. We also saw the glimmer of an opportunity for artists in the current situation, to work with those they most want to, when normally time and availability might make it impossible.”
Nicole Raymond – also known as NikNak – will work with Khadijah Ibrahiim to produce a piece exploring the importance of Black British narratives.