A multifaceted collaboration between musicians, dancers and writers, Many Half Hours crosses borders and transcends musical genres. Born out of a partnership between South Africa’s experimental music imprint Mushroom Hour Half Hour and Scotland’s The Gallow Gate gallery, the aim of Many Half Hours is to bring together a wide range of artists from different backgrounds to create a new, singular piece of work that combines their respective experiences and skills.
Starting out as a vinyl based music show on internet radio, Mushroom Hour Half Hour evolved into a unique independent record label focusing on recording live, contemporary African music. Based in Johannesburg the label travels around Southern Africa recording a variety of artists in different spaces as well as curating once-off collaborations between artists from different genres and generations.
It is this concept that The Mushroom Hour Half Hour have brought to Glasgow in partnership with The Gallow Gate. Based at Many Studios, a creative space in Glasgow, The Gallow Gate is a platform for contemporary visual art and culture working with creatives with African and Caribbean heritage to address west-and-white-centric-thinking within the arts sector in the UK. The space also experiments with methodology by introducing play and participation to the programme to build accessibility to creative practice with their local context. Curator Natalia Palombo explains: “We designed the gallery this way to challenge what people expect from creative practice, and to try to break down barriers of access and elitism within the sector. We’ve done this largely by producing cross-arts projects, like Many Half Hours, which brings musicians into the gallery context and invites audiences into the process of making rather than focusing on ‘final/completed work’.”
Many Half Hours sees The Gallow Gate hosting three South African musicians alongside three UK based musicians and artists to collaborate, record in and around Many Studios, and for a series of live performances. The musicians and artists involved come from a variety of backgrounds and generations, and included Omar Afif, a Gnawa vocalist and musician playing the gimbri and krakebs, cellist and dancer Katie Armstrong, as well as dancer and choreographer Mele Broomes. Joining the collaboration from South Africa are the incredible Sibusile Xaba, Thabang Tabane and percussionist Dennis Magagula.
Son of the legendary Dr Philip Tabane, who founded Malombo the group and created Malombo the sound, Thabang Tabane is a percussionist and vocalist who learned to play the drums when he was younger by watching his uncle and co-founder of Malombo, Mabi Gabriel Thobejane. From Mamelodi in Pretoria he continues the longstanding tradition of Malombo that sees the traditional sounds of South Africa, particularly that of the Pedi and Venda, fused with that of improvisational jazz.
Originating from the Kwazulu Natal midlands, Sibusile Xaba is a guitarist and vocalist that is carrying on the Maskandi/Mbaqanga tradition of his region while also forming part of South Africa’s burgeoning, dynamic jazz scene. In his music he is influenced by the likes of his first mentor, the Zulu guitar giant Madala Kunene, as well as vocal master Shaluza Max while still pushing the envelope and evolving his sounds. Under the mentorship of Thabang Tabane’s father and alongside Thabang he continues to explore the sound of Malombo widening its spectrum by including influences such as rock and other contemporary genres.
This unique cross-border collaboration has answered questions and challenged understandings surrounding non-traditional collaboration. “How will a classically trained cellist work with Southern and Northern African musicians who have grown up around music and learned through rich historical and familial traditions? And how then, does a dancer like Mele Broomes, whose style has been influenced both from her gymnast training and her Caribbean heritage intercept and interpret those sounds?” asks Natalia Palombo. “The answer to all is ‘beautifully’! It’s been incredible to see these artists come together over the last few days and find a seamless flow within the group, borrowing rhythms and language to build new work,” she says.
Apart from the three public sharings which formed part of the residency, the artists also performed at The Art School as part of Creative Mornings, the Transmission Gallery as part of The Other’d Artist/s show and Subcity Radio.
While the collaboration and live performances were only transient, the recordings will be hosted on the Mushroom Hour Half Hour site.
Final sharing courtesy of Many Studios and shot by Iman Tajik.
‘This article forms part of content created for the British Council Connect ZA 2017 Programme. To find out more about the programme click here.’