wed 07/12/2022

Jaminaround, Ancient Technology Centre, Cranborne review - contemporary sounds in an archaic setting | reviews, news & interviews

Jaminaround, Ancient Technology Centre, Cranborne review - contemporary sounds in an archaic setting

Jaminaround, Ancient Technology Centre, Cranborne review - contemporary sounds in an archaic setting

A celebration of independent musical spirit and community in an Iron Age roundhouse

Howl in full swingHelena Lex

The most unlikely venue: an extraordinary, authentic-as-can-be replica of a large Iron Age roundhouse. There’s a turf and grass roof, and the structure, made of immense roughly carved oak trunks, defies belief.

You walk in, there is a kind of half-light, the feeling of entering a sacred space or a cathedral. The small circular performance area is set in the middle with gently raked seats rising all around. This is the centre piece of a brilliant and atmospheric evocation of an Iron Age settlement, the site of the Ancient Technology Centre in Cranborne, on the south east edge of Dorset.

Although I have now lived in Dorset for five years, I was only told about this magical place in the summer of 2021 – when I first heard the fabulous cellist, singer and rising star Abel Selaocoe, who sold out the Queen Elizabeth Hall less a few weeks ago, in one of the Jaminaround shows presented by Olly Keen, the son of the schoolteacher who built the roundhouse 40 years ago. At a previous show last summer, the star of the show was The Balimaya Project, whom I also later saw in London, rising stars as well. Both acts are typical of the varied and leftfield music and spoken word that has distinguished Jaminaround as a superbly curated and imaginative event.

Zena E, photo by Helena LexAs Olly explained to me last weekend, “I don’t do marketing!”. This is why Jaminaround is a well-kept secret, which favours originality over the formulaic, and always surprises, the 250 or so people who attend, year after year. It's a triumph of word of mouth, that does not always break even, but which celebrates music in the round, and a sense of community and collective healing that is rare and to be cherished.

This year, Olly Keen felt he needed to put the music and entertainment into context: the theme was the climate crisis. There were 45 minutes of talks and discussion that featured representatives of Extinction Rebellion and The Landworkers' Alliance. The music spoke from the heart as well. The vocal group Howl, all women, who combined a capella singing with subtle electronica, sound effects, the eerie sound of singing bowls and fingers gently stroking wine glasses, opened the evening. The shape and the feel of the roundhouse felt as if it had been built to welcome such an exercise in collective celebration of the human voice, expressed in unison and polyphony. The material ran from a short piece by the outstanding American composer Caroline Shaw (whose extract from “Partita” startled viewers of the BBC’s series Marriage), to traditional English folk material, subtly tweaked to make it shine as new rather than be constrained by purism. And yet, the whole show felt timeless, tapping into a music from the soul that evoked what is perennial in the vernacular architecture of this roundhouse, tuning into a music that builds heartfelt community out of the being of individual singers.

There is something about the relaxed feel of Jaminaround – campfire rather than stadium – which encourages a very special kind of intimacy between audience and musicians and also among the musicians themselves. Poet Zena E (Edwards, pictured above), who mixed the personal and political with soulful and open-hearted grace, had met the jazz bassist Jasper Høiby on the way down to Dorset, and they had decided to improvise a couple of numbers together, a spontaneous and living example of the creative collaboration that will be needed, as the speakers on climate crisis had emphasised, as a part of finding solutions not driven by a lust for power and money. Høiby’s own set was a total delight, quietly atmospheric at times and ecstatically fiery at others. As for the other musicians who played in the round that night, they held the audience in a kind of trance, following every nuance of the inspired conversation they improvised through, with tangible and contagious inspiration. 

The show was closed by Dizraeli, a little too like Mike Skinner of the Streets in vocal style, but with a charismatic personality and a group of eclectic and talented musicians who managed to bring the evening to a lively close, with the audience on their feet, fuelled by the accumulated energy of a rare and endlessly surprising variety of artistry and soul.

The shape and the feel of the roundhouse felt as if it had been built to welcome such an exercise in collective celebration of the human voice

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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