Ramadan Nights 2008 at the Barbican

Ramadan Nights 2008 at the Barbican

The Barbican’s acclaimed Ramadan Nights series returns between 25 and 29 September with another fascinating survey of music from Muslim cultures around the globe, this year ranging from West Africa through the Kurdish areas of Turkey, the Palestinian Territories and Iran, to Azerbaijan.
‘Ramadan Nights brings together mind-blowing music from the Muslim world’ – Eastern Eye, 2007

Thursday 25 September 8.30pm
Reem Kelani
LSO St Luke’s
Tickets £10/15
Produced by the Barbican

Powerful arrangements of traditional Palestinian songs and poetry from this astonishing young London-based Palestinian singer, backed by an eclectic ensemble of sympathetic musicians. Her debut CD Sprinting Gazelle, which came out in 2006, represented the culmination of twenty years’ work, including research in the Palestine territories, Palestinian refugee camps and the Palestinian diaspora, documenting traditional songs and styles. The album was released to critical acclaim and won ‘CD of the year’ nominations in the Financial Times, Time Out and New Internationalist.

Kelani qualified as a biologist in 1986 at Kuwait University, and worked as a marine researcher for two years before making the decision to become a full-time musician. She is also a regular broadcaster, and wrote and presented Distant Chords for BBC Radio Four, featuring the music of migrant communities in the UK (Afghan, Yemeni, Kurdish, Armenian, Micronesian and Portuguese). Manchester International Festival commissioned Kelani in early 2007 to compose music for and to rehearse the ‘Beating Wing Orchestra’ comprised of locally based refugee and migrant musicians. The work, Paradise in Strangers, was premiered in July 2007.

‘An extraordinary musical map of Palestine emerges from her work, more vibrant than any historical document’ – The Guardian

‘Reem Kelani has placed her name amongst the great singers of the Mediterranean’ – FOLC Magazine

Friday 26 September 8pm
Alim Qasimov Ensemble and Kronos Quartet
Tickets £15 / 20 / 25
Produced by the Barbican and Serious in collaboration with the Aga Khan Music Initiative, a programme of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture

The world premiere of a new collaboration between the Kronos Quartet and the renowned mugham singer Alim Qasimov. Kronos have brought remarkable singers as their guests to the Barbican before – Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Dawn Upshaw and Asha Bhosle among them – and for the first Barbican Hall concert of Ramadan Nights, they are teaming up with with Azerbaijan’s greatest vocalist. Kronos and the Alim Qasimov Ensemble will each play solo sets, and the evening will culminate in Alim Qasimov, his daughter Fargana, the ensemble and Kronos performing arrangements of Azeri bardic songs. These works were commissioned for the Kronos Quartet and Alim Qasimov Ensemble by the Aga Khan Music Initiative.

Alim Qasimov is Azerbaijan’s best known and most beloved singer, a virtuoso described by Le Monde as possessing ‘one of the most beautiful voices of our era’. Born in 1957, Qasimov grew up 100 kilometers from Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. Following a stint in the army and a spell working in the oil industry, he began his conservatory studies with Agha Khan Abdullaev, who instructed him in the art of the virtuosic improvisatory vocal style mugham. In 1999, in recognition for his musical contributions to world peace, Qasimov was awarded the coveted International IMC-UNESCO Music Prize (previous winners have included Yehudi Menuhin, Ravi Shankar, Olivier Messiaen and Daniel Barenboim).

For more than 30 years, the Kronos Quartet – David Harrington, John Sherba (violins), Hank Dutt (viola) and Jeffrey Zeigler (cello) – has carved out its own musical path, combining fearless exploration with a powerful commitment to expanding the range and repertoire of the string quartet. The group has performed thousands of concerts worldwide, released more than 40 recordings, and made a name for an astonishing series of collaborations with some of the world’s most eclectic composers and performers, including Asha Bosle, Wu Man, Osvaldo Golijov, Henryck Gorecki and many others.

The Aga Khan Music Initiative was set up in 2000 to help address a rapid decline in Central Asia’s musical traditions. In recognition of the music’s unique role in the arts of the region, the Music Initiative supports the efforts of master musicians to revive traditions that were forcibly reshaped under Soviet modernisation and then neglected as western pop music flooded into the newly independent states. It also helps to preserve these traditions through the production of a CD-DVD anthology of Central Asia music that features, among others, Alim and Fargana Qasimov in Spiritual Music of Azerbaijan. Worldwide, the Initiative strives to increase knowledge about Central Asia’s music and culture, particularly among students, and to nurture collaborations, such as the Qasimov/Kronos collaboration, among musicians from different parts of Central Eurasia and beyond. For more information, please see www.akdn.org/music.

Saturday 27 September 7.30 pm
The Kamkars / Kudsi Erguner
Tickets £10/15/20/25
Produced by the Barbican

A family of Kurdish Iranian musicians, the Kamkars are widely recognised as one of the leading musical ensembles in Iran today. The family from Sanandaj – seven brothers, their sister, a wife and a daughter, were inspired to play by the father, Hassan Kamkar, a composer who founded the Sanandaj Academy of Music in the Kurdish-speaking region of the country. The Kamkars’ repertoire is richly diverse, drawing on the ancient history and long cultural traditions of the region and achieving a striking emotional and spiritual range. The group has a wide appeal outside Iran, and has staged many concerts in the Kurdish cities of Iraq, and in 2001 also performed in the Turkish cities of Istanbul and Diyarbakir.

In 1997 the band invited other masters of music in Iran to found the Kamkars Open Music Institute in Tehran, which is presently actively encouraging the development of new musical talent in the country. The Kamkars’ UK tour in 2004, where the group performed with the London Sinfonietta has led to further symphonic collaborations. The group’s latest CD, Tara, is about to be released in North Eastern Iraq for their audience of Iraqi Kurds.

‘They deserve an audience that stretches far beyond Iran and the Kurdish diaspora’ The Guardian

Based now in Paris, ney flute virtuoso and composer Kudsi Erguner was born to a family of musicians in Diyarbakir, Turkey, in 1952. His training on the soulful, haunting ney flute came from his father, also a renowned musician; he was also greatly influenced by various Sufi Muslim brotherhoods, whose musical traditions and spiritual teachings he studied. A member of the Istanbul Radio Orchestra by the time he was seventeen, he has since become known for collaborations with film and theatre projects, such as with Peter Brooks for the film Meetings With Remarkable Men, and for Brooks’ theatre and film versions of the Hindu epic the Mahabharata. Erguner has also worked with Peter Gabriel on the soundtrack to Martin Scorsese’s film The Last Temptation of Christ in 1988, with the director Francois Abou Salem on Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio as well as with English choral group The Hilliard Ensemble.

In 2001 he recorded the remarkable Islam Blues CD (ACT) in which Sufi pieces were combined with elements of jazz instrumentation; among the musicians for his Barbican concerts will be the acclaimed Serbian jazz pianist Boyan Z . Erguner has also worked as a musicologist, recording and documenting traditional music in Pakistan for Radio France and France Musique, and he formed the Kudsi Erguner Ensemble specifically to revive the 16th-century classical repertoire of the Ottoman Empire.

Monday 29 September 7.30pm
Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba
+ Tartit
Tickets £10/15/18/22
Produced by the Barbican

Bassekou Kouyate returns after an acclaimed concert at the Barbican in May, when to many he confirmed Taj Mahal’s description – ‘a genius’. He is also living proof that one of the sources of the blues is his region of Segu in Mali. He has also championed the ngoni, the ancestor of the banjo – a stringed instrument with a hollowed-out, canoe-shaped piece of wood as a body (with dried animal skin stretched over it like a drum). Unlike the kora, whose history goes back only a few hundred years, the ngoni is believed to have been the main instrument for accompanying griot stories as far back as the reign of Soundiata Keita in the 12th Century .

Their debut album Segu Blue, produced by Lucy Duran, was recently declared winner of the Album of the Year Critics Award, part of the annual BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music. Bassekou was also nominated in two other categories of the Awards: Best African Act and Best Newcomer. Segu Blue is also one of Songlines magazine’s 10 Best Albums of 2007 and was listed in The Guardian’s 1000 Albums to Hear Before You Die (November 2007) and Observer Music Monthly’s best 50 albums of 2007.

‘They moved together like Malian version of the Shadows. Their initial slow lope picked up into a pace which would have broken a camel’s legs, let alone its back’ – The Guardian.

Tartit, a mainly female band of vocalists and musicians from Timbaktu in Mali, are celebrated for their hypnotic, trance-inducing sounds and drum rhythms. In keeping with the traditions of Tuareg society, one of the few in Africa in which women are allowed to choose (and divorce) their husbands, the men are veiled, the women aren’t. Like Tinariwen, Tartit came together in a Tuareg refugee camp, and blend pulsating vocals with string, acoustic and electric instruments.

‘Nothing is more evocative of the fascinating expanses of the Sahara desert’ – concertedeffords.com

All concerts at the Barbican Hall apart from where stated.

Box Office: 0845 120 7550 www.barbican.org.uk

Region: All
Venue: Barbican Centre
Venue Address: Silk Street, London
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Name: Alex Webb
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