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Aziz Ibrahim A Story of Identity

Ahead of a great season of live music at HOME, Anne Louise Kershaw catches up with Manchester music legend Aziz Ibrahim and folk pioneer Jon Boden…

This season, HOME is working in partnership with Manchester Camerata to present two brand new shows for their UpClose series – unique concerts connecting local and international artists with members of the orchestra.

One such partnership is with legendary Manchester musician Aziz Ibrahim; guitarist with the Stone Roses and Simply Red and collaborator with artists such as Paul Weller and Mike Joyce of the Smiths. The collaboration is set to bring into multi-media realisation Lahore to Longsight, Ibrahim’s debut and cult status album. Ahead of the collaboration we talked about what the project means to him and why the time is right to finally stage this legendary album.

“I always had a dream about working with an orchestra”, explains Ibrahim, “it predominantly comes from when I started to compose, my compositions are, I hate to say the word, but epic. They tend to have film score or soundtrack qualities, and I tend to compose and arrange with instrumentation in mind not just guitar and drums as is kind of usual for most rock bands. I kind of envisage the parts being played by an orchestra in the first place so this is like a dream come true to have an orchestra, particularly the Manchester Camarata, approach me and ask me to compose and arrange with them.”

The title of the album and subsequent UpClose production describes his father’s journey from Lahore to Longsight, Lahore being the second largest city of Pakistan and Longsight being Aziz’s birthplace in inner city Manchester, where he still lives. “The Camerata approached me about a partition project, and I had a theme and an idea, a personal story, about my father and about my relationship with him” Ibrahim explains. “His life was intriguing because he’d been an Indian one moment then Pakistani the next and then a Brit after that. The poor guy had to move. He’d been through that trauma of Partition and he used to tell me about, and as people do, even if your life has been traumatic, they still talk about the good things in their life, so he used to talk about the good things in his life. So for me, it generated music and lyrics about those things”. However, it seems not all the details were provided, “The things he didn’t tell me about, as I grew up I started to research, so I suggested this project as a personal life story, and that personal life story is probably similar for millions of other people so they can relate to that story. And that in itself tells the story of partition.”

Manchester Camerata, Ibrahim & Dalbir Singh Rattan will develop this new work which will result in a performance at HOME alongside a visual representation of the journey as part of South Asia 2017, which marks Partition and will take place around the city and the UK. In terms of at the collaboration, it seems to be an organic fit for Ibrahim, “Because of the things that have been happening in my life this past year or so, I’m very much interested in visual arts, performing arts and film. We struck up a conversation based on being interested in appealing to all of the senses really. I wanted to create a complete picture so that people could feel if they came to the show they were experiencing the whole story. They will get an audio experience and a visual experience, any of the senses that we could appeal to we explored. I wanted to bring this together, which seemed right up the Camarata’s street and HOME seems very much supportive of that contemporary approach.

“We’re not playing the whole album, just the relevant parts with new compositions to make up the missing links of the story”, which although specific to Aziz and his father, very much is the story of Partition itself. “I was born in Manchester and I wrote songs growing up in Manchester so there’s music that represents that.”

The UpClose performance has enabled the story to be fully told, “that is the complete story. It’s the children of Partition, their output, their product, their way of thinking, or my way of thinking, integrating into a new society. It’s all part of me because there’s a never-ending story of British rule, or the Raj or the East India Company to begin with, but also how we interact in the United Kingdom.” Aziz adds, “This is relevant to express my experiences of living in England and living in the North West of England and the lyrics I’ve written about that and the music I’ve written is about how that makes me feel, so I suppose it suits me down to the bone. It aligns me with the history and the story I want to tell.” And it’s a story that will connect with many people, “This is more than just a story of partition” concludes Ibrahim, “this is a story of identity”.

Lahore to Longsight takes place at HOME on 11 Oct. Find out more and book tickets here.

HOME Digital in association with Virgin Media Business

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