Zoe Rahman has recently been described in a national newspaper (The Observer) as being “one of the finest young pianists in Europe”; firmly establishing herself as one of the brightest stars on the Contemporary Jazz scene. This was perfectly acknowledged when Zoe’s second album, Melting Pot, became short-listed for the prestigious 2006 Nationwide Mercury Prize and in the same year, voted ‘Jazz Album of the Year’ at the Parliamentary Jazz Awards.
Zoe explains the notion behind the title of her new album, Where Rivers Meet. She said: “The album is very much a meeting of two worlds, which is a cultural theme that is strongly evident in our family life, with our mother being English and our father being Bengali.
“The album title reflects the fact that although the music is originally from Bengal, a country whose landscape predominantly consists of rivers, it contains a musical influence to the origins of our own birthplace, England – where we grew up playing and listening to Jazz.”
The family unit plays a significant role in Where Rivers Meet with the collaboration of Idris Rahman playing clarinet and the heavy influence of Zoe and Idris’s father’s heritage. Zoe elaborates: “For the process of making Where Rivers Meet, my family background on my father’s side was the main source of inspiration.
“Some of the tracks we’ve chosen were taught to us over the years by family members during various trips to Dhaka. We are very lucky to have an aunt who is a specialist in Tagore song and a cousin [her son] who is also a great Tagore singer. This is where we both learnt the traditional values of this wonderful music.”
Zoe talks of the ease in which she hopes her audience will adapt to the genre of Bengali music, especially those people new to the style. She explains: “The tunes are very accessible to people who haven’t heard any Bengali music before. We only became aware of our Dad’s record collection about five years ago and for us the emotion behind the melodies was very striking and made us want to play the music.”
Zoe explains the reasoning behind fusing Bengali music with Contemporary Jazz, she said that they interpreted the music in their own way and although they stayed true to the original melodies there was room for improvisation and Jazz-influenced harmony in the arrangements.
Where Rivers Meet takes influence from the works of Tagore (a Nobel Laureate, artist, poet and musician), Hemant Kumar (a famous Bengali singer), and Abbasuddin (one of Bengal’s most famous Folk music singers) – please turn to the Notes to Editor section of the press release to learn more about the three professional artists.
Zoe was asked if being nominated for the National Mercury Music Award has opened any new doors for her, she said: “It has certainly allowed me to reach a wider audience and helped introduce our music to people who wouldn’t normally consider themselves necessarily ‘Jazz’ listeners.”
In keeping with the theme of rivers, Zoe was posed the question “…if you were given the chance to perform on the banks of any river in the world, which one would you choose and why?”
Zoe’s response was: “If I could get a piano outside to play by a river it would have to be somewhere warm! I recently went to Paris and the banks of the Seine would probably have some amazing acoustics with all that gorgeous brick work so, I wouldn’t mind giving that a go!”
Zoe was also asked which musician she would choose to accompany her. She replied: “I’ve always wanted to work with a saw player so that’d be a great place for it!”
On 11 February, Zoe will be accompanied on stage at The Customs House – the perfect venue for this concert with its location being on the banks of the River Tyne – by Idris Rahman (clarinet), Gene Calderazzo (drums), Oli Hayhurst (bass) and Kuljit Bhamra (tabla / percussion).
Tim Flood, Marketing and Programming Manager at The Customs House, said: “We are delighted to be working with the PCS to bring such a talented musician like Zoe Rahman to the Customs House.
“Where Rivers Meet promises to be a fantastic evening of top class music.”
Tony Spencer, Arts Development Officer for the Pakistan Cultural Society (PCS), said: “This exciting collaboration of Bengali and Contemporary Jazz Music will allow a unique sound to be experienced by a whole new audience of people, here in North East England.
“The Pakistan Cultural Society is proud to be bringing musicians of the calibre of Zoe and Idris Rahman to the Customs House. It shows our commitment to showcasing the very best cultural events – in a region growing in creative stature and gaining a reputation for attracting some of the finest exponents of today’s cutting edge music scene.”
The Next Move:
If people would like to purchase tickets for Where Rivers Meet performed by Zoe and Idris Rahman on Wednesday 11 February at The Customs House in South Shields, then please call the Box Office on (0191) 4541234 or online by visiting www.customshouse.co.uk – tickets are priced at £12 / £10 (concs) and the concert commences at 19.30.
Notes to Editor:
The following details provide a valuable source of support details for the Where Rivers Meet press release.
1). Born in Chichester (UK), Zoe Rahman studied music at Oxford University and Jazz performance at Berklee College of Music, Boston, where she had lessons with the inspirational pianist JoAnne Brackeen. While in America she formed her own trio which featured bassist Joshua Davis and the renowned drummer Bob Moses.
Please access these websites for further information about Zoe Rahman www.zoerahman.com and www.myspace.com/zoerahman
You can also find out further details about Idris Rahman by viewing www.soothsayers.net
2). Please find below some further details about the Bengalese artists whose work has been very influential to Zoe Rahman during the creation of Where Rivers Meet.
Tagore was a Nobel Laureate in 1913 and he wrote over 2000 songs as well as being an artist / poet / musician.
Hemant Kumar sang and wrote countless melodies for Bengali films and is one of the most famous Bengali singers. He’s also Zoe and Idris’s dad’s favourite artists.
Abbasuddin is one of Bengal’s most famous Folk music singers, his great-granddaughter taught Zoe and Idris some of his music and they used one of the tracks on Where Rivers Meet.
3). Pakistan Cultural Society (PCS): The PCS is one of the North East’s most astute arts development organisation with over fifteen years experience of actively promoting the richness and diversity of South Asian Arts. The acceleration and growth of PCS results from the guidance of extremely forward-thinking and passionate board members, who represent the organisation’s long term vision.
For further information about the organisation please visit