Culture: Tradition and Culture Collide; Terry Grimley Reports on a Festival Which Combines Cultures and Musical Influences

Article excerpt

Byline: Terry Grimley

Kate Luxmoore is a classicallytrained clarinettist and Lekan Babalola is a Nigerian jazz percussionist: put their initials together and you have the KLLB Band.

The pair are at the centre of a complex multicultural festival opening today at the Custard Factory. Called 16 Pieces, it links musical performances and workshops with an exhibition of paintings inspired by the Yoruba tradition, by artists from Britain, Africa, Cuba and elsewhere.

The exhibition is promoted by Babalola's own Ifa Yoruba Contemporary Arts Trust. The idea came to him in a dream in which the late great jazz saxophonist John Coltrane told him he should provide access to the work of artists inspired by the ancient philosophy of the Ifa tradition.

Babalola's concept for the KLLB Band seems similarly plucked from thin air. The band, featuring singer Helen McDonald as well as Luxmoore, is closely related to the Kate Luxmoore Ensemble, who were in action recently at ArtsFest.

'The ensemble is essentially Kate's project, whereas the KLLB band is more my vision of creating a funk-based band playing stadium pop but led by classical clarinet,' explains Babalola, who acknowledges the influence of American jazz clarinettist Don Byron in shaping this concept.

'I always had this idea of mixing classical instruments and classical music with African music,' he adds.

Meanwhile, Kate Luxmoore was moving in the opposite musical direction. After studying at the Royal Northern College in Manchester she planned to move to London, but only got half-way, settling in Birmingham eight years ago.

'I think it's a great city,' she says. 'It doesn't have the edge Manchester has, but there is work here. There is potential for doing music in the community, and you can work seven days a week.

'I did a lot of education workshops, but got to a point where I was frustrated at not being able to do the work I wanted.'

Out of that came the arts organisation Diaspora, which promotes improvised music and dance.

'As that has evolved we've been able to do slightly bigger projects, and then the KLLB Band. The ensemble is a relatively new development,' she added.

She calls herself a defector from classical music, though she likes to keep her hand in with the occasional recital. …