Opera North has announced details of the six artists who will take part in this year’s Resonance programme, a scheme aimed at music-makers of colour working in all genres and based in the north of England.

Representing a variety of genres from jazz and R&B to ambient, and rooted in traditional music from across Africa and Asia, the six lead artists are Rob Green, Ni Maxine, Babak Mirsalari, Madeline Shann, Kaviraj Singh and Marco Woolf.

The residency runs from this month to April. Each of the lead artists will spend a week at Opera North’s central Leeds base, developing new ideas in workshops with collaborators. They will also receive a grant of up to £3,800 to cover fees and other costs, as well as support and advice from technicians, producers and other specialists. There are also options for a work-in-progress performance in front of a live audience and a short film to document each project.

Rob Green is a singer-songwriter from Nottingham who has been writing, performing and touring for more than 10 years. His music combines soul and R&B with pop influences; his live appearances include Glastonbury’s acoustic stage, the BBC Proms and as the opening act for Earth, Wind and Fire on their UK and European tours.

Drawing inspiration from growing up mixed race and gay, Rob’s work aims to unite audiences and tell a hopeful story of identity. In his residency, he will blend spoken word and music to flow between tracks; he will work with Leeds-based filmmakers and videographers to create a single-take visual document of his performance of acoustic songs exploring identity, masculinity and mental wellbeing.

Neo-jazz singer Ni Maxine will use Resonance to continue work on The Life Movement, her “space for expression and storytelling through music”. This ambitious work finds Ni “explaining the context of my ancestors, the generations who came before me and my current predicament”. She will draw on her West African heritage, the legacy of Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti, and the power of storytelling in song.

“I am looking forward to using this time to develop a show that tells my Black British story, offers consolation and inspiration to those who relate and opens the eyes of those who find the narrative challenging or unfamiliar, to spark conversations for change,” she commented. “I am grateful to Opera North for creating the space and opportunity for me to embark on this deeply personal journey with collaborators who share in my experience.”

Babak Mirsalari is a composer, collaborator and performer, working in genres as varied as contemporary and nu-jazz, progressive electronica, world fusion, post-rock and spacey ambient. He is now looking to develop his practice as a composer and solo performer.

He plans to bring his experience as an Iranian immigrant to bear upon his Resonance residency, using south-western Iranian rhythms to reflect on his childhood; his transition from Iran to northern England’s music scene, his years spent in the “maze” of Home Office bureaucracy in the UK, and the beautiful Yorkshire landscapes surrounding his new home in Hebden Bridge.

He said: “I am looking forward to giving life to a project that I envisioned from the early days of being granted my leave to remain. Through this autobiographical piece, I am going to create sonic landscapes that reflect on different chapters of my life as an Iranian musician living in the UK, travelling through time and geography. Working with other talented musicians and storytellers, the project will traverse various genres and mediums.”

Madeline Shann works across music, dance, theatre, screen and live art. She currently performs alternative pop as Night-Visions, and recently made an experimental short film called The Spring, with score and sound design by composer Xavier Velastin.

“For the Resonance residency I will be returning to my collaboration with Xavier in a new project called Flood the Field,” Shann said. “It’ll be an opportunity for me to branch out from my usual songwriting practice, and delve deep into the world of voice and sound, experimenting with layers, textures, structure and duration.

“I am interested in meditative and hypnotic states achieved by listening and dancing, and am drawing on traditional folk songs, danceable rhythms, and disorientating loops to create sound for these experiences. This is a completely new area for me and I am so excited to explore it in the studio.”

The only professional practitioner in the UK to combine santoor (hammered dulcimer) and vocals, Kaviraj Singh is also a trained sound engineer. For Resonance he plans to bring all these skills together in developing a narrative about migration and nature. He has already performed on the Opera North stage as part of the ensemble for the company’s production of Orpheus in 2022.

He commented: “I’m very much looking forward to being able to explore and delve deeper into the sound of the santoor to find new pathways and routes in which to present my music alongside the textures of the Indian voice.

“I intend to use Indian music as a springboard to create new and innovative musical material which will help me develop as a musician and an artist, to transcend boundaries and create a new listening experience.”

Malawi-born, Manchester-based singer-songwriter, composer and storyteller Marco Woolf grew up listening to his elders’ folk tales, and as a performer he weaves improvised stories and poetry into his sets. Inspired by the Greek Furies and Aeschylus’s Oresteia, his new project explores the theme of healing, with improvised dance responding to his narratives.

During his residency, Woolf and his collaborators will spend one day each concentrating on storytelling, music and dance, before two days with a dramaturg to help develop the narrative and creative language.

He said: “The Resonance residency arrives at such a pivotal point for me: before I could start thinking about writing new music or the next steps in my career I knew I needed the time and space to explore and play with the ideas that have been bouncing around in my head. Me and my band have never had an opportunity like this, so I am immensely grateful and stupendously excited to get working under the guidance of Opera North.”

Find out more about Opera North’s Resonance residency.



Ni Maxine is one of six new artists to join Opera North’s Resonance programme this month (Paul Waring).