Artist profiles: Stephen Kent

Stephen Kent

Pioneering didjeridu virtuoso Stephen Kent was born in Devon, UK. Through his efforts, he has brought the ancient Aboriginal sound into a contemporary context. ‘I want to capture the essence and potential of the didjeridu and to put it on the musical map as a serious instrument with incredible versatility,’ said the composer and multi-instrumentalist. During a long career with the didjeridu, Kent has developed an approach that is unmistakably his own exploring a remarkable range of playing styles in diverse musical genres. Along the way he has amassed a catalog of over a dozen critically acclaimed albums, including four solo releases and many others with his group projects Trance Mission, Beasts of Paradise and Lights In A Fat City.

Demand for Kent’s didj work has taken him all over the world playing recording and collaborating with top artists in divergent musical arenas from Leonard Eto of Kodo in Japan to Megadrums, with Airto Moreira and Zakir Hussain to Habib Koite of Mali and back home to the Oakland Symphony Orchestra’s new work by Afro-Cuban pianist Omar Sosa.

Raised in East Africa and the UK, Kent cut his teeth in the London music scene of the late 1970s with the band Furious Pig. As musical director of Australia’s Circus Oz he found a relationship with Aboriginal culture and the didjeridu. ‘Awakening to the Aboriginal world was like my own Big Bang. For me the recreation of a musical universe on the didj the culture of one note continues to this day,’ Kent says.

After his stint in the Circus Arts, Kent focused once more on music. He began to build a career around the sound of the didj forming Lights In A Fat City in London and touring throughout Europe and North America. The group’s landmark debut CD Somewhere (1987) was the first European release of contemporary didjeridu music.

In 1991 Kent relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he co-formed the groups Trance Mission and Beasts of Paradise performing and recording to great public and critical acclaim in the U.S. and abroad.

With the ground-breaking and well-received Landing (City of Tribes) Kent embarked upon his solo career. The follow-up Family Tree (City of Tribes) is a collection of works from the aforementioned groups along withnew pieces that together trace the unique sonic journey Kent began two decades earlier.

A wholly original talent truly transcending categories Stephen Kent is an innovator on the global music scene with the ability to both trigger the imagination and transport the spirit. For the last nine years Stephen has worked to promote world music through his capacity as Thursday morning host of ‘Music of the World’ on KPFA-FM in Berkeley, California.

His 2004 CD Oil & Water (Family Tree) conjures up a musical landscape in which opposites meet and where cool conversations between distinct cultures begin. ‘It’s like good cooking combining strong elements from divergent sources with music as the common language‘ says Kent.

By bringing Kent’s didjeridu together with other extraordinary musicians – Moroccan musician Yassir Chadly, traditional Scots piper Jimi McRae and the sensational Tuvan throat singer Igor Koshkendey – Oil & Water opened the ears to a new world of possibilities.

In 2008, Stephen Kent co-founded Baraka Moon.

Discography:

I Don’t Like Your Face EP, with Furious Pig (Rough Trade, 1980)
Somewhere, with Lights in a Fat City (These Records, 1988)
City Simple Harmonic Motion, with Lights in a Fat City (1990)
Ocho Elefantes (Burnt Earth Music, 1990)
Songs From the Burnt Earth (Burnt Earth, 1992)
Sound Column, with Lights in a Fat City (Extreme, 1993)
Trance Mission, with Trance Mission (City of Tribes, 1993)
Spacetime Continuum, with Terence McKenna (Astralwerks, 1994)
Landing (City of Tribes, 1994)
Event Horizon (City of Tribes, 1994)
Meanwhile, with Trance Mission (City of Tribes, 1994)
Nobody Knew the Time, with Beasts of Paradise (City of Tribes, 1995)
Event Horizon Psi (City of Tribes, 1995)
Gathered on the Edge, with Beasts of Paradise (City of Tribes, 1995)
Head Light, with Trance Mission (City of Tribes, 1996)
Halcyon Days (Fathom, 1996)
Event Horizon Tao (City of Tribes, 1996)
Family Tree (City of Tribes, 1997)
Chameleon, with Badi Assad (Polygram Records, 1998)
A Day Out of Time, with Trance Mission (City of Tribes, 1999)
Memory Ground, with Lights in a Fat City (City of Tibes, 1999)
Burundi (Musisoft, 2000)
Oil & Water (Family Tree, 2004)
Stephen Kent Live at Starwood (Starwood Recordings, 2006)
Living Labyrinths (Family Tree, 2007)
Imagination Club, with Eda Maxym (Family Tree, 2007)
The Painted Road (Family Tree, 2016)
Wind Horse (Baraka Moon Music, 2017)

DVD:

Stephen Kent Live at Starwood (Starwood Recordings, 2006)

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.

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