The Barbican’s Transcender series returns

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Transcender 2016
Thursday 29 September – Sunday 2 October 2016
Barbican Hall, Milton Court Concert Hall, LSO St Luke’s
Tickets £15 – 25 plus booking fee
Firmly established in the Barbican’s contemporary music programme since its first iteration in 2009, the acclaimed annual Transcender series returns this autumn with four concerts. Featuring a trademark mix of transcendental and hypnotic music from across the globe, the series boldly juxtaposes traditional devotional music and more recent contemporary styles. Events take place Thursday 29 September – Sunday 2 October 2016 and spread across the Barbican Hall, Milton Court Concert Hall and LSO St Luke’s, featuring musicians from Morocco, France, UK, Iran, Turkey and the US.
Transcender in 2016 includes:
  • A Moroccan double-bill showcasing contrasting exponents of the country’s rich spiritual traditions, featuring Marouane Hajji and the Master Musicians of Jajouka led by Bachir Attar (Thu 29 Sep, Milton Court)
  • Two intriguing collaborations in one evening: a special performance by James Holden and MâalemHoussam Guinia and a La Monte Young tribute by Étienne Jaumet & Sonic Boom (Fri 30 Sep, LSO St Luke’s)
  • A night in the spirit of mystic poet Rumi, featuring foremost Iranian female singer Parissa and the Turkish Meshk Ensemble – one of the finest Whirling Dervishes groups – in their UK debut, followed by a post-show performance from cross-continental collective Rafiki Jazz of their latest project Trance-It(Sat 1 Oct, Barbican Hall, ClubStage)
  • Texan duo Stars of the Lid perform a special Barbican Transcender concert, featuring new material alongside old classics (Sun 2 Oct, Barbican Hall)
Marouane Hajji + Master Musicians of Jajouka led by Bachir Attar
Thursday 29 September 2016 / 19:30 / Milton Court Concert Hall
Tickets: £15 – 25 plus booking fee
Transcender 2016 opens with a double-bill of music from Morocco, showcasing two highly contrasting facets of the country’s rich spiritual music tradition: the meditative Sufi tones from singer Marouane Hajji and the folksier Gnawa traditions from the Master Musicians of Jajouka, led by Bachir Attar.
The Master Musicians originate from Jajouka – a small village in the foothills of the Rif Mountains in northern Morocco whose origins stretch back centuries. Traditionally they played sacred music for the Moroccan court and passed on their traditions from father to son. From the 1950s onwards Western artists like Brion Gysin, Paul Bowles, The Rolling Stones and Ornette Coleman discovered the Master Musicians and were inspired by them. American writer William Burroughs fittingly described them as ‘a 4000 year old rock band’.
The Master Musicians of Jajouka play a variety of Sufi, folk and newly-composed pieces on traditional, locally made oboes and drums. Many of the compositions in their extensive repertoire are unique to the Attar family and their traditions in Jajouka.
The second set of the evening is a rare European performance by young Sufi singer Marouane Hajji from Fes, the cultural centre of Morocco.
In what will be his welcome return to the Barbican following his critically-acclaimed appearance as part of The Ecstatic Journey event in 2011, he presents Sufi songs from the spiritual Arab-Andalusian music tradition, supported by a group of backing singers and percussionists.
Born into a religious family, Marouane Hajji has been performing the devotional music of several of the Sufi brotherhoods from an early age and later also studied at the Fes Conservatoire. Since winning a national prize in 2007 he has been performing across the Middle East and is now in demand at festivals worldwide. He has been described as an ambassador of sacred music and is one of the biggest talents of his generation.
Produced by the Barbican
James Holden with Mâalem Houssam Guinia
+ Étienne Jaumet & Sonic Boom: The Music of La Monte Young
Friday 30 September 2016 / 19.30 / LSO St Luke’s
Tickets: £20 plus booking fee
The second night of Transcender features two special collaborations: Firstly a tribute performance to drone-loving American minimalist composer La Monte Young, who turned 80 last year, from analog synths playersÉtienne Jaumet and Sonic Boom. Secondly an intriguing combination of traditional and futuristic music from electronica artist James Holden and Moroccan Gnawa musician Mâalem Houssam Guinia.
French producer and musician Étienne Jaumet started out in the ’90s with folk rockers The Married Monk, before working on his own projects, including the Krautrock-infused electro-disco outfit Zombie Zombie. Jaumet’s debut album, Night Music was released in October 2009 by Domino and was inspired by the work of Steve Reich.
Sonic Boom aka Peter Kember is an electronic London musician who was a founding member of Spacemen 3 and has recorded as Spectrum and E.A.R. (Experimental Audio Research) since Spacemen 3 disbanded in 1991. Kember has also collaborated with a number of artists, including Stereolab and Yo La Tengo.
Despite coming from very different backgrounds, Jaumet and Kember wanted to collaborate for some time and have joined forces over their shared fascination of American pioneer of minimalist music, La Monte Young – a cult figure who has had a strong influence on many great musicians including Lou Reed, John Cale and Brian Eno. Jaumet and Kember will be joined on stage by Céline Wadier, a French artist dedicated to dhrupad – a vocal genre in Indian classical music.
The La Monte Young Tribute performance will be premiered at The Cité de la musique in Paris in May 2016.
The second collaboration of the night sees British electronica artist James Holden return to the Barbican’s music programme, following a previous collaboration at the centre with Étienne Jaumet for Consciousness – A performance lecture in spring 2013.
In this Transcender date, he will be performing with Mâalem Houssam Guinia, son of the late Mâalem Mahmoud Guinia – a leading musician of the Moroccan Gnawa music tradition.
In 2014, James Holden (together with Eglo Records’ Floating Points) took part in the Dar al-Ma’mûn artists’ residency with Mâalem Mahmoud Guinia and his band in Marrakech. Sessions were recorded and later released on the Marhaba EP on James’ Borderline Community label. Since the recent passing of Mâalem Mahmoud Guinia, his son, Mâalem Houssam Guinia, took over; upholding the rich African Gnawa-tradition. He also continues to perform with James Holden.
Produced by the Barbican
Parissa + Meshk Ensemble
+ Rafiki Jazz (ClubStage)
Saturday 1 October 2016 / 19.30 / Barbican Hall
Tickets: £20 – 25 plus booking fee
The Saturday concert as part of Transcender features two performances that reflect different aspects of Rumi, the great mystic Persian poet and scholar, with the double-bill including Parissa – one of the finest female vocalists from Iran – and the Meshk Ensemble – one of the most acclaimed Whirling Dervishes groups – from Turkey.
Parissa was classically-trained in the traditions of Persian music and is one of the most revered Iranian singers performing today. Her last London appearance was over a decade ago, so this will be a rare treat forTranscender audiences. Parissa was a well-known singer before the 1979 Islamic revolution and was teaching at the Iranian Centre for Preservation and Dissemination of Music. Since the revolution, it has been difficult for solo female singers to perform in public so she devoted herself to training a younger generation of Iranian singers. Although still based in Iran, for the last 20 years she has been able to tour widely performing Persian and Sufi music in Europe and the US and has recorded several albums to date.
Parissa is particularly renowned for her performances of the mystic poetry of Attar, Hafez and Rumi and she brings a fresh approach to rarely performed songs of the past centuries.  Here she will be accompanied on stage by a tar (acoustic lute) player and a percussionist.
Meshk Ensemble, directed by Dr. Timuçin Çevikoglu, are making their UK debut at Transcender this autumn. A kind of world music version of an early music group, the Meshk Ensemble from Turkey formed in 1998 and they perform the sema ceremony of the Turkish Sufi order Mevlevi. This brotherhood was founded by the followers of Rumi in the 13th century and is popularly known as the ‘Whirling Dervishes’.
What makes the Meshk Ensemble exceptional is their revival of lost compositions from the Mevlevi repertoire. There were many Ottoman composers, who wrote music for the sema ritual and Çevikoglu has been rediscovering unknown pieces from the archives. Most of the music the ensemble performs has not been played for over a hundred years.
Accompanied by the mystical ney flute, ud (lute), rebab (fiddle) and percussion, the sema ceremony is a stately act of devotion that creates a powerful impression on those who witness it. Here the Meshk Ensemble will be joined by five dancers (turners) on stage for this ritual.
Following the concert, international Roots music collective Rafiki Jazz take to the Barbican’s ClubStage to perform their new project Trance-It: Trance in Transit, a celebration of devotional ritual, trance and dance traditions. Marking the group’s tenth anniversary, this latest musical venture draws on Pakistan & Senegal’s mystic Sufi traditions, ancient Middle Eastern Coptic liturgy, Indian Sangeet and Brazil’s Candomblé tradition.
Produced by the Barbican
Stars of the Lid
Sunday 2 October 2016 / 19.30 / Barbican Hall
Tickets: £20 – 25 plus booking fee
A performance by first-wave American post-rock outfit Stars of the Lid (SOTL) will be closing Transcender in the Barbican Hall on Sunday night.
Since forming in 1993, Texan duo Stars of the Lid have carved out a niche for themselves as one of the most influential drone/ambient music projects around. SOTL are Adam Wiltzie and Brian McBride and here they will debut new compositions, played alongside old classics. They will be working with long time visual collaborator and projectionist Luke Savisky and German lighting designer MFO.
SOTL will also be joined on stage by Bobby Donne from Kranky label mates Labradford (who will play on a vintage Moog 55 Modular Synthesizer) and Adam’s long time studio collaborator Francesco Donadello, plus A Winged Victory for the Sullen’s string ensemble, the Echo Collective.
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