What exactly is ‘On Mass’ at London Roundhouse all about?

The chance to collaborate with a three-time Grammy winner awaits.

Born from the Roundhouse International Programme in 2015, On Mass is a platform to give young talented artists the chance to collaborate with established and emerging acts from around the world.

On Mass is set to take place on Sunday 12th November as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival. The event will take place at London’s Roundhouse and will showcase a range of emerging artists from beat boxers to street circus performers.

At the core of this years project is three-time Grammy Award winner and global artist Angelique Kidjo. Angelique has produced an exclusive track for On Mass, which will be given to each international groups taking part. Each group will produce their own interpretation of the track, reflective of the vibrant spectrum of locations and environments, culminating with the live performance at the Roundhouse in November.

Now, if there is anything that we love at BOUND it’s a creative project that allows young, emerging artists the chance to shine. So with that being said, we reached out to On Mass Project Manager Silvia and Producer Lucy to find out more about the project set to take place later this year.

For those unaware about the On Mass project, could you give us a brief introduction to what it’s all about? 

Sylvia: On Mass is a yearlong project that brings together young and professional performance artists from around the world to make music, exchange ideas and collaborate before performing in a one-off extravaganza in the Roundhouse Main Space, featuring 180 young artists alongside the incredible Angelique Kidjo. It’s all about breaking down borders and celebrating collaboration with young people at the heart.

We commissioned Angelique Kidjo to write an original On Mass musical motif, which has been sent around the world for groups of artists to creatively respond to. We have worked in India, Palestine, Brazil, Scotland and Faroe Islands with professional and emerging UK and local artists, and have put on performances in each community we have worked in. All of these unique responses will feature in the 2hr show – and honestly, they are incredible.

Some of the young artists have been selected to come and spend a week with us here at Roundhouse and take part of the show in November. The show is part of the EFG London Jazz Festival, and will feature a range of emerging music and circus artists from London partners and Roundhouse collectives including London’s top carnival band Kinetika Bloco, Roundhouse Choir, Roundhouse Music Collective and Roundhouse Audio Collectives, Breakin’ Convention (Sadler’s Wells), Battersea Arts Centre’s Beat Box Academy and the Roundhouse Street Circus Collective. When we did this with Jamie Cullum in 2015 it was magic, and we are so excited to be doing it again on a bigger scale this year!

Where did the idea come from? 

Sylvia: The project was born out of the Roundhouse International Programme which was established to platform the talents of young artists and to encourage collaborations between professional and emerging artists around the world.  The programme is built on partnerships with incredible organisations around the world who share our commitment to young people. Through the work we aim to create spaces to exchange ideas, break down barriers and make great art together.

“We commissioned Angelique Kidjo to write an original On Mass musical motif, which has been sent around the world for groups of artists to creatively respond to.”

This year’s artist is Angelique Kidjo. With so many potential artists to choose from, what stood out?

Sylvia: We were keen for the artist to be an advocate of the core values of the project. Angelique is a Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter renowned for her diverse musical influences, blending a variety of styles and languages. This openness is really important, as she will be fronting a coming together of music and circus from around the world.

Beyond her music, she is also a social activist.  She is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, raising awareness about girls’ education to help eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, and the co-founder of the Batonga Foundation, which gives a scholarship to girls in Benin, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Mali and Sierra Leone. She’s an incredibly inspiring woman, who I’ve no doubt will inspire the men and women involved in this project to use their music for positive action in their communities.

Lucy, let’s bring you in here. What can the young artists involved learn from Angelique and how will she be involved? 
Lucy: Angelique is an incredible artist, ambassador and musician and we hope the artists involved will learn a great deal from her. She has created a unique piece of music for the artists to respond to, which is the central pin of the show. She will perform a set of her own material in the show, including the motif – the first time it will be heard by an audience!


The artists selected will all get the chance to perform live. What is it you’re looking for when they perform? 
Lucy: The artists will spend the week leading up to the show collaborating with professionals and other emerging artists at the Roundhouse to create a response to the musical motif. We will be encouraging artists to be open minded, absorbing the sounds (and skills!) that everyone brings to the table to create something unique and that embodies the core values of the project and show.

Sylvia, there are three main themes for this year. ‘Breaking down borders through creative collaboration’, ‘Cross-genre collaboration’ and ‘Socially engaged global dialogue’. Can you tell us a little bit more about these themes? 

It often feels like stories of fear and separation dominate today’s media. We want this show to be the antithesis of this. We want the audience to leave with a sense of possibility and unity. Last year the show finished with everybody singing ‘One Nation Under A Groove’ at the top of their lungs… we want to see this matched this year.

Finally, this is a huge opportunity for a creative artist to get there name out there. What will the performers gain from this in the future? Will you be keeping an eye on them?  

We hope the project will create lasting links between all of the artists on the project, that they will make friends, be inspired by the collaborations that happen here and continue to use music to enrich lives of others in their communities. Some of the emerging international artists will be working with the Kinetika Bloco tutors to learn about how to run projects and facilitate creative sessions. They will be able to take what they have learned and start programmes in their own communities. The artists will perform in the Roundhouse Main Space on the same stage as Jim Morrison, Patti Smith and Pink Floyd.

All tickets for On Mass 2017 are available here

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