Yeah so I didn’t post this as it was happening. This year might have been easier for us workload wise but there was still a lot to do (namely video editing) and so the blogging slipped a little. All of which is even more ironic considering an Italian journalist who followed this year’s production referred to me as the quickest real-life-to-internet documenter he’d ever seen.
The second half of the week proved pretty painless all things considered. The artists continued to build an intimate relationship while working on their debut show. They cemented the good vibes of the first couple days, getting to know each other better and working in a way that would leave an outsider thinking this was a tight unit rather than two collectives brought together for the first time. Interestingly they opted to not do a dress rehearsal per se this time, something we’ve done pretty much with every production so far. The last day has tended to be all about getting the final show as tight as possible with multiple run throughs. Instead the guys decided to keep their spontaneity and improvisation fresh by not overly rehearsing the full show, focusing more on the segues between tracks. Considering that this year the live show was not the final product of our work, but rather the first step, it proved a judicious move that paid off on saturday night.
A point of discussion that came up during the week was that there is no such thign as free money. Talking with Luca, who ran the bar for us, we touched on this idea which I’ve been articulating in my own head for the past few years. When I started Original Cultures five years ago I was overly idealistic. I thought ‘there’s free money in Europe, we’ll just get some of that and do our thing’. The motivation was to step away from the promoter game, from the commercial angle of putting on shows. As I said, idealistic. In those five years one of the biggest lesson was that non-profit is its own game, there is no such thing as free money. There is always a catch. And that’s fair enough, I don’t expect anyone to just give us money for nothing in return. But there are issues with the system, much like the professional promoter game has its issues.
Last year’s Kidsuke tour was the first time we got a substantial grant from a public body. And it cost us of course. It cost us time and effort, it involved a fair amount of bureaucratic steps in order to justify the free money. But at least we could get it, we showed we were worthy of receiving the cash and doing something with it the Japan Foundation had never backed before. As Luca was saying though in Italy there is a wealth of talent, but this kind of free money has all but disappeared. To go back to Bologna, this is a city with a rich history of innovative cultural movements: music, art, protest. There’s a wealth of talent and energy but since its golden years in the 80s and 90s the rewards for this wealth have dwindled, replaced instead with business – e.g. standard promotion, club nights etc… – and the stereotypical, yet partially true, ‘who you know’ Italian system. The mentality underpinning the sort of work we do in Italy is not the same as in the northern parts of Europe. Here people will likely try and pocket money at every turn. Again a stereotype but one based in a lot of reality. Things are changing but people in Bologna are getting disillusioned. Those who witnessed the city’s golden era, those willing to do good things are finding it more and more difficult. It feels good to know that we’re perhaps helping to show that it’s still possible, that there’s still a way.
On Wednesday during dinner we clocked a map of the Mediterranean basin in Ale’s house. It took Will and I a minute for our brains to adjust to it, as it’s one of those old maps where there are no political borders. Rather it’s a map of the basin as was used in the old days when the trade across north Africa and southern Europe was based around the fact that the Mediterranean was the common point between all the countries. The map was dedicated to Albert Camus among others. It was a reminder of the pride many Mediterraneans feel in being part of a group of people that are united not by national identity but by a geographical location that transcends the idea of nationalism, especially its modern instance.
This idea of Mediterranean identity kept coming up during the week. Danilo and Fabrizio are both Sicilians, Reda is Moroccan, we’re all Italians. This a project that involves crossing the Mediterranean and back. And we’re also implanting two men from the British Isles in the middle of it. In a way Road to Essaouira is also about identity, about how old ideas of identity have changed, how they can be revived in a world where once again political borders are melting in the face of technological change.
As for the final show it was a success. The night unfolded splendidly. The space proved as much of an attraction as we’d hoped, with our show fitting into a long tradition of musical greats performing on the stage of this legendary theater. During the Luca, our photographer, brought us some special incense rocks he uses at home. We burnt some of them before the show and soon the entire building filled up with this beautiful aroma. As people started to arrive I noticed many being surprised by the smell. It made me think about this idea of forcing people out of their normal comfort zone and expectations by playing on their senses. By having people walk into a space that smelt different we automatically forced them to reconsider what they were doing, where they were and what they could expect. When the show started and the lights dimmed, leaving only the stage lit in a giant black box, this idea moved to yet another level with not just olfactory senses affected but also visual and auditory ones.
The applause and feedback at the end of the night left us all feeling like we’d really started this on a high note. The show itself, where Fawda and Swami played together, came out better than any of us could have hoped. There will soon be a final video with audio of the show up. Following this will be full details of the next step of the project and how you can help us make it a reality.
For now you can read a report of the whole week written by Fillipo Dionisi, currently in Italian but I will translate it into English on the site soon.
There are also photos of the whole week from Luca Sgamellotti here.
And for once instead of closing I can say to be continued.