Part of Southbank Centre’s Alchemy Festival 2012

Alchemy Festival
Thursday 12 – Sunday 22 April 2012

Alchemy is Southbank Centre’s annual festival of music, performance, literature, debate, fashion and design.

Join us to explore the rich cultural connections between Bangladesh, India, Pakistan Sri Lanka and the UK.

Southbank Centre’s third annual Alchemy festival returns with another potent mix of music, dance, literature, film, fashion and design that will cast an illuminating light on the fast-changing economic and cultural landscape of the Asian subcontinent.

In a first for Alchemy, 2012 sees Southbank Centre’s riverside venues and spaces become a film set, complete with a ‘Taste of India’ food market, and festival-goers can enroll as dancing and singing extras in a Bollywood-style movie to be made throughout the festival and screened as a finale. With a particular focus on Pakistan, this year’s festival features artists from across the Asian subcontinent, from Bangladesh to Sri Lanka, and explores the relationship these cultures have with the UK through a range of exciting new collaborations, premieres of new work and rare performances by legendary artists.

The festival has been put together in collaboration with a number of partners, including the British Council, the British Pakistani Foundation and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations. Jude Kelly, Artistic Director at Southbank Centre, said: “Be-fitting a region whose identity has been shaped and re-shaped over millennia through the intermingling of peoples and their cultures, our third Alchemy is the most collaborative – the most alchemic – yet.

For 10 days the entire Southbank Centre will buzz with the sights, sounds, tastes and thoughts of the subcontinent as leading cultural organisations, Nobel prize-winning authors, acclaimed designers, British Asian soap stars, filmmakers, DJs and master musicians from Rajasthan, Pakistan and Portsmouth come together to celebrate, collaborate and explore what this culture is and could be.”

Alchemy Festival Highlights:

•Asian Dub Foundation and guests play the Royal Festival Hall
•Further adventures of rising star Raghu Dixit and members of Bellowhead
•World Premiere of Lahore’s legendary Sachal Jazz Orchestra
•Bollywood-style film created with festival-goers and screened as part of Alchemy
•Design-led enterprise JIYO project presented outside of India for the first time
•Susheela Raman performs with Pakistan Qawwalis
•Legendary percussionist Pete Lockett collaborates with Rajasthani traditional artists
•Rare performance by Dr. L. Subramaniam, Kavita Krishnamurti Subramaniam and Ambi Subramaniam
•Singer Shankar Mahadevan performs with sitar virtuoso Purbayan Chatterjee
•Debate with Professor Amartya Sen and Lord Nicholas Stern, chaired by Rajeev Sethi
•DJ Nihal’s Burban Mela presents the best new British Asian sounds
•Multi-media performance of Soumik Dutta’s Sound of Bengal
•Taste of India food market, with authentic food, craft and fashion from India, the UK and South Asia
•Royal Festival Hall boiler room is transformed for one-woman play Looking for Kool
•Free daily yoga sessions in The Clore Ballroom
•Free classes in Bollywood dance, folk dance, calligraphy and poetry

The exhibition reflects the very best of emerging contemporary British Pakistani art and culture, an area that has largely evolved in response to, and as a result of, the key political and cultural moments in recent history.

Artists include: Nurjan, Khaver Idrees, Shafaq Ahmad, Maaida Noor, Mansoora Hassan, M A Bukhari, Salman Farooqi, Javed Qamar, Rachel Wilberforce, Ayesha Amjad, Sofia Niazi, Nasreen Raja, Zahir Rafiq, Ammar Syed and Ahad Mustafa.

Southbank Centre will produce its very own Bollywood-style film in 10 days as part of Alchemy. Poet and playwright Nikesh Shukla will write the script that will be brought to life by director Aneil Karia with choreography by Shobna Gulati, from TV soap Coronation Street. Festival-goers and participants in the free Bollywood dance classes will become extras in the film, starring alongside dancers, actors and musicians from across London. Award-winning film Life Goes On, an adaptation of the King Lear fable set in contemporary London will be screened during the festival. Written and directed by Sangeeta Datta, the film features Bollywood star Soha Ali Khan alongside British and Indian actors. Also being screened is Franz Osten’s lavish 1928 silent film Shiraz, with live accompaniment from tabla player Sarvar Sabri and the Sabri Ensemble.

Asian Dub Foundation defined the ‘Asian Underground’ of the early 1990s and have been known for their uncompromising approach to music and politics ever since, through hard hitting albums, polemical documentaries and forays into opera. The collective, who emerged from an east London community music project, are joined by artists including Nathan ‘Flutebox’ Lee, Ministry of Dhol, and Romay featuring Ar8 Collexion to perform at the Royal Festival Hall. Continuing a collaboration that began at Alchemy in 2011, rising star Raghu Dixit performs new work composed in Delhi with members of Bellowhead, Southbank Centre Artists in Residence, and featuring choreography by Gauri Sharma Tripathi, also Artist in Residence at Southbank Centre. The result of this truly alchemic coming together draws as much from heavy metal and jazz as it does from folk traditions of both the UK and India. Folk traditions are also explored by Bickram Ghosh, Papon and Rachel Sermanni in Troikala: the Arts within a Trio. Renowned percussionist Pete Lockett performs with 16 Indian musicians from Rajasthan on stage at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in a project that comes to Europe for the very first time. Continuing in the collaborative spirit, Susheela Raman returns to Alchemy in the company of Qawwali singers from Pakistan to perform new music created during Raman’s recent trip to Lahore. Global YouTube sensation Sachal Jazz Orchestra give their world premiere performance presenting infectious interpretations of classic jazz and bossa nova standards, including Dave Brubeck’s Take Five, which he said was ‘the most interesting and different recording of Take Five that I’ve heard’. There is a rare opportunity to see the family of Dr. L. Subramaniam, Kavita Krishnamurti Subramaniam and Ambi Subramaniam perform on stage together, and singer Shankar Mahadevan performs with India’s virtuoso sitar player Purbayan Chatterjee.

The sound of young British Asians comes alive at Radio 1 DJ Nihal’s Burban Mela which provides a showcase for hip-hop, bhangra and R&B artists on what is known as the Burban – brown urban – scene. Confluence brings together three youth orchestras from different genres, the National Youth Jazz Collective, the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain and Samyo (the National Indian Music Youth Orchestra), who perform together for the first time. Also performing at Alchemy are British composer and sarod maestro Soumik Datta, who premieres his extraordinary audio-visual concert Sounds of Bengal; Arun Ghosh, who returns with a contemporary arrangement of selected Tagore material; and Simon Thacker performs a world premiere by legendary American minimalist composer Terry Riley, with his India/Western supergroup Svara-Kanti.

Alchemy once again includes a range of cutting-edge dance performances and new commissions. There is a collaborative work-in-progress from visual artist Hetain Patel and poet Shane Solanki who explore their Gujarati heritage through spoken text, film, music, physical theatre and comedy. Contemporary Kathak dance and live jazz trumpet combine in When Spring Comes, the latest children’s show by Half Moon Young People’s Theatre. Whale Music is another exciting collaboration, and combines the poetry of Sir Andrew Motion with the talents of musicians Sameer Rao and Matthew Sharp in a piece exploring loneliness and the search for a connection. Free concerts and performances of South Asian dance will be celebrated in works by Divya Kasturi and Shane Shambhu Company. Throughout the festival Southbank Centre’s boiler room will be transformed into Mrs U’s underground bunker in Looking for Kool, a one-woman promenade performance by Rani Moorthy of Manchester-based Rasa Theatre.

Award-winning Bengali economist and Nobel Prize winner Professor Amartya Sen joins Lord Nicholas Stern, Director of London School of Economics’ Asia Research Centre, and Indian designer Rajeev Sethi (Louis Vuitton, Mumbai Airport) for a lively debate on the future for cultural industries. Entrepreneurship and social action are celebrated at Alchemy with a contribution from Bechana, a social enterprise collective that sprung from the floods in Pakistan to make quilts from discarded pieces of cloth. Watermarked: Women and Water in Pakistan also looks at the Pakistan floods, exploring the effects of the floods on women and featuring stories from comedian Shazia Mirza, broadcaster and cultural critic Ziauddin Sardar, and award-winning novelist Kamila Shamsie. Authors Moni Mohsin, Rosie Thomas and Farahad Zama discuss the different manifestations of love in South Asian culture in The Many Faces of Love, and there will also be readings and discussions from authors Neel Mukherjee, Liu Zhenyunand Ahmed Rashid. Alchemy Artist in Residence Nikesh Shukla gives a motivational speech on how to be a writer rather than being seen as an ‘ethnic’ writer, and there is a performance from Canadian MC/spoken word artist Humble the Poet.

Fashion and design play a part in the festival with The Clore Ballroom being transformed into a runway for an event in collaboration with the British Council, showcasing collections and textiles from some of the most exciting fashion designers coming out of India. The JIYO residency, led by acclaimed designer Rajeev Sethi, explores how traditional craft, knowledge and practices of India can be preserved and applied to contemporary design. An exhibition of works will be on display in the Royal Festival Hall foyers, and this will be the first time work been shown outside of India. Also on display is work from a number of emerging British Pakistani artists The Brit Pak, whose work explores cultural identity and aims to challenge negative stereotypes, and work by Indian designers Gunjan Gupta and Ayush Kasliwal.

Visitors to Alchemy can take part in a range of free activities throughout the festival, from daily yoga in The Clore Ballroom to workshops in Urdu calligraphy, Punjabi poetry and Pakistani folk dance. Those looking to make it on the big screen can take part in Bollywood dance workshops, learning routines that will be captured for Southbank Centre’s Bollywood film. There is a packed free music programme including performances by Jason Singh, Shlomo, Jesse Bannister, Ranjana Ghatak and Rosabella Gregory. Other performances include multi-disciplinary show The Arrival presented by Tamasha and Circus Space, an age-old tale of migration based on Oscar winner Shaun Tan’s novel, and The London Jungle Book by Indian Gond tribal artist Bhajju Shyam, in which London metamorphosises into a fantastical jungle-like land inhabited by some bizarre creatures and customs.


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