Georgie Pope, organiser of this year’s world music summer school, outlines what led her to SOAS:
I’ve been immersed in various worlds of music all my life. I started playing the harp at the age of seven, was part of a samba band, co-hosted a Global music radio programme for a short while, and spent my university holidays busking in Europe. When I went to India in 2008 I got deeply involved with the Rajasthani music scene and then founded Sound Travels, a musical travel company in 2011. In between I worked in the Glastonbury Festival press office and as editor of the Glastonbury Free Press – the festival’s newspaper.
I’d heard about the SOAS World Music Summer School some years back and was absolutely delighted when I discovered the opportunity to get involved. I’m currently doing a PhD in ethnomusicology at King’s College, and it’s very refreshing to get my head out of the books and into the vibrant community of music-making that is the SOAS World Music Summer School.
Some of the workshops have been running for years – like the ever-popular Cuban Music Big Band and Sanju Sahai’s tabla group. But I also get emails from SOAS students, staff, alumni and friends with new ideas for music workshops. SOAS has this wonderful ever-expanding network of musicians’ connections. We host as many workshops as we can possibly manage – sometimes a few more than that!
This year we’re offering lots of different singing groups. In Circlesinging, participants learn collective music-making.
In the Classical Indian singing workshop, you immerse yourself deeply in a single raga. There’s the extraordinary Joiking from northern Scandinavia, Mongolian Khöömii – throat singing, where you learn to turn your whole body into a didgeridoo-like sounding box. Or you can learn Russian and Javanese songs.
In Patrick Allen’s class, targeted at secondary school teachers, he teaches the art of turning a classroom into a choir. It’s a great idea: people smile and laugh so much when they sing together.
Those who already know how to play an instrument or sing can learn Middle Eastern Maqam patterns in an ensemble or become part of our Cuban Music Big Band!
Finally, there are the workshops where you learn how to play an instrument. This year we have tabla, sabar drums (they’re loud!) and darbuka; kora, mbira or SOAS’s very own Balinese gamelan.
I’ve been planning to take one of the Indian music classes – tabla or Classical singing – because it would be so useful for my work in India. But I’m a harpist too, so I could have a go with the Cuban Music Big Band – or Maqam. Louai [Alhenawi] had a concert harpist in the Maqam group one year and it sounded amazing. But the kora really appeals to me too… Wah – how can I choose? All of them!
The summer school runs from 18 June to 6 July 2018. The rest of the year I’m engaged with all sorts of music-related work. I’ve been applying for grants for MARSM, a great little organisation which brings big Arabic music acts to the UK. Also, I’ve been keeping my company Sound Travels going, so I’ve been designing a new tour in Bihar and I’ll be taking a group round Rajasthan in October. I’m also planning a small music festival in West Bengal next December. And then of course the PhD keeps me reading all about music history, theory, ethnography and so on. I’m immersed year-round!
All this work is about enabling music. The main thing is that good teachers are given a platform to teach, and people who are interested in these music forms and instruments – most of which are very rare in the UK – are given the opportunity to learn. My work is to match these people, give them a room, and then let the magic happen.
- Sound Travels – Musical Travel in India
- Monks of Majuli UK Tour – an Arts Council and ICCR-funded dance tour of the UK
- MARSM: promoting Arabic culture in the UK and beyond
SOAS World Music Summer School (18 June – 6 July 2018)
The summer school in three words? Inspiration, learning and laughter.
Find out more about the 15 classes on offer in:
ensemble / melodic / percussion / vocal genres and traditions from around the world.