Orchestra of Samples has been a huge undertaking! Ten years spent recording musicians around the world, while on the road touring. We wanted to create a project that brought together as many musicians as we could from all backgrounds, both cultural and musical – an impractical task in the real world but not in the digital world of sampling.
So taking recording equipment with us on nearly every gig for many years, we filmed hundreds of musicians from countries, among many others, Brazil, Mexico and India to Senegal, across Europe, China, Kazakhstan and Indonesia, even Egypt during the revolution. We also became artist-in-residence with a few venues over the years in France, connecting us with dozens of artists for recording sessions, from places including Togo, Cameroon, Rwanda and Algeria. We then cut up thousands of recorded samples, creating new music, recontextualising musicians as if they played together, when in reality none of them ever met or heard recordings from each other.
No tracks were written beforehand, the samples dictated the direction in the studio, no musicians played in a pre-defined key, they all just improvised and our creative process was simply to just see which samples worked together. Then afterwards in some cases, we wrote or collaborated with others to add lyrics.
Orchestra of Samples is an exploration into serendipity and musical probability, it’s about bringing people together who wouldn’t normally perform together, and more to the point their instruments which wouldn’t normally be heard together. Working outside of normal musical conventions has really opened our eyes and helped discover incredibly unexpected combinations of instruments!
Having toured the show for a couple of years prior, an Orchestra of Samples album was released in 2017, with lino-carved cover artwork by South African artist Anna Alcock. Internationally, we’ve now performed the project in France, Spain, Italy, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Russia, Morocco and in both 2017 and 2018 toured the UK – performing the show at festivals including Musicport, Shambala, and WOMAD (headlining the Bowers & Wilkins stage). Venues have included both Centre Pompidou and the Quai Branly Museum in Paris, St Petersburg’s Erarta Museum, Mexico City’s Centro Nacional de las Artes, the famous Círculo de Bellas Artes in Madrid, London’s Royal College of Art and Rome’s Museum of Contemporary Arts for the closing night of Italy’s prestigious Romaeuropa Festival. A large number of live guest musicians have often joined us, including profoundly deaf percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, jazz trombonist Dennis Rollins MBE, trumpet player Byron Wallen, fiddle player and BBC young musician of the year Shona Mooney, sitarist Baluji Shrivastav OBE, Stomp percussionist Paul Gunter, French rapper Suga, tabla virtuoso Kuljit Bhamra MBE, the award-winning Beatbox Collective with rapper MC Zani, fretless guitar virtuoso Alejandro de Valera, Tunisian percussionist Seifeddine Helal and Iranian percussionist Arian Sadr.
A massive thanks has to go to venue partners, funding bodies and to every supremely talented musician who took part – we quite literally would not have been able to create this without you all!
And here’s the album…