SWIM COLLECTIVE: INSTANT HAPPINESS IMPROV JAZZ NIGHT | Hong Kong, Eaton HK, Terrible Baby

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How do you like your improv jazz? Completely mental? Then SWIM Collective is for you. It’s unusual for contemporary free jazz to feature a vocalist; three vocalists even moreso. But this is the ensemble’s strength and USP: a highly theatrical, human sound. An accompanying band of harp, keyboard, cello, percussion and electronics allows for a diverse range of expression.

Some of the vocal improvisation is straight out of the Toronto Blessings of the 1990s, a flurry of impassioned tongues, over dissonant spreads of expressionist harp and piano cluster-chords. Sometimes the singers merely coo gently; sometimes they are silent.

One of the most fascinating things about these through-composed, non-repeating, freely improvised pieces, is how the style slowly (sometimes imperceptibly) weaves in and out of free-rhythm effects and anchored, rhythmic, tonal grooves. The whole ensemble are really listening to each other and giving each other space, never trying to dominate the sound. Sometimes this leads to moments of complete silence.

Audience participation is highly encouraged. Everyone is given some tissue paper, and a lucky few are given some spoons. Being conducted in and out, at different volume levels, the sound of paper rustling and spoons clinking en masse is quite mesmerising, and the chance to be involved feels pretty special.

Follow SWIM Collective on Facebook.

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TJOE & NTBM | Hong Kong, Peel Fresco

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It’s hard to put into words how impressive and special this weekly jazz night is at this tiny live music venue near the party district around Central. Tjoe Man Cheung is a young jazz guitarist of exceptional skill, who, despite his unassuming demeanour, is clearly an excellent bandleader too. Moreover, he seems to know every dynamite musician in Hong Kong, so his “jam session” ends up being of a ridiculously high standard.

NTBM stands for “Not To Be Missed”, and this is apt. The actual “house band” line-up might be slightly different each Sunday evening, but whoever you get, you can be sure of a few pre-rehearsed tunes of outstanding quality, hovering around contemporary jazz-funk, to suit Tjoe’s guitar.

But the star attraction is the jam. Musician after musician, every audience member who joins the action is unique and phenomenal. There doesn’t appear to be any sheet music, even for the niche and complex numbers: just a quick murmur amongst themselves of the title and the key, and away they go, sounding tighter than a lot of pro bands. How is this possible? You may find a Japanese tap-dancer joins in with an improvised solo worthy of its own Broadway show, or an avant-garde vocalist improvises disquietingly around a classic, or a drummer changes tack and rocks out on a melodica (à la Jacob Collier).

Audience participation is very much encouraged. A couple of singers get up who are not first-rate, but relish the opportunity to perform. Little percussion instruments get passed around. It’s a steal at $100 HKD entry; although this entry fee is waived for latecomers who miss the main show. The bar is outrageously expensive (think $75 HKD for a Diet Coke) but still NTBM.

Check out all the live music at Peel Fresco online.

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HONG KONG LESBIAN AND GAY FILM FESTIVAL: OPENING PARTY | Hong Kong, Woobar @ W Hotel

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To celebrate the 30th anniversary year of the longest-running LGBTQ+ film festival in Asia, the Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival (HKLGFF) kicked off with two packed-house screenings and a dynamite party in Kowloon. All ticket holders to the opening screenings of Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga (How I Felt When I Saw That Girl) (2019) or Les Crevettes Pailletées (The Shiny Shrimps) (2019) were invited to the party, with free drinks sponsored by Finlandia and Jack Daniel’s.

Before the screenings, executive director Raymond Leung presented this year’s Prism Award to Angus Leung, on behalf of him and his husband Scott Adams, for spending the past five years battling local government to recognise their marriage in Hong Kong.

At Woobar, DJs Janette Slack and Melody Lane delivered a stream of feel-good club classics with the occasional remix. Short, live performances injected some fresh energy, too. KiKi house of Marciano brought their mixed-gender, PVC-clad voguing trio, which went down an absolute storm. Drag Jam did some fun lip-syncing and also posed for some photo opportunities with fans.

Although primarily geared up for a young, nightclub-going crowd, there was a glorious mix of ages, nationalities and styles, embracing Hong Kong’s diversity. A huge amount has changed over the past thirty years: 1991 saw the legalisation of homosexuality, and Hong Kong’s annual Pride parade started in 2008. But there is still no legal recognition of any same-sex relationships, and limited protection against discrimination. The fight for visibility continues.

Book online for all upcoming events, including the closing party on 21 September 2019.

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Scotland’s East Neuk Festival unveils 2019 programme

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Scotland’s East Neuk Festival (ENF) returns for its 15th festival, 26 – 30 June 2019, inviting audiences on a musical adventure in beautiful and unique locations along East Neuk’s picturesque coastline. The festival promises major artists, unique collaborations and a large-scale art installation for the 2019 ENF, filling the hidden corners of Scotland’s coastal area of the East Neuk in Fife.

Percussionist Colin Currie and his new Colin Currie Quartet will be teaming up with community musicians of the East Neuk, for this year’s Big Project for massed percussion. Pianist Elisabeth Leonskaja, Pavel Haas Quartet and Belcea String Quartet will all be coming together to present a unique series of five concerts, while Welsh harpist Catrin Finch and Senegalese kora master Seckou Keita will make their ENF debuts with a three-concert residency.

A large-scale art installation in the grounds of the National Trust for Scotland’s Kellie Castle will celebrate the communal Drying Greens of yesteryear, and culminate in an afternoon of family activities and pop up performances from the Tullis Russell Mills Band (in its centenary year).

An evolution of the ENF Retreat sees two past Retreatants – violinist Benjamin Baker and violist Diyang Mei – return to the festival to play solo, chamber and concerto dates. Festival Director, Svend McEwan-Brown, said: “ENF is all about relationships: we love when our favourite musicians return, collaborate and take new directions at the festival. Experimenting is a risky business, and we are proud that artists of such stature trust us to support them as they do it.”

Read the brochure, get excited, and start booking.

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BOYZ NITE OUT | London, Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club

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What a week for queer theatre that’s full of joy with a feminist bent! Acclaimed Drag King troupe BOYZ are heading up a Drag King Club Night at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, featuring the well-known stars Johnny Rubber, Wesley Dykes, Fanta Le Mon, and many others.

Sending up the nineties (and noughties) boy band invasion, BOYZ promise: “sweet, sweet tunes, and moves, from your fave decade”. Nostalgia. What absolutely categorises BOYZ‘ drag is its joy, silliness, and inclusivity. It’s a real party, and everyone’s invited.

There is, of course, a political edge. RuPaul’s Drag Race is now fully mainstream, and the bitchy, diva drag queen is now a little passé. Meanwhile, a drag king revolution has been kicked off in London in the past few years by the likes of BOYZ and Pecs: The Drag King Collective.

The show, starring BOYZ and special guests, runs 9pm-10:30pm (doors at 8pm). BOYZ‘ shows are always extremely popular, and seats are unreserved, so get there early to bag a table and a drink. After the show, keep the party going with DJing into the wee hours.

Book online now and save 30% on tickets!

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