Ambition Festival review: A night of Asian-British fusion at the Fairfield Halls, Saturday 25th July

By - Wednesday 12th August, 2015

The Wizards of Percussion cast a spell on Anne Giles

Photo by Circle of Sound, used with permission.

We went to this event in Fairfield Halls auditorium on Saturday 25th July. The show was part of Croydon’s Ambition Festival and there were three acts in all. The first one was the Wizards of Percussion, consisting partially of Bernhard Schimpelsberger, a British/Austrian composer and percussionist, using his full drum kit and a cajon box (‘cajon’ being the Spanish word for a large box).

With him were two other musicians, one playing the tabla, a membranophone percussion instrument similar to bongos, which is often used in the traditional music of India. The other musician played the mridangam, a percussion instrument from India of ancient origin. They also used vocals as percussion – dah-tac-tac-dah-dee-dee-choo-choo – combined with clapping. They were almost having a conversation with one another, using percussion! Each drummer did a solo piece, then they all came in together. Wizards they certainly were!

Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker.
Photo author’s own.

The next act was the duo Josienne Clark and Ben Walker, BBC Folk Award winners, who received widespread critical acclaim for their first album, Fire and Fortune. Josienne has a beautiful voice with a terrific range and she puts a lot of feeling into her songs. She also pronounces her words clearly, so that one knows exactly what each song is about. Ben is an excellent guitarist who is completely sympathetic to her singing. They performed some songs which we knew: ‘Like an old fashioned waltz’, ‘Green grow the laurels’ and ‘The banks of the sweet primroses’, then a traditional song: ‘My love is like a red red rose’.

The others were self-penned songs: ‘Anyone but me’, a song about jealousy and paranoia, ‘Silver lining’, ‘Dark turn of the mind’ and others. She explained to the audience that folk songs are generally miserable – about people dying. This I know to be true, having sung some myself! We shall look out for these two, as we feel we must see them again.

The third act was Circle of Sound, winners of the Songlines Top of the World Award. It is a powerful collaboration between Soumik Datta on the 19-stringed sarod and the stellar Austrian drummer, Bernhard Schimpelsberger. Soumik Datta has a Master’s degree from Trinity College of Music, and is a sarod maestro and composer, who combines guitar riffs with Indian melody. He is the creator of the first electro-acoustic sarod.

All the time these musicians seemed to be communicating with each other

Bernhard is a singular phenomenon in the world of percussion today. He’s doing some new and exciting experiments, combining his dazzling virtuoso technique with musical risk taking and basing many of his compositions on his unique collection of percussion instruments.

The two of them together were amazing – a mixture of drumming and clapping, with Bernhard’s voice doing percussion. All the time they seemed to be communicating with each other. At times Bernhard used the full drum kit, then the cajon, and then he would go on to play his unusual palette of instruments including small bells and others to blow or tap on.

Finally, at the end, they were joined by the other two musicians from the Wizards of Percussion. Their sound was absolutely amazing!

We haven’t been to an evening like this for years – thanks to Ambition Festival for giving us the opportunity to hear these musicians in Croydon!

Anne Giles

Anne Giles

I grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the daughter of an Anglo-Argentine mother and English father. I went to an English school and worked for a British company out there before coming to live in the U.K. I spent many years teaching Spanish in adult education in various centres in Croydon Borough and have got to know so many different areas – North and South. We have been living in Selsdon since 1989 and I love it. I feel passionately about Croydon and have spent many years writing blogs – firstly for the Croydon Advertiser, then the Croydon Guardian, and eventually my own blog entitled “The Good Life in Croydon”. I am very much involved in the community, attending regular meetings with the Croydon Community Police Consultative Group and am also a member of the British Transport Police PACT (Police & Community Together) Team.

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