Having established a collaboration project between fiddle players Anne Hytta from Norway and Mohamed Issa “Matona” Haji from Zanzibar (see Sibiu Cultural Capital), Nedland Kultur recruited two more musicians and established the N.E.W.S. Quartet. The N and the S in the name of the group stands for North (Norway) and South (Africa), while the middle letters stand for East (Zanzibar) and West (Mauretania).
N.E.W.S. Quartet from left: Anne Hytta, Hardanger fiddle,Matona, Oud and violin, Becaye Aw, Guitar, Rajab Suleiman, Qanun.
The repertoire of the quartet is based on the material developed in the Hytta/Matona collaboration, complemented by the unique guitar style and compositions of Becaye Aw (a Mauretanian now based in Norway), and the virtuoso qanun playing of Zanzibar’s Rajab Suleiman. Norwegian, Zanzibari and West African tunes blend together in a many faceted soundscape, and traditional melodies alternate with original compositions by the group members. Producer Sigbjørn Nedland developed the basics of a concert program by working with the musicians, travelling to Zanzibar with some musical elements from Norway, bringing back sketches and ideas from the musicians there, and feeding this to the Norwegian participants.
The quartet was booked to play the Zanzibar festival Sauti Za Busara in February 2011. The Norwegian Music Information Centre, the Norwegian Embassy in Tanzania and others provided travel funds, to make the performance a reality.
N.E.W.S. Quartet on stage at Sauti Za Busara.
Seeing that a performance on the large main stage of the Sauti Za Busara festival might need some additional accompaniment to make the sound rich and full enough for the big stage, Nedland Kultur came up with the idea of backing the N.E.W.S. Quartet with a somewhat unconventional string quartet, one violin, one viola, one cello and one double bass. The Symphony Orchestra of NRK, Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (where Sigbjørn Nedland works) were willing to provide the quartet, and four of the orchestra’s musicians came to Zanzibar with the N.E.W.S. Quartet: Henrik Hannisdal, Jon Sønstebø, Merethe Olsen Carr and Hans Petter Bang. Rehearsals took place at DCMA, the Dhow Countries Music Academy, and a workshop with students and teachers at the academy was organised. On Friday, 11th 2011 of February, the double quartet performed at the main stage of the Sauti Za Busara festival.
The musicians from the Symphony Orchestra: From left: Hans Petter Bang, Double bass, Jon Sønstebø, Viola, Merethe Olsen Carr, Cello, Henrik Hannisdal, Violin.
The latest performance (so far) by the N.E.W.S. Quartet tok place during the 2012 edition of Oslo World Music Festival. They got together again with the string quartet from the NRK Symphony Orchestra, and did a club performance at the famous club “Blå” in central Oslo. The repertoire of the quartet is based on a combination of traidtional melodies from Norway, Zanzibar and Mauretania, and original compositions by N.E.W.S. quartet memebers. The groups seems to seamlessly float through the various traditions, leaving the listener with one, coherent impression of the music performed. They move from a traditional Norwegian hardanger fiddle tune into a taarab song from Zanzibar, and then cross the African continent to incorporate a tune from Mauretania, but the music flows so smoothly and themes interlock in such a way that the listener hardly notices when they leave one tune or one music style and move into another. T
Oslo World Music Festival 2012
N.E.W.S. Quartet and the String Quartet from the NRK Symphony Orcestra on stage at the club Blå in Oslo, October 31st 2012, being interviewed by NRK’s reporter Arne Berg.