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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)

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Baraka Moon’s Magic Carpet Ride across the Globe

Baraka Moon – Wind Horse (Baraka Moon Music, 2017)

Following up on their 2016 release of Eternal, the San Francisco based Baraka Moon is back to inundate listeners with their particular brand of savage coolness on Wind Horse, available on October 6th on the Baraka Moon Music label. Immersing listeners into a deep sound pool fashioned out mystical Sufi trance, textured Indian ragas, meaty African rhythms and the tangy flavors of Australia’s Aboriginal centuries-old musical traditions, Wind Horse is a deluge of sound that is potent and highly satisfying. With copacetic grooves and delicious dance tracks, listeners just have to ride the easy waves of Wind Horse for an excellent ride.

Baraka Moon has pooled its talents with its members, vocalist and harmonium player Sukhawat Ali Khan (who just happens to be related to musical masters Ustad Salamat Ali Khan and Nazakat Ali Khan); percussionist and didgeridoo master Stephen Kent; drummer and percussionist Peter Warren; and guitarist, ukulele player and backing vocalist Anastasi Mavrides. Wind Horse also shows off the talents of guest musicians like Gurdeep Hira on tabla, Eda Maxym, Stella Karuna Kent and Sam Becker on backing vocals, Ben Issacs on jembe and percussion and Madusara Liyange and Swapan Gandhi on bansuri flute.

Wind Horse opens on the winds of the fabulous groove “Bismillah,” before moving onto the guitar slick and meaty rhythmic “Rasa Divine,” replete with some dishy backing vocals. Listeners shouldn’t miss out on the rich and rewarding “Narayane” with Mr. Khan’s vocals surrounded by guitar flourishes and mesmerizing rhythms. “Allah Hoo” is simply kickass good with didgeridoo against harmonium and Mr. Khan’s vocals.

“Sabir” is full of reggae flair, while “Mankuntu” is all quick paced richness. Equally delicious are the didgeridoo and speaking tongues flash of “Julay Julay” the raucous wild ride of title track “Wind Horse” and the lovely serene addition of bansuri flute on closing track “Alap.”

Baraka Moon’s Wind Horse is a magic carpet ride across Indian grasslands, Pakistani’s lazy river banks, African savannas and the rich, red earth packed landscapes of down under. And what a ride it is.

Buy Wind Horse

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