Parasang is a collaborative project devised by Pouya Ehsaei (Ariwo) and Harry Follett (Manana Records) We caught up with Pouya to discuss the concept and creative process behind Parasang.
Can you explain the concept behind Parasang?
Harry and I wanted to create a space in which different genres of music could co-exist together. London is the most culturally diverse city that I’ve seen, so was the best place to launch Parasang. There are strong and vibrant communities all around London that have brought their culture, music, cuisine and ideology to London over the course of 19th and 20th century. The level of their integration with society is debatable but so is the level of commitment by authorities and individuals here. After all, It is much easier to mingle with people you know and understand.
We wanted to challenge ourselves by pushing ourselves to dig deeper to find new musicians from across London, rather than working with people already on our radar who we felt comfortable with. After fifteen Parasang shows at Redon we could not be happier with the range and quality of great musicians we’ve worked with from across the cities varied cultural and musical backgrounds – we know we’ve barely scratched the surface of the potential that London has to offer. We’ve worked with Brazilian, Jamaican, Moroccan, Cuban, Ghanaian, Ethiopian, Kurdish musicians from Turkey and Iraq alongside great musicians from the UK. We were surprised every night by how these musicians react to the possibilities of improvising within an electronic music structure – led by myself on modular synthesiser and other outboard gear.
Another reason for creating Parasang was to create a space for music enthusiasts to indulge themselves in sounds and ideas far away from the usual hype. The Thursday shows were intended to help people disconnect from their week and reconnect with themselves and the city by being surprised and challenged by the musicians involved.
Can you talk me through your modular synth setup?
For the Parasang shows I use 5 oscillators, 4 filters, 10 envelopes, two sequencers, quantizer, 10 vca, 12 lfos, 4 random generators and some attenuators and precision adders.
Everything goes to a Midas analogue mixer and goes out to a range of effect pedals. I use the Octatrack for triggering the emodular and playing simple hats, snare and vocals chops.
I caught your gig with Ariwo at Oval Space, which was amazing! Do you have any more upcoming shows or releases?
Thanks, that was a great gig. I love Oval Space. Yes, Ariwo’s second studio album “Quasi” is coming out 17th of May. We wanted to experiment with other instruments and musicians and make an all around album that investigates the possibilities of electronic dance music merging with afro-cuban rhythms and Jazz melodies. The album features guest appearances from MOBO winning saxophonist Binker Golding (Binker & Moses) and acclaimed UK keys player Joe-Armon Jones (keys). Cuban trumpet players Thommy Lowry Garcia and Yelfris Valdes also feature on the album, bringing carnival melodies that interweave through the percussion and electronics. We’re going on a UK tour in May starting with London at Giant Steps. Can’t wait.
Looking back over the first 15 shows, are there any particular nights that have stood out for you?
I’m just going to keep it simple and say the 1st one with Temesgen Zeleke (Ethiopia), Kevin Davy and James Mollison (Ezra collective). The music and atmosphere was incredible and this is when we realized it was something special we were doing and something that was missing in London.
What’s next for Parasang?
There is a lot of musicians from around the world that we had in mind but could not include in the first 15 shows. A lot of great musicians contacted us and wanted to play as well. There is a lot more to explore!
Also, Parasang will be on the road soon. We’re trying to take over festivals and see how musicians already booked to play at festivals can join in as part of a Parasang session. First one will be at Brainchild festival, which we are very excited about.
We love having you here at Redon! Long may it continue…
Parasang was not possible without the generosity and openness of Paddy and everyone else from Redon. I cannot imagine a more comfortable and open space for Parasang. All of you have been great.