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The concert night kicks off with an audio-visual performance by the Egyptian multi-instrumentalist Nancy Mounir, who retrieves the microtonal music of female Egyptian singers from the 1920s. Afterwards, guitarist Fred Frith, an icon of improvised music, trumpeter Susana Santos Silva and drummer Mariá Portugal come together in an imaginative, first-time trio before Paal Nilssen-Love shares the stage with his fellow musicians from Circus.


17:30 / German premiere

Nancy Mounir: “Nozhet El Nofous”

(EG, DE, UK, DK)

Egyptian artist and scholar Nancy Mounir presented a filmic iteration of her stunning 2022 album “Nozhet El Nofous” at Jazzfest Berlin in 2021, part of a video programme bringing artists from Cairo, São Paulo and Johannesburg to Berlin when the pandemic was still preventing much travel. Mounir finally brings the project to the Haus der Berliner Festspiele stage this year, with her own Egyptian quintet and a string quartet, performing arrangements she created for a handful of pioneering Egyptian singers who were essentially erased when the 1932 Congress of Arabic Music in Cairo standardised tuning practices, destroying a multiplicity of microtonal approaches. Mounir revived their voices, transferring their singing from 78 RPM recordings and situating it within dazzling new arrangements that seek to redress how that gathering rubbed out so much musical variety and vitality. Her film culminated with a performance at the Institute of Arab Music, the very location where those brutal erasures took place 91 years ago.

New video projections will enhance her Berlin debut, where her dynamic settings manage to balance Arabic tradition with utterly contemporary flourishes that draw out the melodic richness of those old 10” records for a new generation, as the original lyrics convey emotions and ideas that subsequent generations in Egypt prevented women from expressing. Mounir isn’t merely an archivist – she’s also a visionary.


Line-up

  • Nancy Mounir – violin, theremin, various instruments
  • Youssra El Hawary – accordion
  • Nadia Safwat – trumpet
  • Thodoris Ziarkas – double bass
  • Mounir Maher – piano

Local musicians

  • Meike-Lu Schneider – violin  
  • Julia Brüssel – violin   
  • Maria Reich – viola  
  • Anil Eraslan – cello

Speakers

Katia Halls – subtitles

18:45

Frith / Santos Silva / Portugal: “Laying Demons to Rest”

(UK, PT, BR)

British guitarist Fred Frith is one of the big names of experimental music, a devoted explorer that helped foment the experimental rock movement as a founding member of Henry Cow beginning in the 1960s. By the time the band dissolved a decade or so later he had developed a highly original improvisational language for electric guitar that circumvented all kinds of stylistic conventions while adding new extended techniques. Frith created spontaneous narratives, forever telling musical stories without any sort of idiomatic hierarchies. He also worked in a variety of influential projects, whether his beguiling duo Skeleton Crew with cellist Tom Cora, the grinding art-rock of Massacre with Bill Laswell or the jump-cut ethos of John Zorn’s Naked City. In recent years he’s forged a thrilling partnership with the masterful Portuguese trumpeter Susana Santos Silva, first as a guest of his working trio, and more recently in a wildly imaginative duo. Santos Silva—who played an unforgettable duo set with pianist Kaja Draksler at Pierre Boulez Saal during the 2021 edition of Jazzfest Berlin —is equally devoted to stylistically mobility, expanding on her rigorous jazz roots with a growing sound art practice. On the pair’s recent debut album Laying Demons to Rest no approach is off limits, as the pair tell a musical story of emotional heft marked by playful digressions, abrasive turns, and elusive timbres.

For this special Berlin performance they will be joined by the versatile Cologne-based Brazilian drummer and composer Mariá Portugal—who dazzled Jazzfest Berlin audiences last year with her free-ranging band Quartabê. She has worked with both Frith and Santos Silva over the last year, and this new trio configuration promises serious dividends.

 

Line-up

  • Fred Frith – electric guitar
  • Susana Santos Silva – trumpet
  • Mariá Portugal – drums

20:00

Paal Nilssen-Love: “Circus”

(NO, DK, SA)

Over the last decades, few musicians have spent more time on the road than Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, so when the pandemic shut down touring life he suddenly found himself with lots of time on his hands. Not only did he develop a fantastic new project, but he used the band to explore different territory than the wild and wooly free jazz he slugged out as a member of the Thing, the leader of the Large Unity big band, and countless other contexts. He is still driving the incontrovertible action in his singular septet aptly called the Circus, but he’s now content to cede the action to some new collaborators, none more compelling than the South African actress and singer Juliana Venter. On the group’s sensational 2022 album “Pairs of Three” she is a commanding presence, not just as a singer, but as a performer, channeling voices, telling stories, and bringing a fractured narrative to a host of celebratory original pieces by the drummer and some traditional themes from Brazil. The group moves in and out of chaos with quicksilver grace, settling into danceable grooves punctuated by searing improvisations when the group is not dangling over the precipice of mayhem. Most of the musicians have strong ties to the drummer—trumpeter Thomas Joahansson, alto saxophonist Signe Emmeluth, accordionist Kalle Moberg and bassist Christian Meaas Svendsen have all worked in Large Unit—while rising guitarist Oddrun Lilja adds a more measured, melodic strain to the juggernaut.

Line-up

  • Juliana Venter – vocals
  • Thomas Johansson – trumpet
  • Signe Emmeluth – alto saxophone
  • Oddrun Lilja Jonsdottir – guitar
  • Kalle Moberg – accordion
  • Christian Meaas Svendsen – double bass
  • Paal Nilssen-Love – drums

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