POPULAR HELVETICA_LIVE Bishop /Jupp-House / Schläpfer

Art, Concert, Roma




Art, Concert


In recent years a series of eccentric musical realities of different geographical origin have broken up the traditional dichotomy between ethnomusicology of the academic variety and research “from below” on traditions. These include record labels whose catalogues are a compendium of do-it- yourself anthropology, field documentation, irreverent attitude and, at the same time, meticulous investigation on so-called “folk” music. Popular Helvetica, the program the Istituto Svizzero di Roma devotes to the relationship between popular culture and music, welcomes some of the personalities who best narrate how the concept of folk can be interpreted in the 2000s.

Sublime Frequencies has become famous as the “ethnomusicologist’s nightmare”  thanks  to  a series of anthologies on “folk & pop sounds” of geographical areas like the Middle East, Africa and Latin America; thanks to the work of this label, artists like the Tuareg Group Doueh and the Syrian Omar Souleyman have conquered a very large audience, debunking the most classic preconceptions about world music. Founded by the US-born (but resident in Egypt) Alan Bishop, previously a member of the historic Sun City Girls, Sublime Frequencies is perhaps the most singular and significant record label of the last decade.


Ghost Box of England’s Jim Jupp and Julian House is instead the label-symbol of what critic Simon Reynolds has dubbed hauntology: its postcards from the provinces, mixing country tales, pagan legends and black and white documentaries, do not reinterpret tradition as much as they  invent from scratch a past that never really was, and yet seems plausible. Both Jupp and House are also active as musicians, respectively under the monikers Belbury Poly and The Focus Group.


Cyrill Schläpfer is a former Swiss punk engaged for years in an intriguing effort of documentation on the roots of Swiss rural music. His investigations have prompted him to found the CSR record label, which with the series Ur-Musig has produced anthologies and documentaries, making true rediscoveries of forgotten names and demolishing the stereotypes of “Swiss postcard folk” at one fell swoop.


On 25 September Alan Bishop, Jim Jupp, Julian House and Cyrill Schläpfer will provide a soundtrack for the interiors of the Swiss Institute in Rome, starting in the late afternoon and continuing into the night, with a series of DJ sets that offer a compendium of their respective labels, and a hypothesis of possible redefinition of the folk concept. Prior to the DJ sets, there will be live performances by the acoustic ensemble guided by Cyrill Schläpfer, and by the Swiss percussionist Enrico Lenzin, who uses the typical instruments of the Swiss tradition, reinterpreted for purposes of improvisation.