As part of the 2017 UK/India year of culture, Metal – in partnership with Warp Records, Barbican Centre, and Boiler Room; plus Indian partners Wild City and What About Art? – presented Different Trains 1947.
‘Different Trains 1947’ project was created in collaboration between filmmakers/artists Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard (directors of the celebrated Nick Cave documentary 20,000 Days on Earth) and critically acclaimed musicians Jack Barnett and Actress. Both are renowned for their levels of sonic experimentation and originality, and have spent the last decade pushing the boundaries of contemporary music. Between them, Darren J. Cunningham (Actress) and Barnett innovatively manipulated sounds and genres ranging from electronic, ambient, post punk, R&B to contemporary classical.
The piece was inspired by Steve Reich‘s innovative 80’s composition Different Trains, and the stories of those who lived through the events of 1947, with new visual work, featuring material from the BFI National Archive’s unparalleled collection of rare films of pre-Independence India which had survived from the earliest days of cinema. Reich’s original piece recounted experiences of U.S + European train travel during World War Two and, in this work, these artists revisited this central idea to explore stories from the UK and India, during the period of Indian Independence.
Indian music artists Sanaya Ardeshir (aka Sandunes) and Priya Purushothaman collaborated with these widely revered and pioneering UK artists. Sandune’s hypnotic creations are lauded for incorporating unique Asian sounds with electronica, garage and expansive synth explorations, whilst Purushothaman is a part of the new international vanguard of young and diverse Hindustani vocalists shaping the direction of this style of Indian classical music in the 21st Century.
“I’ve taken the opportunity to approach this piece from a really personal place” said Indian electronic artist, Sandunes. “My grandfather was from Karachi, Pakistan and moved to Bombay in 1945. I felt moved to tie 1947 into the piece through his story and will be using sections from an interview recording with my Grandmother as one of the main themes within the piece”. I think it can be really purposeful using artistic pieces to shine light on parts of history that are often not talked about. That partition of Indian brought about the largest mass-migration in human history, is not a well known theme. The train system in India has been a critical part of its identity and remnant of the colonial period”.
Vocalist Priya Purushothaman elaborated further:
“[the train] forms a vital arterial network that now represents the only truly egalitarian connection between all corners of the country, all classes and creeds of people. During partition, the trains served as a lifeline to transport people from their home spaces which had once been safe to a new home that was a huge unknown”.
“We exchanged thoughts on the theme of the project and he told me the raags (musical scales) that he was interested in exploring”. Priya told of the collaborative process with Actress. “I demonstrated different raags and taals (time cycles) and we discussed the moods they created and the cultural associations that came with them (like the idea that raags are based on time cycles). Our process expanded more after he went back to the UK and we exchanged sketches of ideas, musical and thematic, to which I could react from my musical idiom. The process is like a conversation between our musical styles to see how they may fit together like pieces of a puzzle.”
Different Trains 1947 was presented at Barbican Hall London (1st October 2017) and Magnetic Fields Festival, within the grounds of a 17th Century palace on the edge of the desert in Rajasthan, India (15th – 17th December 2017), creating a truly epic international showcase for this new commission, with Boiler Room broadcasting the final performance to a global online audience. Boiler Room recently accompanied the artists to Mumbai where they conducted research and met local musicians.
Streaming below, the short documentary captures their time there, from echo chambers, royal palaces to the hustle and bustle of the city and it’s railway networks. http://blrrm.tv/dt1947
Support across the live events was provided by electronic music duo Darkstar (Warp Records). They performed a new composition developed in collaboration with Harthill Youth Centre in Wavertree, Liverpool. The experimental work initially took the shape of an interactive sound installation at Edge Hill Station throughout September 2017 culminating in a final composition premiering live on 27th September.
This project, named Trackbed, comprising the installation and performances, is the outcome of several residencies Darkstar have run at Harthill Youth Centre, with the aim of encouraging young people to talk about the issues they face: from migration and Brexit, to music, family and community. A short film by Cieron Magat was also commissioned alongside the project as part of the installation and live performance.
ARTISTS & SUPPORTERS
Ninja Tune’s Actress is one of the preeminent and most singular voices in UK electronic music. Since releasing his debut album on his own Werkdiscs label in 2004, he has remixed Various Productions, written for the seminal techno imprint Soma Records, put out singles and EPs through Prime Numbers and Nonplus and released the ‘Splazshí and ‘R.I.P’ albums on Honest Jons.
Since 2012 he has run his label in conjunction with Ninja Tune, releasing Ghettoville in 2014, a record described as ‘inscrutable, unsettling and utterly unique’ (Uncut), and in 2017 unveiling his new album AZD.
In addition to his recorded work, he has collaborated on projects with White Cube artist Eddie Peake, Mehdi Lacoste, Dan Emmerson and Belgian visual artist Pierre Debusschere, during which he has performed sell out shows at The Barbican Centre and Tate Modern London, Sonar Tokyo and Berghain Berlin.
JACK BARNETT (THESE NEW PURITANS)
These New Puritans are an English experimental music group whose music is not easily categorised.
They were formed in Essex by twin brothers Jack Barnett (production, song-writing, vocals) and George Barnett (direction, drum kits), and their childhood friend Thomas Hein (multi-instrumentalist, electronics).
Frequent collaborators include Graham Sutton (production), Daniel Askill (director), Elisa Rodrigues (vocals) and André de Ridder (conductor).
In 2016 they produced the musical score for the first authorised theatrical production of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and since 2015 they have been working on their fourth album.
Like her naturally occurring namesake, Sandunes – otherwise known as Sanaya Ardeshir – plays with broad landscapes of sound. Her sonic identity has evolved alongside her journey from pianos to production.
Audiences at home and on the road have seen her supporting Pretty Lights in Colorado, performing at India’s Magnetic Fields festival, playing India’s first ever Boiler Room series in Mumbai, and collecting sounds for Red Bull’s Searching For Sound series.
Her work has been recognised by international and local tastemakers across various media including Rolling Stone, Vh1, RBMA Daily, and Tom Tom Mag.
Priya Purushothaman is a part of the new international vanguard of young and diverse Hindustani vocalists. A disciple of Bangalore-based vocalist Smt Aditi Kaikini Upadhya, Priya has had the rare privilege of training in the gurukul style.
Priya has performed at noted venues in India, Europe and the United States, including the National Centre for Performing Arts, Mumbai, the Carnegie Hall Neighborhood Concert Series, and the Chhandayan Center for Indian Music, New York, to name a few.
Before studying Hindustani Raagsangeet, Priya trained extensively in both Carnatic vocal music and Western classical violin for thirteen years, giving her a diverse and strong musical foundation.
Jivraj Singh is an international recording and touring beat-poet, producer and visual artist who has been called “one of the hottest drummers on the planet” by Nitin Sawhney.
As well as being one half of Kolkata pop duo Parekh & Singh, Jivraj is rapidly becoming the go-to-guy for multi-disciplinary collaborations, at home, and away.
Whether he’s playing percussion, electronics, software or dropped into a situation with nothing at all, Jivraj is himself. Sometimes this means cerebral coldness, sometimes it means tropical blood.
IAIN FORSYTH & JANE POLLARD
Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard are London-based artists and filmmakers. Initially known for pioneering the use of re-enactment within contemporary visual art, their focus has shifted to include working with moving image and sound.
Their work as artists is collected by museums worldwide, including Tate Galleries and has been commissioned by institutions including the British Film Institute, BBC, Institute of Contemporary Arts and the City of Toronto.
Performance and music culture plays a significant role in their work, leading to some notable collaborations including Jason Pierce (Spiritualized) and Gil Scott-Heron.
Since their early dancefloor 12”s on Hyperdub from 2008 and through two vocal-led albums in 2010 (‘North’) and 2013 (‘News From Nowhere’), Darkstar have been an influential force in the UK’s electronic scene.
Following collaborations with the likes of Actress, Wild Beasts and Zomby they released their third album Foam Island, to critical acclaim in 2015 on Warp Records.
Darkstar have recently collaborated with Empress Of (XL) and Gaika (Warp), choreographer Holly Blakey (Florence and The Machine / Young Fathers) and scored the Palm d’Or nominated short film Dreamlands.
In February 2017, lead music artists Actress and Jack Barnett spent seven days in India researching and developing their creative approach to Different Trains 1947. Boiler Room produced a film about their experience.