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Before Brouhaha: When the Wild Instruments Sing

A highlight of this year’s Push Festival is Sherko Abbas and Kani Kamil’s Brouhaha, featuring the artists playing unique, handmade instruments.

The show has its roots in a series of performances dating back to 2014-15, titled When The Wild Instruments Sing. 

For these performances, Abbas developed a musical instrument from a small handmade object called a Damaqachan, which translates into English as a ‘spoke’. In Iraq, a Damaqachan is a simple toy constructed from a bicycle’s spokes, nails and matches which sets off miniature explosions. The instrument was constructed by the same method, and when played it issues random explosive sounds. While it has to be operated by a human, it is difficult to control and to anticipate what sort of music can be made with it.

In the first performance to demonstrate the instrument at Goldsmith College in 2014, Abbas collaborated with three Iraqi artists – Khabat Abas, Hardi Kurda and Kani Kamil. Through a process of improvisation, they gave voice to the instrument and tested its form and how it responds to other, more conventional musical instruments.

In creating this Iraqi instrument in the UK, Abbas is conscious of the way in which it is inextricably linked to a background of war and destruction. He is not using it to comment or making a judgment, but through it, he demonstrates how war has been absorbed into the local culture and how the vernacular has changed as a result of it.

The artists said: “Recently, the words such as displacement, violence, war, protest, inequality, atrocity and cruelty have become a subject of daily news and their communications, without having a real answer about all these matters. Therefore, through this noise performance, we attempt to grasp question about our political and social situation.”

Watch a performance of When The Wild Instruments Sing, here: