The British Council’s Musicians in Residence China programme, in partnership with PRS Foundation, is back and three more British musicians are ready to take up the opportunity to spend six weeks in China so that they can immerse themselves in a different culture and explore a unique musical landscape. The three musicians are producer, artist and DJ, FEMME; composer and producer, Jasmin Kent Rodgman; and, songwriter and producer, Love Ssega. This round of the programme is part of the British Council in China’s Inspiring Women in the Arts campaign.
The residence allows each of them a six-week period when they work with local musicians, performing, writing and soaking up the culture to give them some fresh inspiration for their future work and collaborations. Expect eclecticism and a true musical adventure as these residencies get underway, starting at the 11 October for FEMME in Chengdu, and next March for Jasmin in Lanzhou and Love Ssega in Guilin.
In order to inspire the musicians by more cultural contrasts, the organizers explored second-tier cities in China with unique cultural connotations and rich folk customs. This is also to strengthen the cultural exchange with the city through their residency. So far, the residences have been carried out in 12 cities (Hangzhou, Xi'an, Chengdu, Xiamen, Kunming, Nanjing, Zhengzhou, Wuhan, Changsha, Suzhou, Guiyang and Chongqing). This year, Lanzhou and Guilin were chosen first for the programme.
The official online music partner of this round is Tencent Music Entertainment Group, on whose products like QQ Music and Kugou Music, users can find the musicians’ previous works with the progress of the residences.
FEMME (Laura Bettinson)
FEMME (Laura Bettinson) will spend her residency in Chengdu. Her DIY invention has stemmed not only from necessity but also from a desire to retain total creative control. Several major label overtures have been entertained down the years, but ultimately Bettinson has always preferred to pursue her own artistic vision. “I like my pop music a little bit weird,” she says. “I like it to challenge, to push the envelope a little bit – not just repeat what’s gone before.” This has been the case ever since those early performances, which earned Bettinson the attention of Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, who recruited her to front electronic alt-pop group Ultraísta. Following rave reviews from Pitchfork, The Guardian and Rolling Stone, Bettinson then took a sabbatical to launch her solo career as FEMME. Debut single “Fever Boy” immediately found a home on both the BBC 6 Music playlist and the stereo of Charli XCX, who invited Bettinson to tour the USA with her. It also appeared on several adverts, catwalks and TV show soundtracks. Debut album Debutante followed, a tour-de-force designed to make you bounce around your bedroom, before she changed tack again to pursue the more dancefloor-orientated direction of recent singles “Angel” and “Fire With Fire”. Always seeking fresh inspiration, FEMME just keeps pushing things forward.
“I'm incredibly honoured and excited to be part of 2018's Musicians in Residence, China. I'll take this opportunity to delve into Chengdu's electronic music scene, educate myself, soak up some fresh inspiration and seek out new audiences and local collaborators to create work with in the hope of forming rich and long term relationships. I look forward to sharing the ethos behind my #GirlsBeatsBass movement in the UK (a club night dedicated to promoting female and non-binary DJs and producers) and meeting and learning from fellow women in the Chinese music industry.”
London composer and producer, Jasmin Kent Rodgman, will be based in Lanzhou for her residency. Jasmin was born to an English father and Malaysian-Chinese mother. Her work focuses on cross-arts collaboration and interaction, celebrating identity and social engagement. Drawing inspiration from, and engaging with diverse communities, her sound is expansive, explorative and plays with a sense of narrative. She is one of the London Symphony Orchestra’s Jerwood Composers 2017-18, writing new music as well as curating for their 2018 programme. Other recent projects include jazz groove Kiko for band YUSUFLA, premiered at the Royal Albert Hall's Late Night Jazz series; The Story of Looking, a VR film centred on filmmaker Mark Cousins’ latest book; transmedia LGBT project The Book of Gabrielle, directed by Lisa Gornick; and her work has been performed across London and the UK including The Barbican, Royal Albert Hall, Arcola Theatre, Debut Contemporary Gallery, Grimeborn Opera Festival and Secret Garden Party Festival. Alongside composing, she is also a producer at production house and arts consultancy, Fury Films.
“The Musician in China Residency is an incredible opportunity, I’m honoured to have been selected and partnered with the city of Lanzhou. I can’t wait to soak up the culture and musical traditions of the city and country. Thinking about how many people pass down stories and histories, I’ll be working on a song cycle that captures the sound-world, personality and dialects of Lanzhou. My mixed heritage is something that constantly inspires me. Having spent so much time in Malaysia and Singapore, I can’t describe how excited I am to visit the country of my ancestry, and to use my experience there as creative material for new work. I’m sure my time there is going to be life-changing, both creatively and personally. It’s going to be such an amazing adventure—watch this space!”
Love Ssega will be travelling to Guilin for his China residency. Love Ssega is an artist, songwriter and producer born in London – an enigmatic polymath who has managed to quietly carve his own career through the music industry, with songs, visuals and shirts to surprise and excite. He is most widely known having been the frontman, songwriter and founding member of Clean Bandit whilst still at Cambridge University, with UK Top 20 hit “Mozart’s House” and “Telephone Banking” featuring on the Grammy winner’s Gold-selling debut album. Having left Clean Bandit to complete a PhD in Laser Spectroscopy, Ssega returned to music with excitement focussing on a new solo project and the debut Minds EP (2015). Love Ssega became a PRS Foundation Momentum Artist to support his second EP Emancipation! (2017) which received attention both domestically and internationally, leading BBC Music Introducing and BBC World Service to select him as one of the “Fifty First” acts announced for The Great Escape 2018. His overall music and artistic vision continues to excite, with print features from Mixmag to Notion Magazine and invitations from GQ to London Fashion Week. Love Ssega has performed on stage as far as Japan and South Korea, had different pieces of music performed by the 70-piece BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Concert Orchestra and on the Other Stage at Glastonbury in front of 45,000 people. Ssega also played a lead role and was a Herald festival highlight in a production of Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Nights Dream by the Award-winning Shadwell Opera at Edinburgh Festival.
“This is an absolute honour to be selected by PRS Foundation and the British Council to be a Musician in Residence in China. What a beautiful story to be chosen as a British citizen of Ugandan heritage, London born-and-raised, to travel to the cultural colossus of East Asia specifically to make music. I’m very excited to be spending time in musically-diverse and historically-significant Guangxi. It will be a privilege to work and record with the region’s diverse musicians, and also experience a heritage that includes folk and opera all the way to their burgeoning world fusion scene. I will be putting out new music from my experience and collaborating across all forms of art, as much as I can.”
Chinese local partners
FEMME will work with Chengdu Morning House. Established in 2009, Morning House is a Chengdu-based independent music producer and promoter, focusing on electronic music genre while covering a wide range of music genres. Morning House produce small-scale music festivals in their own venue through the year with studios for musicians in residence provided. They also host medium-scale music festivals in various venues, including “Spring Outing Festival”.
Jasmin will work at the Muyan Bookstore and Li Jianbin Studio. Opened in May 2018, Muyan Bookstore covers an area of 4000 square metres with a bookstore, café, performance area, and arts and design merchandise. Established in 2010, Li Jianbin Studio was originally used for local folk musician Li Jianbin to work and rehearse and later developed into a space for organising lectures. Later partnered with Northwest Minzu University, Li Jianbin Studio continues to work on collecting poems and folk music from Northwest China. Li Jianbin Studio offers support to connect musicians to the local music industry and provide space for creation and rehearsal.
Love Ssega will work with POLLUX, a world music company co-founded by Modern Sky and Starsing. Focused on the fusion of Chinese ethnic music, traditional music and world music, the company covers a range of fields including booking agency, music production, cultural tourism and music copyright trading.