It’s good to be back.

Having Sam Architeq with us this year is really good too. Firstly because it brings the project back to its original ideas of cultural and artistic exchange between international artists, but also because – as we can already see after only a few hours together – he’s fitting in perfectly with the Italian artists. They’re now on their second improv jam warming up and it’s already sounding cosmic.

There are a few changes to the project this year.

First we’ve introduced a new artistic element in the shape of a short story written by renowned Italian author Valerio Evangelisti (which you can read and download here) and which serves as the basis for both the visual and music parts of the live show that’ll go down on Saturday this week. So the written word serves as the basis for the performing arts and these in turn this year are going to have the addition of a director, Pietro Babina, who will act as a mastermind of sorts to tie together all the performing elements of the show into one spectacle.

Where in previous years we always relied on a certain degree of luck and improvisation when it came to bringing music and visuals together for the live show, this year Babina will handle all of that – so hopefully there will be a stronger cohesion in the live show between music and visuals.

In addition Babina is also working closely with the two visual artists for this year, David Loom and MEAT, to ensure that their own work blends together perfectly. MEAT is handling the graphic element of the visual show, with the story as the starting point having someone visualise the letters makes a lot of sense, and in turn David Loom will use those graphic creations for his own video projection work. Already there is a solid idea of what will happen and how visually, and it’s definitely a lot less improvised than in recent years. I won’t say too much just yet in case I jinx it, but if it comes even just close to what the guys have planned it should be dope.

The second big change this year is that we’re not rehearsing in the Teatro San Vitale, as we have for the last two years. Unfortunately we had to change at the last minute and so we’re slightly further away from the block where we’ll be performing, of which the Teatro San Vitale is a part of. This is the block of historical buildings we’ve worked and performed in for our first 2 years here in Bologna. Still looking on the brighter side this change brings with it its own benefits. So for the week the musicians are set up inside the Locomotiv night club, a venue near to the city’s train station. It’s a pretty nice environment to be in too, a ghost feeling inhabits the place, which is normally full of people. And with the music the guys making today on a heavy dub vibe it all makes a lot of sense. Part of San Vitale’s charm for me as a rehearsal venue is that it’s a historical building, but being in an empty night club is also quite appropriate.

The guys are playing a seriously heavy dub riddim right now. Can’t stop skanking in my seat.

And the last change of sorts is that our choice of a live venue, the Arena Orfeonica in the building block I mentioned before, is going to make the logistical part of this year’s project even more difficult than in previous years. This is due to the venue being essentially empty of anything we need to turn it into a live exhibition space, so everything has to be brought in from the stage to the bar, the furniture to the entire audio and visual setup. On the one hand that’s fine because it’s one of those things the project has become about: reappropriating spaces in new and unique ways to showcase a unique, one of a kind audio and visual performance. On the other hand it’s a nightmare because everything has to be set up, and with the musician’s rehearsal venue changed from literally next door to the venue to about 1km away it makes the whole thing more challenging. Still if anyone can sort it out it’s those guys.

As always it wouldn’t be a proper show if things didn’t go wrong. So after setting everything up with the musicians today and sound checking, the external sound card which B.Kun is using with his laptop went and died, taking away with it all the arrangements he had ready to rehearse the tracks he’s written for the show. On the plus side this has left the four of them – Hed, the drummer, Bkun, on keys, Manamman, on bass, and Architeq, on dubbing duties – jamming for the last 2 hours, and it’s been sounding really great. I guess worst comes to worst we can just do an hour of improvised dub sessioning. And then there’s Danilo, the percussionist, who hasn’t arrived yet.

So it looks like the shop which we’d hoped might have a replacement soundcard for rent is closed – this being Italy after all, timetables are hardly reliable. A trip to San Marino it is to pick one up from B.Kun’s friend. Ah well, rather something goes wrong today than Friday when we’re setting up.

Danilo has arrived and the percussions have been added to the mix, with Architeq dubbing the whole thing rather wonderfully. With no soundcard the guys have ended up spending the whole day more or less jamming, even bringing out the 808 Mannaman brought along for some rhythmic backbone – the perfect way for them to get to know each other, find a cohesion and be able to hit the ground running tomorrow. A new soundcard has been found just as we wrapped up the day and – half jokingly – the guys have decided that if anything at least they’ve spent the day preparing their encore. We just need to make sure there’ll be one, so we might have to prepare a clapping track in case the show doesn’t go down well!

The day ended as always with a dinner altogether, in the park that surrounds the Locomotiv. This year we’re being catered by the guys from Bartleby, where we’re doing a preview of the show on Thursday and where we did a live painting session during our first ever show. The food is as delicious and amazing as in previous years when our Lisa had been looking after our stomachs. As I explained to Sam Architeq, ultimately the whole of Original Cultures could well be an excuse at time to bring artists to Bologna and make them discover the pleasures of the Italian way of life – eating, drinking and good people.

As the day drew to a close I couldn’t help but be reminded of something B+ told me when I first interviewed him: Sun Ra’s ‘make a mistake to do something right’ quote. Hopefully we can infuse this year’s show with the spirit of this quote.

Below is a little video of what went down yesterday and you can follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr for daily updates as well as in the site’s blog section where we’ll be updating daily.

Full programme details for the week are here.

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