Original Cultures presents Road to Essaouira

In 2013 Original Cultures envisioned a new project that would take it beyond the confines of Bologna. This would be a musical journey between the UK, Italy, and Morocco and the meetings of musical worlds – jazz, Gnawa, electronic music, and hip-hop.

The Road to Essaouira began with the meeting of two musical groups: SwamiMillion (aka LV) from London and Fawda Trio from Bologna. In September 2013, the two groups spent a week together in Bologna and performed on stage at the Academy of Fine Arts. This was the beginning of the journey to Essaouira.

In 2014, Original Cultures set up a crowdfunding campaign to help accomplish its goal: take SwamiMillion and Fawda Trio to Essaouira, Morocco, to record an album. This would be the first album release on Original Cultures and the first time one of our projects went beyond just an event and the meeting of different artistic minds.

A year after they first met, the two groups arrived in Essaouira for a ten-day stay during which they recorded in the Dar-Souiri cultural centre, inviting local musicians to join them including Maalem Soudani, a local master and instrument maker.

It then took two years to complete our journey, during which time additional musicians were brought in to record parts in Bologna. In the end Road To Essaouira wasn’t the collaborative album we’d first imagined. As always things evolved of their own accord and we followed them along. Instead it became two things: a beat tape from SwamiMillion inspired by the first meeting and an album by Fawda Trio produced by SwamiMillion, featuring unique compositions as well as reinterpretations of traditional Gnawa songs.

Alongside the vinyl release of the album was a short documentary of the experience filmed and edited by Massimilliano Bartolini.

Since its release in October 2016 the album has been a success, with a repress of the vinyl and support from Gilles Peterson, Lefto, Dublab, NTS and more.

Road To Essaouira was made possible with the support of Coop 56, Commune di Bologna / Settore Cultura, Association Essaouira Mogador, Dar Souiri Centre Culturel, Project 91, Dar 91 Essaouira, Mashi Mushki, Paolo Barbieri, Red One, and all crowdfunders.


Update 6 – Summer 2015

Since our return from Essaouira in the autumn of 2014 we’ve been putting together the finishing touches to the recordings we captured while in Morocco. Overdubs and additions were done in Bologna by Fawda Trio and this month, June 2015, LV will begin to finalise the songs for the album. Once we have a final version of the album we’ll begin to look at how to produce it and release it. Most likely the album will see the light of day in late 2015 or early 2016. The documentary will also be finished this summer, and may be available online first.

In the meantime don’t forget to check out the Road To Essaouira beat tape that LV put together under their SwamiMillion alias, using material from the first recording sessions with Fawda Trio in 2013.

Update 5 – Live from Essaouira

We’ve been in Essaouira for 5 days. There’s a lot to take in, a lot to share and present. Tonight we are doing a short concert/showcase for our hosts, the Association Essaouira Mogador who are hosting us in the Dar Souiri centre in town. The show will feature the Fawda Trio and SwamiMillion playing some of the tracks they’ve been working on alongside local guests including maamel Sudani, who have been guesting on the recording sessions for the album.

There is a short teaser video of the first few days here which you can view here.

A big thanks goes to Paolo and Project91 as well, who have been integral in providing us with the best possible hospitality and logistical support.

Update 4 – Summer / Autumn 2014

From September 27 to October 7, we will head out to Essaouira for step 2 of the project. The trip will include all the artists, Fawda Trio and LV, as well as three staff from Original Cultures handling logistics and overseeing production with the artists and Massimilliano, our camera man and director of the documentary we will shoot during our time there.

We’ll be setting up in a local recording and performance hall owned by the city’s cultural department. There the artists will record and invite guests, and there will also be recordings happening all around the city, in the streets, as we discover Essaouira and follow the leads of those of us who’ve already been here and their friends. We’ll be posting updates from the ground and some sort of report after we’ve returned.

The cassette will also be released sometime in October, most likely in between our return from Morocco and the live show in Rome at the end of the month. This will be a small run of hand made cassettes, with custom artwork. The material on the cassette consists of beats that LV (as SwamiMillion) put together using samples from recordings from the Bologna rehearsals last autumn. It’s a little taste of what to expect.

Once we’ve returned from Morocco we’ll have a clearer idea of what shape the album will take and how the post-production will unfold.

Update 3 – Spring 2014

The crowdfunding campaign for Road To Essaouira is now closed. Thank you to all who donated. We are currently working on the logistic of our trip to Essaouira which will happen in late September.

Following this will be a one off show in Rome, a repeat of the Bologna show from 2013 featuring SwamiMillion and Fawda Trio. The Rome show will take place in late October so there is a good chance that it will feature some of the music that will ultimately end up on the album.

Lastly the beat tape we offered as a prize for the crowdfunding is also finished and will be unveiled over the summer. Those who bought the tape through the campaign will receive their copies first, and we will have some extra physical to sell on top as well as a full digital release. All income from the release will go towards the project.

Update 2 – Winter 2013/4

In early January 2014 we launched a crowdfunding campaign to help us raise the remaining funds for step 2 of the project. We are looking to raise 3300 Euros to cover the remaining logistical costs of sending LV and the Fawda Trio as well as a team of professionals (including a photographer, film crew, audio engineer and the Original Cultures crew) to Essaouira. Once there we will record the debut album by the two collectives in and around the city with a cast of local musicians and friends.

Visit the Indie A Gogo crowdfunding page to find out more and view all the perks you can claim for your donations. The perks include copies of the album and documentary, exclusive audio content, your name in the credits of the record and more.

You can also view a documentary of step 1 of the project – the meeting of LV and the Fawda Trio – as well as a call for donations.

Update 1 – Autumn/Winter 2013

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In September 2013 we completed the first step of the project, bringing together Fawda Trio and SwamiMillion for the first time in Bologna. Over the course of a week the two groups met and learnt to work together using our tried and tested format of culture lab/art workshops. The chemistry between them was instant, and to be honest better than anything any of us could have expected. After five days of jamming, loose rehearsals and conviviality they performed together on the Academy of Fine Arts stage with a public response that proved more than favorable. More than 250 people turned up to see a one of a kind show that won’t be repeated quite the same ever again.

You can see photos, videos and read about this first week in our online archive.

The next step is a mini documentary detailing this first week as well as explaining the entire project and setting up the next step, a trip to Essaouira to record the debut album by Fawda Trio and SwamiMillion. In order to do this we will be crowdfunding part of the operational costs. More details will be posted once this is all finalised.

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