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Barbican announces a weekend of music, art and spoken word curated by Shabaka Hutchings

Shabaka Hutchings wearing a patterned top and hat, looking to his left.

Today the Barbican announces details of Propaganda – a weekend of music, art and spoken word, curated by jazz artist Shabaka Hutchings

A weekend of music, art and spoken word curated by Shabaka Hutchings
Friday 8 – Sunday 10 May 2020
Barbican Hall & foyers, LSO St Luke’s, Milton Court Concert Hall, St Giles’ Cripplegate
Tickets £10 – 20, plus free events 
Produced by the Barbican

One of the foremost proponents of the current British jazz scene, Guildhall School of Music & Drama alumnus, saxophonist, clarinettist and band leader Shabaka Hutchings curates Propaganda – a Barbican weekend of music, art, spoken word and some very special collaborations. The music programme will include an eclectic mix of jazz, improv and experimental elements, electronica, Caribbean sounds and African traditions from South Africa, Ghana, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco.

Shabaka Hutchings says: “The inspiration for the programme and artists I’ve chosen for the weekend is propaganda. I’ve tried to find a point of intersection between my practice as an artist and an abstract idea of what propaganda entails: a directed means of altering the lens by which large groups of people process the information that determines the parameters of their imaginative reality. The political becomes artistic and the artistic becomes political.

“The aim of each work chosen to be performed over the course of the weekend is to broaden our capacity to feel and to rekindle the energy needed to see the world with the potentiality of dreaming new futures and applying ourselves to action when we exit the concert hall.”

There will be seven ticketed sessions across the Barbican Hall, Milton Court Concert Hall, LSO St Luke’s and St Giles’ Cripplegate, plus a non-ticketed programme over the weekend in the Barbican foyers curated in collaboration with Skin Deep; plus free post-show sets on the Barbican’s ClubStage on Friday and Saturday nights.

Highlights of the weekend include:

  • Shabaka Hutchings performing alongside Sons of Kemet and Britten Sinfonia + Mantombi Matotiyana with Dizu Plaatjies
  • Sofiane Saidi & Mazalda + King Ayisoba
  • Danalogue: Suite of the Elements
  • The Rolling Calf
  • Kit Downes Quintet
  • Shabaka & the Ancestors + Maâlem Houssam Guinia + Anthony Joseph
  • A programme of free events created by Skin Deep
  • Post-show ClubStage performances on Fri and Sat by DJ Noss and Ammar 808

Full programme details below 

Skin Deep
Fri 8 – Sun 10 May 2020, Barbican Level G

The Propaganda weekend features a non-ticketed programme in the Barbican foyers created by Skin Deep. This will include a contribution from interdisciplinary design collective RESOLVE with further programme details tba.
A creative powerhouse that is redefining culture, amplifying voices of colour through discussions of race, politics and activism, Skin Deep is an online platform, a biannual print publication and a curator of live events. Telling the stories others don’t, they collaborate with creatives, musicians, writers, artists and activists to produce and platform original, thought-provoking, fresh and accessible content.

Produced by the Barbican

Friday 8 May 2020

Shabaka Hutchings with Sons of Kemet and Britten Sinfonia
+ Mantombi Matotiyana with Dizu Plaatjies  

Fri 8 May 2020, Barbican Hall, 7.30pm
Tickets £17.50 – 20 plus booking fee

The Propaganda weekend kicks off with an exciting double-bill featuring octogenarian South African Xhosa singer and traditional master bow and harp player (uhadi, umrhubhe, isitolotolo) Mantombi Matotiyana in what will be her first London appearance. She will give a solo, stripped-down performance, accompanied only by traditional African multi-instrumentalist Dizu Plaatjies. The son of a Xhosa healer and founder and former leader of South Africa’s internationally celebrated marimba group, Amampondo, Plaatjies rediscovered Matotiyana when they met at his father's house, and she has since featured on several of his albums. Her solo debut album Songs of Greeting, Healing and Heritage came out in 2019.

The second half of the concert features a performance of Aaron Copland’s Clarinet Concerto, which was commissioned and premiered by Benny Goodman, performed here by Shabaka Hutchings and Barbican Associate Ensemble Britten Sinfonia. The evening concludes with a performance of Hutchings’ orchestral suite Babylonan amalgamation of jazz, minimalist classical music and electronica – performed by Shabaka Hutchings, his band Sons of Kemet and Britten Sinfonia. 

Produced by the Barbican

DJ Noss
Fri 8 May 2020, Barbican ClubStage, Level -1, post-show

The post-show ClubStage event on Friday night is an extended DJ set by Martiniquan DJ Noss, featuring live ancestral Bèlè drumming and Noss’s eclectic mix of electronic music, bridging the gap between the musical styles of Africa and her diasporas. Through his music, DJ Noss tells his version of the story of Martinique, summoning the past, redefining the present and imagining the future.

Produced by the Barbican

Saturday 9 May 2020

Propaganda Session 2
Sofiane Saidi & Mazalda + King Ayisoba
Sat 9 May 2020, LSO St Luke’s, 2pm
Tickets £12.50 plus booking fee

Propaganda Session Two features a solo set from Ghanaian traditional musician King Ayisoba who is a master of the kologo (a two-stringed lute instrument). Renowned for his trademark vocal sound and fierce, uncompromising music, The Wire magazine described him as ‘the style’s undisputed trailblazer’, who is bringing the kologo sound to great popularity both in Ghana and abroad.

The evening then continues with Algerian raï singer Sofiane Saidi – who has been called “the prince of raï 2.0” as he takes the classic raï genre and sparks it up for the 2020s – performing alongside his band Mazalda. Together they create a fresh take on the music, which fuses Arabic and Algerian folk elements with Western rock. Saidi’s and Mazalda’s album El Ndjoum came out in 2018.

Produced by the Barbican

Propaganda Session 3
Danalogue: Suite of the Elements
Sat 9 May 2020, St Giles’ Cripplegate, 5pm
Tickets £10 plus booking fee

Producer (The Comet is Coming, Snapped Ankles, Alabaster Deplume, Flamingods) and keyboard player Dan Leavers aka Danalogue presents his new spiritual project Suite of the Elements as part of Propaganda. Most known for his synthesiser and production work in Mercury Nominated trio The Comet is Coming, this project sees Danalogue write in a new context. A composition for church organ, tape loops, drums, gongs, percussion and flute, the piece explores the qualities and atmospheres of the ancient hermetic elements: Water, Earth, Air, Fire and Aether. The work contains influences of minimalism, jazz and psychedelic music. Danalogue (organ, piano) will be joined on stage by Betamax (drum kit, percussion), Rosanna Ter-Berg (flute, percussion), Cathy Eastburn (gongs & singing bowls) and Raimund Wong (cassette tape loops and effects). Danalogue returns to the Barbican’s contemporary music programme following his participation in Video Jam x Basquiat in 2018.

Produced by the Barbican

Propaganda Session 4
Sat 9 May 2020, Barbican Hall, 7.30pm
Tickets £17.50 – 20 plus booking fee

Details for PROPAGANDA SESSION FOUR to be announced in due course.

Ammar 808
Sat 9 May 2020, Barbican ClubStage, Level -1, post-show


Ammar 808 is a project produced and developed by acclaimed Tunisian producer and arranger Sofyann Ben Youssef (Bargou 08, Kel Assouf), which takes audiences into the dark realms of North African futurism. Here they will present a live electronic set.

Sunday 10 May 2020

Propaganda Session 5
The Rolling Calf
Sun 10 May 2020, Milton Court Concert Hall, 2pm
Tickets £12.50 plus booking fee

Propaganda Session Five sees a set by The Rolling Calf – a black power trio featuring vocalist Elaine Mitchener, saxophonist Jason Yarde and bassist Neil Charles. Their avant-garde performances combine texts by revolutionary African-Diasporic thinkers with collective electroacoustic improvisation.

Produced by the Barbican

Propaganda Session 6  
Kit Downes Quintet
Sun 10 May 2020, St Giles’ Cripplegate, 5pm
Tickets £10 plus booking fee

Composer, pianist and organist Kit Downes plays a set alongside a small ensemble featuring Lucy Railton (cello), Tom Challenger (sax), Ingebjørg Loe Bjørnstad (vocals) and Phelan Burgoyne (drums). Presenting material from his second record for ECM, Dreamlife of Debris (2019), Downes creates beautifully modulating soundscapes – from quiet meditations to menacing drones.

The new album, which was inspired by W.G. Sebald’s book The Rings of Saturn, carries forward the story that began on the first album, Obsidian, extending and developing its processes and core ideas. But where Obsidian was (almost exclusively) a solo church organ album, part of Kit’s plan for Dreamlife was to put the organ in a broader context, and also to bring the piano into the larger compositional picture.

Produced by the Barbican

Propaganda Session 7
Shabaka & the Ancestors
+ Maâlem Houssam Guinia
+ Anthony Joseph

Sun 10 May 2020, Barbican Hall, 7.30pm
Tickets £17.50 – 20 plus booking fee

The final session as part of the Propaganda weekend sees a set by Moroccan Gnawa musician Maâlem Houssam Guinia who returns to the Barbican’s music programme following a collaboration with producer James Holden in 2016. The closing set comes from Shabaka & the Ancestors, presenting new material from their upcoming second album. The evening also features spoken word contributions from poet and musician Anthony Joseph who returns to the Barbican following his Windrush: A Celebration project as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival in 2018.

Produced by the Barbican