Set ups galore and we’re back.

The third event in 13 months, not bad for an idea that took shape two years ago and only started really becoming ‘real’ with the first event in early 2009.

This year is hotter, with the July heat bearing down on us and making the use of fans and mountains of water a necessity. We’re back not just in Bologna but also in the Teatro San Leonardo, our workshop home for the inaugural event last year and once more home to our group of musicians.

And though this year our event might seem smaller from the outside, with only two collective of artists involved and less focus on public involvement apart from the live show and the documentation, from the inside it’s a much bigger job with 9 actual artists involved, 5 live musicians, 1 producer/composer and 3 video artists. Set up alone has been such a different experience. And yet the same atmosphere already pervades the venue within less than an hour of all the musicians arriving. Smiles, jokes and lots of jamming.

Another big difference this year is that both collectives, Katzuma and his Expanding Disco Machine (the band’s nickname) and Opificio Ciclope, have already prepared the ground work for their halves of the showcase ahead of this week’s rehearsals. Having laid down the foundations of the music and visuals the next five days are a rehearsal in the truer sense of the word. Last year the bulk of the music and visuals were improvised in the five days leading to the show, this year the concept is a lot more focused and thus the art. I really can’t wait to see and hear what comes out because already it’s sounding so promising. And I’ve only seen a tiny bit of the visuals so god knows how that will shape up in the coming days.

Having taken out the international element, public workshops/talks and the associated ideas of direct cultural exchange from this event there’s still plenty there for us to explore by applying the same approach we have to the previous two events to this new one. ‘From Inner Space’ is in a way much more of a production which we are facilitating, documenting and of course staging. Already I’m thinking that while we haven’t been able to involve non-Italian artists, the kind of show we’re producing this year lends itself so much better to post-event involvement from new artists for remixes and the likes. The entire one hour show which Katzuma has produced, and will finish producing and refining this week, is more or less brand new. It includes a mix of some of his own productions, reworked for the occasion, alongside tracks written, produced and ultimately performed exclusively for the occasion. And with a focus on funk, disco and house I know it’s not only going to be something to witness live but can also have many more incarnations in a variety of forms. I’m already imagining some of the guys we’ve worked with reinterpreting the pieces. Time will tell but the potential is there.

In one way at an organisational level it’s easier to manage this year, with less people to look after considering all the artits are locals. And yet there’s a raft of new challenges especially following the support we’ve received from the city to do this and be part of their summer programme. As before Ale, Cris and Yass have already laid down all the foundations and drafted all that needs to be done throughout the week, especially at a promotional level to ensure the event is a success for the artists and public, and at a financial level to allow us to continue to do this and do it better. Bologna 09 and London 10 were lessons learnt at that level and so we can put that experience in and continue to learn. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we know how to do it that much better thanks to the experience.

Break time, the conga player has finally arrived. I’m lost in the cigarette smoke as everyone sparks up and starts chatting about the show and what to do.

The Expanding Disco Machine as a band have been brought together exclusively for the occasion, to help Katzuma recreate his vision live. A motley crew of five local musicians it’s amazing sitting there and watching them all interact and work, with Katzuma very much acting as a catalyst but also a conductor. Great to see considering some might say he’s the odd one out, the ‘producer’ among the ‘musicians’. They are Nico Menci on keys, Alessandro Meroli aka Merols on flute and sax, Blanda on bass, Danilo Mineo on percussions and Gastone Casotto on congas.

The most exciting thing for me is the concept in a way, this idea of exploring the evolution from the funk of the 70s to the early house of the 80s, via disco. It’s not a period and style of music I’m very familiar with, despite having grown to like it more and more in recent years, and to hear these guys create their own interpretation as they go is amazing. Friday can’t come soon enough.

Thunder. Only problem is storms here make the heat that much more hard to bear. The weather has totally changed our cycle this year, we’re starting later and staying in later at San Leonardo, sweating it through.

Katzuma shows off his Akai iPhone app in the break, to much hilarity from the bass player. Old and new together, not just in the music being written and explored and the people brought together but also at a technological level with Katzuma directing the whole thing via Serato and a controller, laying down the rhythmic foundations for the guys to play over.

After a chat with Yass to clarify exactly who’s who, my whole thing of new and old together seems even more accurate in a way. Two of the five musicians were suggested by us to join the other three who already knew and had worked with Katzuma. All local Bologna musicians, after a day of rehearsals it’s already a nicely knit collective set to expand disco further out. Or is that into Inner Space?

Merols breaks out the giant snacks bag. Laughter and then munchies.

Nico Menci has Reason hooked up to a controller, from which they’ve just found a percussion preset that Katzuma has called ‘Afro Digital’ and which seems to blend beautifully with the live percussions from Danilo and Katzuma’s drum groove. Five minutes of jamming with it later, turns out it’s lost in the mix and is binned.

As the first rehearsal draws to an end it’s a good finish to the day. Katzuma proclaims that five tracks already are sounding ‘figo’. It’s gonna be an interesting week. Tomorrow we up their monitors to better quality and the guys agree to spend six hours locked in until midnight to get more done. We need to clean up, eat, go home and get ready to continue documenting and promoting the show tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Original Cultures ‘From Inner Space’ takes place July 9, at Chiostro dei Vicolo Bologneti. Doors open at 8.30, show starts at 10 sharp. Full details here.

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