9 September 2012

The Bamboo Pearl Orchestra

 The Bamboo Pearl Orchestra

 Standing l-r: Ai Zaini, Ismet Ruchimat, Abdullah Mufa, Martyn Barker, Colin Bass, Phousa Thirapouth, Rita Tila, Julian Poulsen, Srey Channthy, Tong and Nenni. Front: Ben Mandelson, Kim Burton, Great Lekakul


The highlight of the summer for me was the opportunity to put together a glittering array of singers, musicians and dancers for the BT River of Music Festival, part of the Olympic Culture programme which took place in London a week before the opening of the games. The commission was to make a one-hour performance including artists from six Southeast Asian countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Brunei. First step was getting in my long-time collaborator Ismet Ruchimat and fabulous singing lady Rita Tila from Indonesia, both of the dynamic urban gamelan collective from Bandung, Sambasunda. Then came the idea of putting them together with Srey Channthy and Julien Poulsen of the amazing psychedelic combo from Phnom Phen, the Cambodian Space Project. 
That used up all the budget for long-distance flights so further research and recruitment was confined to artists already in the UK. Which was totally ok, as fellow producer, tireless liaison and coordination and concept development and realisation expert Katerina Pavlakis and I were able to bring together the young 
Bruneian guitarist Ai Zaini, the great Great (pronounced "greet") Lekakul from Thailand on the khaen (Thai bamboo mouth organ), the extremely excellent percussionist from Malaysia, Abdullah Mufa and the talented young singer/songwriter of Laotian descent, Phousa (pronounced "poossa") Thirapouth. Plus two dancers from the Thai Dance Academy of London, choreographed by Poranee Johnston and an engine room comprised of myself on bass and my 3 Mustaphas 3 colleagues Ben Mandelson on lap-steel guitar and mandolin and Kim Burton on keyboards and accordion all steered masterfully by Mr Martyn Barker on the drums. An ad-hoc collection of participants who all coalesced beautifully over two rehearsals to become a wonderful, harmonious unit. The only scary moment was when Rita Tila was suddenly taken off to hospital on second day of rehearsal with a swollen ankle of distressing proportions. An allergy perhaps. At least it was touch-and-go whether she would be able to perform the next day as the doctors thought an operation might be necessary and she was kept in overnight. But at the last minute, she was given leave to join us. Tears of joy all round and, although she was not able to display her usual dynamic dancing ability, she turned in a beautiful vocal performance. Very moving it was. And very moving also to see how the whole came together even better than imagined, as everyone got into the spirit and started to contribute and communicate across the varied styles, proving that music is indeed the universal language.

  Here's a video of the performance. This comes from the team who were providing the live images on the relay screens. They weren't making a movie and the sound was their reference feed from the front desk but not the FOH mix so some instruments are indistinct. Nevermind, it was a wonderful Saturday afternoon in the park.

No comments:

Post a Comment