TWO of the most popular artists on the contemporary African music scene are coming to Scotland to collaborate with eight UK-based musicians and artists on new work.

Sibusile Xaba and Thabang Tabane will travel to Glasgow with a unique Johannesburg independent record label as part of an innovative project that will involve a series of live performances.

Mushroom Hour Half Hour began in 2012 as a vinyl-based music show on an internet radio station and has since evolved into an experimental music imprint, whose primary focus is the recording and release of contemporary, live African music. They travel around Southern Africa with their mobile recording studio, recording different musicians in different spaces, and have built up a large and diverse network of musicians.

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Along with recording the original compositions of the musicians they work with, they curate recording sessions with hand-picked musicians who would not ordinarily play together — musicians from different generations, traditions and musical styles — to form one-off collaborations.

To date, they have recorded sessions with a host of South Africa’s finest poets and musicians including Lefifi Tladi, Carlo Mombelli, Lesego Rampolokeng and Nono Nkoane.

WHAT WILL THEY DO HERE?

MUSHROOM Hour Half Hour will this month travel with Xaba and Tabane to The Gallow Gate at Many Studios in Glasgow for a two-week residency as part of the Connect ZA 2017 programme. 

Here the South African musicians will create new compositions with the group of UK-based musicians, to be recorded and released by Mushroom Hour Half Hour. After the residency, the label will tour the UK with Xaba and Tabane to promote the release of former’s debut double album project.

The National:

Thabang Tabane

Tabane is a percussionist, vocalist and composer from Mamelodi, Pretoria. He is the son of South African guitar legend Dr Philip Tabane, who was the originator of an influential music style in South Africa called Malombo. Although Tabane has taken the Malombo baton from his father, his own funky compositions draw from a wide pool of African rhythms. 
Xaba is part of the burgeoning, dynamic jazz scene that has over the past few years reenergised the urban musical soundscape of South Africa. 

His influences crisscross South African jazz, Maskandi (a traditional guitar style), and Malombo.

WHO WILL THEY MEET?

THE core artists from the UK are Sura Susso, Omar Afif, Moctar Sy Sawane, Cassie Ejezi, Mele Broomes, Katie Armstrong and Camara Taylor, who all come from diverse artistic and traditional backgrounds and hail from Senegal, The Gambia, Morocco, England and Scotland. Most of the artists have never played together before.

Originally from Gambia, Surahata “Sura” Susso was born into a griot family, a tradition that originates from West Africa and refers to cultural figures that carry knowledge and the regional identity of their communities through song, music and poetry. Sura is the son of Mamudou Susso, one of the finest living kora players, and Fatou Binta Cissokho, who was a gifted singer and percussionist. Sura fuses his traditional influences with new genres of contemporary music in order to promote his cultural roots and heritage. He has performed extensively around the world from Womad and Glastonbury to the Royal Concert Hall and 10 Downing Street.

Mocolou Sawane is a charismatic musician who links traditional rhythms to stories from his culture. He plays throughout the UK including at Womad and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Originally from Casamance in Senegal, Moc is currently based in the north of Scotland, teaching drumming across the country.

The National:

Sibusile Xaba

WHO ELSE IS INVOLVED?

CASSIE Ezeji is a Glaswegian musician who lives and works in the city. She was part of the six-piece band Golden Teacher and is also one half of girl-gang low-fi rap duo Laps, with Alicia Matthews. Her Nigerian and Irish heritage informs her music as well as her creative writing.

Omar Afif is originally from Essaouira on the Moroccan Atlantic coast and is a Gnawa musician, craftsman and chef now based in Aberdeenshire. He plays a Guembri, a three stringed bass-like instrument, and works as a soloist as well as on collaborations creating fusions between Gnawa music, Scottish folk and much more.

Gnawa is a traditional North African folk music that combines ritual poetry with traditional music and dancing and incorporates Berber, Arabic and Islamic rhythms from ancient African Islamic culture. Afif is continuing this exploration with an experimental twist, bringing Gnawa traditions to new audiences as well as collaborating to create fusions that combine the Guembri with a range of other instruments and styles including bagpipes, guitar, fiddle and banjo.

AND THE OTHERS?

KATIE Armstrong trained at the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance, and after graduating danced with Rambert Dance Company in Itzic Gallili’s A Linha Curva. She went on to work with various companies and artists around the UK including The London Ballet Company, National Theatre of Scotland and Scottish Opera.

Mele Broomes originally trained as an artistic gymnast before redirecting her skills into physical theatre. She studied at The Scottish School of Contemporary Dance and is one of the lead artists running a new educational and professional development programme called Project X, which give a platform to dance forms within the African Diaspora. Her most recent work Void, a Dance AV collaboration with David Bernard and Bex Anson, was programmed as part of Dance International Glasgow in April.

Camara Taylor’s projects explore “the physical and virtual spaces generated by people of colour in the pursuit of safety and survival”. They produce photographic, text and sound based works, alongside workshops, parties and a library.

The forthcoming Glasgow residency, which is called Many Half Hours, will produce a series of recording sessions in and around Many Studios that will be hosted online at www.mushroomhour.com. It is hoped a record of new music will be released.

Audiences are invited to three live events on May 22, May 28 and June 3. See www.manystudios.co.uk for more details.