OZAsia 2023 (Adelaide,Australia)

04 November 2023

Nothing, But Just a Moment (OzAsia Festival)

Singaporean musical ensemble SAtheCollective has established a unique approach to collaboration and performance emphasising musical works that draw on many cultural traditions.

SAtheCollective at OzAsia Festival. Photo @ Chris Reid

Formed in 2011, SAtheCollective comprises core members Andy Chia on dizi (Chinese flute), vocals and electronics, and Natalie Alexandra Tse on guzheng (Chinese zither) and electronics.

Both were trained from an early age on their Chinese instruments — Andy Chia was the first professionally trained Chinese flutist in Singapore. Educator and researcher Natalie Tse’s doctorate concerned the experience of sound by infants up to 18 months old.

Both Andy and Natalie are concerned with the role of music in society and the capacity of the arts to encourage respect in ethnically diverse communities. They state on their webpage that, “SAtheCollective is dedicated to celebrating and honoring the diverse cultural heritage of our global community.”

They collaborate with various performers and ensembles on a wide variety of projects that involve the exploration of cultural traditions in contemporary society and can take the form of dance and theatrical productions as well as musical performances.

SAtheCollective first performed at OzAsia in 2017 and returned to Adelaide to collaborate with Adelaide’s renowned exponents of innovation and experimentation, the Zephyr String Quartet, for the 2018 OzAsia Festival. It also performed in Mapping Melbourne in 2018 and worked with the Kurinji ensemble to produce Stay for the 2020 Sydney Festival, and they have been involved in several other projects in Australia.

SAtheCollective’s musical performances typically blend voice with the use of traditional Chinese instruments, which may be modified, together with a variety of other instruments. In some performances, they have used a didgeridoo and overtone singing.

Generally improvised and experimental, their music embodies elements as diverse as jazz, Chinese classical music and ambient drone, and it can be polyrhythmic and mix together tonal, chromatic and pentatonic scales. They use extended playing techniques and various forms of electronic mediation including looping, to create a complex and very colourful sound palette.

SAtheCollective’s work is important to the development of contemporary music and their collaboration with other performers and ensembles can be highly original and creative.

Their cross-cultural musical synthesis epitomises the way in which musical composition and practice continually evolve through international exposure, reflecting the multicultural character of both Singapore and Australia.

Andy Chia. Photo © Chris Reid

For this performance, entitled Nothing, But Just a Moment, the ensemble comprised Andy Chia and Natalie Tse together with Singaporean composer, sound technologist and audio-visual artist Lynette Quek, who performed on electronics, including analogue synthesisers, and manipulated various objects such as small bells.

The performance opened with Andy Chia singing gutturally in a manner reminiscent of Buddhist monks, and then playing the dizi and other wind instruments, including a modified wooden saxophone that sounds like an Armenian duduk. He also used a tape loop to create a dense layering of flute sounds.

Natalie Tse’s playing included moments of traditional music for the guzheng as well as the use of alternative playing techniques such as brushing the strings with a twig, and the sound of the guzheng was amplified and mediated electronically.

Lynette Quek produced a range of synthesised sounds including rhythmic bass lines, and the overall sound was orchestrated into a quite hypnotic performance lasting half an hour.

This SAtheCollective performance, at the OzAsia Festival’s Lucky Dumpling Market at Adelaide’s Elder Park, was just a small sample of their wide-ranging work.

The Lucky Dumpling Market features food stalls and various forms of free entertainment including its Lucky Beats program, which features DJs as well as musical ensembles and soloists. In an outdoor venue, where the public throng in thousands, these performers might not receive the close attention they deserve, and the nuances in SAtheCollective’s mesmerising performance may have been lost on many of those in attendance.

A dedicated concert venue can better enable audiences to immerse themselves in SAtheCollective’s unique music.

Read the full article here.

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