One of Britain’s most diverse percussionists, Joby Burgess, will perform an exclusive set for Oxford Festival of the Arts on Friday.

Joby is best known for his virtuosic performances, daring collaborations and extensive education work, and pre-Covid regularly appeared throughout Europe, the USA and beyond.

Both in the studio and on the road he has worked with artists including Peter Gabriel, Goldfrapp, Max Richter, Steve Reich and Eric Whitacre along with many of the world’s leading chamber ensembles.

Lockdown of course changed any plans for live performances this year, but Joby has been busy in the studio recording scores and music for TV shows and commercials.

He also produced the Virtual Marimba Choir, a collaboration with 227 percussionists from across the world who performed Eric Whitacre’s ‘Sleep’ online.

His performance on Friday, Fanta® by urban composer Gabriel Prokofiev, is taken from his suite for Global Junk ‘Import/Export.’ It was filmed at The North Wall Arts Centre using glass Fanta drink bottles with live looping and technology. 

Picture by Nick White

Joby said: “I have known Michelle Castelletti, the director of the Oxford Festival of the Arts, for about ten years and have done various performances for her. She got in touch in late summer to see if I would be interested in getting involved so I put a team together and The North Wall was the ideal venue for us to record the piece.”

“The performance on Friday was commissioned in 2008 and is the first movement from Global Junk. I use two Nigerian glass Fanta bottles that are full of Fanta and combine this with sampling and looping technology. I have a great passion for getting quite deep into one particular instrument.”

The bottles are ridged and used by Joby as a scraper as well as with sticks as they create a sharper sound. He put together Powerplant in 2005, a group of percussionists who went on to perform at The South Bank, playing music from Steve Reich and Kraftwerk.

He added: “We toured for a few years and had a lot of fun, we also made an album and then started work with Gabriel Prokofiev who wanted to come away from his background in grime and move into modern classical music.

“We had a meeting in 2006 and in my office there was an empty glass Fanta bottle – Gabriel asked me about it and I told him I used it in my performances. He said he had seen them being used in Tanzania and people were playing them as cow bells. We created a piece of music using those sounds and building on them. That’s where it all began. There is no other piece of music that uses exclusively Fanta bottles.”

Joby commits much of his time to his own projects, most notably with the audio visual collective Powerplant – a collaboration with sound designer, Matthew Fairclough and visual artist, Kathy Hinde – where the worlds of minimalism and electronica collide.  Powerplant has released albums on Signum and Nonclassical featuring music by Steve Reich, Gabriel Prokofiev, Graham Fitkin and Max de Wardener.

Dedicated to the development of the percussion repertoire, often in combination with electronics, Joby spends much of his time commissioning and recording new music.

Recent highlights have included extensive tours with Peter Gabriel’s New Blood Orchestra, PUNKIT– an adventurous participatory project for massed percussion ensemble by Stephen Deazley and ‘Pioneers of Percussion’ a solo recital programme featuring new work by Nicol Lizée, Linda Buckley and Rebecca Dale. 

Joby regularly performs, records and collaborates with artists including Christophe Beck, Stewart Copeland, Pete Tong, Adrian Utley (Portishead), Nana Vasconcelos and Eric Whitacre along with many of the world’s leading chamber ensembles.

Picture by Kathy Hinde

Joby said: “Eric was ahead of the game really and started the idea of virtual music making about ten years ago. The Marimba Choir was a brilliant project and a great way to make new friends and work with new people.”

Joby’s music can often be heard on major film and TV scores, notably leading the percussion on Black Panther, The Darkest Hour, Paddington 2, Trolls, The Last Kingdom and Taboo, he was featured on the score to Alex Garland’s Ex Machina.

Joby Burgess – Fanta®  Friday October 30, 6pm.

For all the details go to www.artsfestivaloxford.org

SARAH EDWARDS

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