Sunday 28 January 2024, 7.30pm
1. a fire or light set up in a high or prominent position as a warning, signal, or celebration.
Khabat Abas / cello and self-built instruments
Pat Thomas / piano and electronics
Alya Al-Sultani / voice
Manara is a trio that emerged from a shared enjoyment of pushing the limits of our instruments, an interest in literature and musical traditions of the Middle East and political resistance in its many forms.
In the tradition of classical Middle Eastern music, the compositions start with a poem placed into the hands of a singer. In this case, the poems of Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour; both the poem that sent her to prison for 3 years and the unpublished poem she wrote in her cell.
The trio follows the poems’ beacon in spontaneous collective composition. The debut album will be launched at Café Oto on 28th January 2024.
Khabat Abas is a cellist, improviser, artist, and composer from Kurdistan who likes to transgress. She experiments with the cello structurally and musically, improvising, composing, creating sound installations and diverse cellos including her shell-case cello (made from a shell dropped on Kurdistan), and using her own body. She is inspired in part by the silenced stories of women, which she makes audible through her compositions, using diverse materials to protest against oppression rooted in social and political systems. She questions what is out of bounds, raising the possibilities of sounds that contrast with traditional musical values and cannot be controlled or commodified.
Abas has performed with numerous ensembles, including the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra, Sulaymaniyah string orchestra, Gothenburg Academic Symphony Orchestra, the Non-Ensemble for experimental music, London Improvisers Orchestra and ONe_Orchestra New. She has collaborated with curators, artists and musicians in Kurdistan-Iraq, Sweden, Germany, and the UK. Abas’s recent piece for electro-acoustic cello was performed in Slemani-Kurdistan as a part of the Global Listening Biennial 2021. She also performed at the Space21 festival in Kurdistan-Iraq in 2021, the Winter sound festival in Canterbury 2022 and the Borderline Festival Athens 2022, and she participated in the (Abandoned Space) project, a collaboration between the Sonorities festival in Belfast and Space21 festival in Kurdistan. Her compositions have been played as part of Klangwerkstatt Festival for New Music in Berlin, the Space21 festival in Kurdistan, and new jazz festival in London. She is co-founder, with Hardi Kurda, of Duo Moment; they have released two albums: Broken Resonance on the Space21 Label, and Illegal Performance, recorded at Café Oto 2021. She has been awarded grants from Salam culture house in Iraqi Kurdistan, the Swedish art council community, and Stim Forward Fund in Sweden.
Pat Thomas studied classical piano from aged 8 and started playing Jazz from the age of 16. He has since gone on to develop an utterly unique style - embracing improvisation, jazz and new music. He has played with Derek Bailey in Company Week (1990/91) and in the trio AND (with Noble) – with Tony Oxley’s Quartet and Celebration Orchestra and in Duo with Lol Coxhill.
"Sartorially shabby as Thomas may be, and on first impression even rather stolid, he has a somewhat imperious charisma that’s immediately amplified when he starts to play. Unlike other pianists whose virtuosity seems to be racing ahead of their thought processes Thomas always seems supremely in command of his gift, and his playing, no matter how free and ready to tangle with abstraction, always carries a charge of authoritative exactitude." - The Jazzmann
Alya Al-Sultani is a vocalist and composer based in London, UK. Her first musical experiences were Iraqi folk songs sung by her great grandmother and radio broadcasts of Um Kolthum, Abdel-Halim and Fairouz which she listened to with her family while drinking sweet black tea infused with cardamom. After leaving Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, her family settled in Tottenham, North London where she began to discover the incredible new sounds of the 80s and music from the Caribbean.
Her musical education was entirely classically-focussed, on piano and voice. She learned the importance of technique, tradition, theory, respecting fellow musicians and respecting the music. But she did not learn freedom and it is this she has sought for the last decade. The pursuit of freedom in music is driven by her aesthetic, her immigrant experience and her Eastern feminism.
Apart from working on her own projects, Alya enjoys debuting new music for contemporary composers and experimenting with opera, including the integration of improvisation techniques, microtonal ideas and Eastern influences.