Opera North has revealed the details of the five lead artists who will develop new work in the company’s Resonance programme for minority ethnic music-makers, at residencies in Leeds over the next three months.

Musician Azizi Cole, flautist Naomi Perera, percussionist Arian Sadr, composer and Afro-psychedelic funk multi-instrumentalist Hannabiell Sanders, and tabla player Mendi Mohinder Singh will all take part this year.

Resonance was launched in 2017 to offer professional musicians and composers based in the north of England and working in any musical genre the opportunity to develop new ideas, to collaborate with performers from other disciplines and to take their work in new directions.

Hailing from Handsworth in Birmingham, Azizi Cole is an accompanist at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance (NSCD). During his Resonance residency he will develop his multidisciplinary work Body Clock, which uses the body as an instrument to compose and perform music, as well as to dance. He will collaborate with NSCD alumna Shahada Nantaba and London-based dance artist Issac Ouro-Gnao, with costumes by Jamaican-born seamstress Audrey Mae.

“During these challenging and turbulent times for the arts, it’s vital for us to maintain and believe in the longevity of our sense of creativity.” Cole commented. “I’m grateful for this opportunity to collaborate and share knowledge and skills with some truly talented artists.

“As a creative working at the intersection of music and dance, my research explores musicality through movement. This residency with Opera North sees the start of my creative practice as a lead artist. In documenting the process of Body Clock both visually and audibly, I will continue to explore and develop my practice into fuller bodies of work.”

York-based flautist Naomi Perera uses electronics and alternative performance contexts to expand the possibilities of her instrument. She will work with award-winning saxophonist, improviser, producer and composer Lara Jones on an album detailing the experiences of female music-makers in their own words and performance.

Perera and Jones will improvise around recordings of each musician performing, along with their oral testimony, creating a soundscape of flutes and electronics in response to their experiences. The completed album will give voice to the stories of women who are under-represented and routinely discriminated against in the music industry.

Perera said: “Using conversations and improvisations, we’ll be creating five tracks showcasing the stories of five diverse performers. The time, space and support Resonance is offering is invaluable to us, and we can’t wait to get started!”

Persian-born percussionist Arian Sadr is based in Manchester. For his residency he will develop The Wind. This work in three movements uses the extraordinary range of sounds produced by the daf (a circular frame drum) and the tonbak (a goblet drum) to reflect the journeys and upheavals of his life.

“I am so pleased and excited to be part of the Resonance project,” he said. “This is a unique opportunity for me to share my musical ideas with the open-minded musicians of the Orchestra of Opera North, to experiment together and finally to record the outcome.”

Born in New Jersey and currently based in Newcastle, composer, bass trombonist, percussionist and mbira player Hannabiell Sanders will weave together storytelling, visuals, electronics and percussion in Ladies of Midnight Blue, her collaboration with performance artist Yilis del Carmen Suriel.

Sanders commented: “The residency will allow me to continue exploring the different ways in which Ladies of Midnight Blue can tell stories through our music by adding electronics and visuals. I will co-create a portable stage set with Yilis and the artist James Davoll that will add a new visual experience for our audiences, and we’ll use the residency to practise with it and test out its capabilities.”

Percussionist Mendi Mohinder Singh has toured around the world with his tabla, performing with artists ranging from Peter Gabriel to Take That. He also delivers educational workshops for Birmingham charity Sampa. He will work with four visually impaired people via Leeds BID Services to create a new body of music that will bring his tabla together with electronics, the sounds of everyday objects, and the rhythms and voices of his collaborators.

“I am so delighted to be selected for the residency programme, and grateful for this opportunity to explore how better to understand, communicate and share in genuinely collaborative music-making with visually impaired and blind people,” he said. “Everyone should have the opportunity to make music, to express their creativity, boost their confidence and wellbeing, and this project will be inspiring, uplifting, therapeutic – and fun.”

Over the next three months, the five lead artists will receive a week of free rehearsal space in central Leeds, a grant of up to £3,500 to cover fees for those involved and other costs, and support and advice from technicians, producers and other specialists. There are also options for a short film to document each project, and a work in progress performance or live stream.

Jo Nockels, projects director at Opera North, added: “It is fantastic to welcome another group of artists to spend time developing their ideas and trying out new areas of work here at Opera North.

“While they come from vastly differing musical backgrounds, this year’s artists share a concern with contemporary experiences, and the primacy of rhythm and percussion. With collaborators ranging from sight-impaired, non-professional musicians, to dancers and players from Opera North’s own orchestra, we can’t wait to share what happens next!”

Click here for more information about Opera North’s Resonance programme.



Flautist Naomi Perera is one of the five lead artists who will take part in this year’s Resonance programme for minority ethnic music-makers, offered by Opera North.