Live and Local are welcoming back Don Kipper for our 2019 Spring/Summer season. We spoke to Accordionist Josh Middleton about the history, the traditions and naturally, Sufi whirling.
Josh Middleton, when asked about his most memorable show experience, jumps straight in: ‘A Sufi Whirling Dervish in a tracksuit, who happened to be passing a gig we did in East London, span for six minutes during one of our songs because he was inspired. Unforgettable.’
Unforgettable indeed. Not every audience member will want to spin for six minutes straight as a form of physically active meditation, yet Don Kipper’s music does create reactions like these from their audiences.
When asked what they want to achieve from this year’s rural tour, their aim is clear: ‘Bring our music to people who have not heard it before.’
This joyful, multilingual, multi-award-winning seven-piece ensemble are remarkable young exponents of Jewish Klemzer and traditional styles from Greece Turkey and the Balkans, that surround them in their North East London home. Their music is rooted in folk (‘The music of the people’ as Middleton states) but they explore radical interpretations and taut arrangements full of complex harmonies, rhythms and imaginative improvisations.
Alongside Josh, the band are Dunja Botic on vocals hailing from Greece; Andrew Gorman, violin, vocals; Daniel Gouly, clarinet, vocals; Tim Karp, guitar; Jamie Benzies, double bass and Timmy Doyle, drums, darabuka, riq and spoons. Yes, spoons.
They use but do not abuse the traditional and strive to find the balance of respecting the traditional but embracing the new; a musical exploration that has been both challenging and rewarding. Audiences will be pleased to know that the band understand the respect and care needed when making their ‘modern and tropical sound’ feel at home in Worcestershire and Eastern Europe.
Middleton says, ‘We started playing mostly Klezmer, with a few other bits, and over time have each developed as musicians, specialising in our own areas, be it Bulgarian Music, Klezmer, Senegalese Music, jazz, etc and then fed this back into the band.’
The band seem to have been kindred spirits from the age of five as Josh recalls that one of his earliest memories is listening to the ‘Rough Guide to the Music of Eastern Europe CD’ as a 5-year-old. He shares this early interest with Clarinet player Dan Gouly, who listened to Frank London of The Klezmatics at WOMAD. Their inspirations range from Macedonian vocalist Esma Redzepova, and Amza Tairov to the Ghanaian, King Ayisoba and Malian Oumou Sangaré.
Their influences from West African and Latinx communities and urban traditions such as Drum and Bass all feed into what Don Kipper produce. Their music weaves these musical elements with the narratives of positive representation, a celebration of multiculturalism and migration. As Josh says ‘migration is beautiful and people arriving in new places bring massive benefits to the country they arrive in, especially in the arts.’ From the United Kingdom, their radical and imaginative interpretations of traditional songs are made to take you on a journey across Europe.
Don Kipper have shows throughout our Spring/ Summer season kicking off Thursday 21 March at Swythamley & Heaton Community Centre.