London Jazz Festival | Soweto Kinch x Makaya McCraven


Award-winning saxophonist, composer, poet, MC and producer Soweto Kinch presents the première of his dynamic new work at the EFG London Jazz Festival, accompanied by a release of a new album – The Black Peril.

One year on from the Armistice Declaration in 1918, episodes of civil unrest erupted across the western world. What should have been a moment of triumph and social cohesion, disintegrated into violent disorder and racial conflict. From Liverpool, Glasgow, Cardiff and South Shields and the ‘Red Summer’ across the US, city streets were set ablaze by race riots.

The Black Peril is inspired by the sounds of ragtime, proto-jazz, West Indian folk music and the classical works of black composers of the period. It will revisit a time of momentous social change, also exploring connecting strands to modern forms of dance music including hip hop and trap. Breathing new life into historic and often neglected musical forms, the performance features a 14-piece jazz ensemble with some of the most skilled performers of the UK jazz scene and Tomorrow’s Warriors, members of London Symphony Orchestra, Chicago jazz giants Makaya McCraven and Junius Paul as well as dance choreographed by rising star Jade Hackett.

The music explores both the ebullience and defiant optimism of early black music as well as the brooding sense of revolutionary danger it symbolised. Through 18 original compositions, the album infuses Kinch’s lyrical reflections on the contradictions and cultural upheaval of the time, as well as reconstructing imagined sounds from across the Diaspora. Drawing on a period of history before genre boundaries had become so rigid – The Black Peril attempts to cut across conventional genre boundaries, connecting past with present, and creating fresh interpretations of often neglected periods of musical history.

The staged piece will capture the sense in which apparently unrelated riotous events across the globe were connected by the larger themes. Through a mixture of music and dance the work will tell the stories of lives colliding in the collapse of empire: pragmatists, battle-scarred war veterans, self-made adventurers, proud and ambitious idealists, and the music and dance born from this riotous collision.

It’s a powerful artistic reflection on this 100-year history of racial conflict – exploring cultural anxieties, which in many ways are just as prescient in today’s world.

The premiere of this new work is co-commissioned by Serious, London Symphony Orchestra and the University of Hull, and supported as a part of Help Musicians UK’s Giant Steps scheme and Cockayne Grant for the Arts.

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