TM+ has made this its speciality. Each season, the contemporary music ensemble directed by composer Laurent Cuniot invites its audience to enjoy new musical experiences which build surprising bridges between the past and the present, between the familiar and faraway lands.
It was with this approach in mind that the composer travelled to Bangladesh in 2018 to meet singer Farida Parveen. A few months earlier, his long-time friend and newly-appointed head of the Chittagong Alliance française, Selvam Thorez, had introduced him to the singer. It was artistic love at first sight!
A Bangladeshi cultural icon
Farida Parveen is an icon of Bangladeshi culture. Born in the mid-1950s, she rose to fame early on for her interpretations of the « Lalon geeti », a series of sung poems composed by Lalon Shah, a nineteenth-century mystic. A holy man, poet and social reformer, Lalon Shah advocated for an egalitarian society where all religions would live in harmony. He composed a vast repertoire of sung poems, of which Farida Parveen is the world's most highly-regarded performer.
Laurent Cuniot, for his part, studied at the Conservatoire national supérieur de musique de Paris and within the experimental collective « Groupe de recherche musicale ». Inspired by the avant-garde creators of the twentieth century, his music explores the expressive power of contemporary writing to inspire a dramaturgy broadly informed by the energy and colours of sound. In 1986 he founded the ensemble TM+, of which he became artistic director. The ensemble has been in residence at the Maison de la musique in Nanterre since 1996.
Creating « Trans-portées » in 2019
Laurent Cuniot and Farida Parveen's encounter in spring of 2018 was a fruitful one: after several months of remote work and discussion, the composer returned to Bangladesh in March 2019 along with four members of TM+ to create « Trans-Portées » with Farida Parveen and her musicians. Their artistic approach was clearly defined by Laurent Cuniot: « What non-European traditional music and creative music share is that they bring listeners face to face with unfamiliar musical languages and auditory imaginaries, which move the listeners and open them up to new sensations. This isn’t about « crossover » but rather about exaltation through the confrontation of each piece's identity, about bringing out their similarities, what is universal in each of them, while accepting their specific characteristics. »
A mix of musical traditions
Hosted by the Chittagong Alliance française – co-producer of the project alongside the Les Détours de Babel festival and the Nanterre Maison de la musique – the French and Bangladeshi musicians spent a week working together to find a balance which would allow them to blend their musical traditions without distorting them.
« Trans-portées » weaves together the spirituality of Lalon's songs and the odes to all-consuming love of contemporary Bangladeshi poet Muhammad Manzour. « I structured this « Listening Journey » around six songs from Farida Parveen’s repertoire, which I introduced with an instrumental prelude », explains Laurent Cuniot. « This latter carries within it all the musical dramaturgy to come, bringing together spirituality and love in a crucible of emotions. Then the musical threads and the voices alternate, confronting one another, sometimes overlapping, engaging in a subtle call and response or assuming oppositions which punctuate the listener's journey. »
From Bangladesh to France and India
After an initial series of concerts in Bangladesh, the French and Bangladeshi musicians presented two concerts in France, in Grenoble at the Les Détours de Babel festival in March 2019 and at the Maison de la musique in Nanterre. The tour was a great success, which encouraged the artists to continue their collaboration.
In 2020, TM+ was set to meet Farida Parveen and her musicians for three concert series: in India in March, then in France, notably at the Abbey of Noirlac in July, and finally in Belgium. « Presenting the project in India is a major challenge, explains Laurent Cuniot, because although they are very close geographically, India and Bangladesh have significantly different cultural and musical traditions. Exchange is therefore fundamental. » The Indian tour, which is currently unable to take place due to the Covid-19 crisis, is expected to be postponed until the autumn.
In the context of the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic, Institut Français wishes to continue offeringyou portraits, meetings with creators fromall walks of life, works and portfolios. We hope these few pages will bring some breathing space back into an everyday shaped by lockdown.
The Institut français regularly supports TM+ in its international projects. For example, in 2019 the ensemble received support from the Institut français for its residency at the Hear Now festival in Los Angeles.
Its 2020 India tour is supported by the Institut français as part of the IF Tournée programme.
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