The much-awaited annual Musicmatters Festival is back this year, taking place across several venues from August 12 ‒ 14. Started in 2012, the Musicmatters Festival stands out from the many musical events in Colombo’s arts calendar because it focuses on exposing the Sri Lankan audience to music that is beyond the mainstream.
The festival usually invites musicians from all over the world and has been seeing an increasing number of attendees each year, who come out to the festival to experience performances that are original, creative, and not usually seen or heard elsewhere in the city.
This year’s festival too comprises a lineup of accomplished musicians who are not only dedicated to their art, but also to creating a distinctive sound of their own. We have rounded up five artists who will be performing at the festival this year, that you should not miss.
1. Sebastian Gramss
Sebastian Gramss is a bass virtuoso and composer of jazz and contemporary music from Cologne, Germany. He has been active since 1988, and studied double bass and composition at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam and at the Cologne University of Music.
Sebastian has released more than 20 CDs under his name, including those from the band Underkarl, as well as from the trios Slowfox (with Hayden Chisholm & Philip Zoubek) and Fossile3 (with Rudi Mahall & Etienne Nillesen). His activities include his solo works (Atopie), a long term bass duo series (started with Stefano Scodanibbio in 2008, and continued in 2013 with Barre Phillips, Tetsu Saitoh, and in 2014 with Mark Dresser), the Cologne-based quartet (BASZ), an international quintet (Barre Phillips´s Crossbows), up to his international double bass orchestra Bassmasse with 50 bass players. He has composed for radio drama, movies and theatre and, most notably, for choreographer Pina Bausch.
In 2007, he created the Spacebass (basso d’amore), a modified four string double bass with the addition of 12 sympathetic strings. In 2013, he received the ECHO Jazz National Instrumentalist of the Year Award for the bass.
2. Tarun Balani
Tarun Balani is a drummer, composer, percussionist, and music educator living in New Delhi, India. Tarun’s music is “driven by a restless desire to be a holistic artist, inspired by his Indian roots and synthesised into his work.” An inward and spiritual experience has had a very special impact on his life, and in finding his voice through the drums.
Tarun was first drawn to jazz when he attended the Drummers Collective in New York City at 18. It also inspired him to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston later. He was the first Indian student at Berklee selected to be part of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, where he was mentored by Danilo Perez, John Patitucci, Joe lovano, and George Garzone. This experience gave shape to the Tarun Balani Collective, comprising of musicians of diverse backgrounds.
In 2011, Tarun and his brother Aditya Balani, also a musician (guitar player and composer), founded Global Music Institute in New Delhi, which aims to promote musical diversity in India.
His debut record Sacred World, which he released in 2012 at just 27 years, is said to “point to the future of jazz in India.” (Time Out, India). Two years later, he released his second record, Live at Teatro Bismantova, Italy with Italian trumpeter Tiziano Bianchi. He currently works with a new group, ‘The Next Collective’.
3. Miako Klein
Miako Klein is a performer and improviser based in Berlin, Germany. Miako has a greatly varied musical background and was classically educated on the recorder and violin. She has extensive experiences in performing contemporary music, as well as in early and improvised music.
Miako constantly questions and challenges the conventional ways of music performance by pushing boundaries between styles and genres, by experiment, and by interdisciplinary collaborations. She performs as a soloist and chamber musician and often collaborates with composers who have written works for her.
Sri Lankan-based Båliphonics presents “the music of the low-country Båli ritual tradition of Sri Lanka in a sublime collaboration with contemporary jazz and improvisation.” The Båli ritual is an astrological ritual and demands the highest level of musicianship from its performers. However, this ritual is near extinction due to effects of globalisation and changes in modern society. Båliphonics aims to keep this ritual music alive in a global contemporary context.
The Båliphonics was formed in 2008 by drummer Sumudi Suraweera. Sumudi has spent many years researching the tradition of low-country ritual drumming and music. He brought over three New Zealanders to Sri Lanka for one month, to collaborate with himself (on drums) and a family of three ritual artists. Isaac Smith, from New Zealand, has continued to reside in Sri Lanka, absorbing the local culture over the past five years. Since then, the ensemble went through a number of reformations.
The raw, original chanting, singing, and dancing performed by Susantha Rupathilaka communicate the immense intensity and power of ritual music while being visually breathtaking. The experimental sounds and sonic textures provided by Isaac illustrate the high level of musical dialogue and interaction between the two musical cultures.
5. Misha Marks
Misha Marks plays guitar, baritone horn, accordion, and latarra (a homemade electric guitar made out of an old Mexican metallic first-aid box). Misha resides in Mexico City, is active in diverse scenes, and has performed extensively across the world in festivals such as High Zero (Baltimore), No Idea Festival (Austin, Texas), Cha’ak’ab Paaxil (Mérida, Mexico), Wellington Jazz Festival, Om the Space (Wgtn, Chch, NZ), Visiones Sonroa (Morelia, Mexico).
The Musicmatters Festival is organised by a collective of musicians and faculty who have established the performance-based music school, Musicmatters. For more information on the Musicmatters Festival, visit the event pages on Facebook (or just click on these links: Day One, Day Two, Day Three).
Feature image courtesy Musicmatters