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In devotional mood

The annual Transcender festival at the Barbican celebrates meditative and hypnotic music from around the world in traditional and contemporary styles

15 September, 2017 — By Róisín Gadelrab

Midori Takada. PHOTO: Eri Harada

Transcender – the Barbican’s annual celebration of transcendental and hypnotic music from across the globe – returns at the end of the month with a series of four specially curated concerts.

Now in its ninth year, Transcender 2017 features musicians from Japan, India, Iran, the Nether­lands, Greece, Syria, Ethiopia, Russia, UK and the US for a series of concerts that juxtapose traditional devotional music and more recent contemporary styles.

This year’s line-up includes appearances by cult Japanese percussion­ist and composer Midori Takada, internationally acclaimed Iranian musician Kayhan Kalhor and a special concert featuring 18 musicians from a range of Eastern Christian traditions brought together by British Indian singer Susheela Raman and guitarist Sam Mills.

The festival, which takes place across Barbican Hall and Milton Court Concert Halls, runs from September 28 to October 1, while Híbridos, The Spirits of Brazil, an installation by independent French filmmakers Vincent Moon and Priscilla Telmon to accompany Transcender – a 24-hour film tapestry of evolving ritualistic forms and theatrical sacred rites taken from over 60 different ceremonies exploring spiritual groups in Brazil – runs from September 29 to December 15.

The festival opens on September 28 in Milton Court with a rare UK show from cult Japanese ambient pioneer Midori Takada, a percussionist and composer, whose work blends Japanese ceremonial and meditative musical influences with ambient and Fourth World music. Support from Portland electronic duo Visible Cloaks aka Spencer Doran and Ryan Carlile, whose music is inspired by the Japanese electronic soundscapes of the eighties. Their set will be accompanied by psychedelic visuals created by Brenna Murphy of MSHR.


Kayhan Kalhor. PHOTO: Gilles de Sitter


The Rembrandt Trio

Then, on Friday September 29 in the Barbican Hall, Grammy award-winning Iranian kamancheh (spike-fiddle) player Kayhan Kalhor joins jazz musicians the Rembrandt Trio, who will give a performance blending Iranian and Western cultures on unusual classic instrum­ents. The concert opens with the debut London performance from the Awj Trio, comprising Maya Youssef, from Syria, on qanun zither with cousins Mehdi and Adib Rostami playing plucked Iran­ian setar and tombak drum. The trio, whose name means “peak” and also refers to a musical mode in Arabic and Persian music, embrace a Middle Eastern tradition in which improvisation is paramount.

The festival’s third night (September 30, Barbican Hall) features British Indian singer Susheela Raman and guitarist Sam Mills with their project Sacred Imaginations 1: New and Ancient Music of the Christian East, which celebrates artists who play music of ritual, trance, contemplation and spiritual rapture, while seeking creative pathways beyond religious dogma and ideology.
To bring this to life, 17 musicians from a range of Eastern Christian traditions will gather to share their heritage, combining their varied mastery of Byzantine chant, Russian polyphony, Syriac melody and harmony from both the Middle East and South India, as well as Balkan and Pontic Greek folk traditions and Ethiopian church and folk music (Sept 30, Barbican Hall).

The festival closes on October 1 in the Barbican Hall with newly-commissioned global project Different Trains 1947, an audiovisual collaborative response to the declaration of Indian Independence 70 years ago, featuring music from Actress (Ninja Tune), Jack Barnett (These New Puritans), percussionist Jivraj Singh, vocalist Priya Purushothaman and music producer Sandunes and new visual work from award winning film-makers, Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard (20,000 Days on Earth), with support from electronic duo Darkstar with a new composition from their recent project Trackbed.

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