Wednesday, 19 June 2019

MUSIC REVIEW: Declaration - HOME, Manchester

As part of HOME's Horizons Festival, which this year focuses on refugees, this one hour long film / music collaboration saw instrumentalist Tagne Tebu play a variety of instruments (keyboards, harmonica, drum, cymbals) as the soundtrack to a one hour film montage by Kooj Chuhan.

Declaration, as the title perhaps suggests was a response to The Universal Declaration On Human Rights. And whilst Tebu played jazz-infused Africam-based melodies and rhythms the film showed us snippets of films, documentaries, news broadcasts from over the decades from various countries.

Whilst the idea was worthy, and the music pleasant to listen to, the film itself was - and I don't use this word often - atrocious. Sadly this was the worst piece of montage editing I have come across in a very long time. Not only did Tebu provide live music but there was also at times music to the film as well which was discordant when pitted against what Tebu was playing. There were times when Tebu's music was louder than what was being said on the screen and so, unless you were good at lip-reading, it was pointless. Over-editing of multiple images and unfocussed images dominated much of the screen time, as well as a whole section which had the images we were supposed to be vieiwng overlayed with what looked like bubbling water; whilst a voice-over spoke text which was clearly written on the screen in other parts. Hugely disjointed and fragmented, cutting in on Al Jazeera news, BBC news, Gaza, Syria, Lebanon, as well as the plight of blacks in Africa during Colonial times, with snippets of speeches given by un-named and unmentioned people, the only thread coherent in the whole was that these people were either refugees themselves or speaking up in defence of them. There was a short section about the UK Detention Centres, especially Yarlswood, and how they are basically private prisons for people who are not criminals. This section seemed to be the most poignant and relevant, and so perhaps more focus and attention should have been given here.

What also made this evening somewhat distracting was that three large and intrusive cameras had been set up in the auditorium half-way down one aisle, meaning that anyone sitting behind had an obstruction to their view; whilst a photographer tried to make herself as inconspicuous as possible whilst walking the entire theatre taking photos.

Perhaps I would have enjoyed Tebu's musicianship more, had I been able to listen to it withour peripheral distractions, but I was unable to concentrate on this since the film was obviously meant to be our point of focus, and this was so terribly put together, it was amateurish at best.

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 18/6/19

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