Nexus Arts, Sun 22 Oct.
The title of today’s performance at Nexus Arts alerts us to the overriding themes of longing, dislocation, home and mothering. Four acclaimed jazz and experimental musicians from various cultural backgrounds share not only their mothers’ stories, but also for me at least some instruments I have not encountered before – most notably the ancient Persian kamancheh and gheychak played beautifully by Gelarah Pour. Aviva Endean plays contrabass clarinet but also creates soundscapes with a variety of tubes, while Mindy Meng Wang plays the Chinese guzheng, but not in a tuning or way I’ve seen. Bringing this quartet together is Sunny Kim on drums, vocals and percussion.
The performance opens with pre-recorded spoken word excerpts from interviews the four performers had with their mothers. Further snippets are interspersed throughout and cleverly contribute to the soundscape being created, while highlighting the cross-cultural foundations of this piece. There is spoken word Farsi, Korean, Chinese and English – sometimes intertwined with English and sometimes left to just contribute to the tonal landscapes blossoming before us.
Sunny Kim then sings an almost lullaby refrain while the others join in with vocal layers and musical improvisations. The poignant mood surrounds us.
The next section of this performance allows each performer to tell their story and to take the lead in the mood and music being created. Given the experimental musical backgrounds of this quartet there emerge some complex but sympathetic improvisations where the players can explore the potential of their instruments. For me some of these are too long but not uncomfortably so. Most relatable for me today for its sheer emotional power and vocal richness is Gerlareh Pour’s segment which draws from her own childhood in a war torn environment.
This is a performance that aims to nurture the soul and unpack shifting emotions which come from migration stories. The intimacy of Nexus theatre adds marvellously to the whole event.