The Musicians in Residence programme, organised by the British Council in partnership with PRS Foundation, offers British artists the chance to experience China's culture and musical landscape.
Each musician spends around six weeks in China working with local musicians, performing, writing, and looking for local inspiration.
In partnership with PRS Foundation, the Musicians in Residence China programme began in 2012, and has involved a diverse and engaging set of artists.
The first group was made up of Imogen Heap, Matthew Bourne, Jamie Woon, and Gareth Bonello.
The second included Anna Meredith, Arun Ghosh, Oliver Coates, Sam Genders, and Sid Peacock.
2015 saw an all-female lineup – Bella Hardy, Kerry Andrew and Mira Calix and in 2017 the residents were Quinta, David Lyttle, and Emmy The Great.
For the 2018-2019 programme, the Musicians in Residence were Jasmin Kent Rodgman, FEMME, and Love Ssega.
(Above: FEMME's debut single, Fever Boy. Source: YouTube)
Across the years, all participants have stories to tell and many have made enduring connections in China.
Mira Calix told the British Council:
“My residency was one of the most exhilarating and exhausting experiences of my life … exhausting in all the best ways.
“I am so proud to have been involved in a project that in some small way touched the lives of 161 million people! … I think it’s fair to say it exceeded the scope of my original ambitions, by creating deep friendships and lifelong ties across any imagined cultural, linguistic or socio-political divides.”
The residencies have resulted in a diverse range of outputs. For instance, Imogen Heap included the track ‘XiZi She Knows’, composed during her time in Hangzhou, on her 2014 album ‘Sparks’.
In 2013 Gareth Bonello released the album ‘Y Bardd Anfarwol’, combining Welsh and Chinese folk music to tell the life story of the Tang Dynasty poet Li Bai, which won Welsh Album of the Year at the 2014 National Eisteddfod, and was nominated for the 2014 Welsh Music Prize.
The track ‘Little Wonder’, on Jamie Woon’s Mercury Prize nominated album ‘Making Time’ (2016), was inspired by his time in China on the residency.
The three musicians selected for 2018-19 spent time separately in three Chinese cities: FEMME was paired with the city of Chengdu; Jasmin Kent Rodgman with Lanzhou; and Love Ssega with Nanning.
During their residencies, the UK musicians collaborated with local artists, wrote new material and explored new creative and professional opportunities.
Love Ssega writes and produces songs, and creates memorable visuals and shirts. He is best known for having been a front man, songwriter and original member of Clean Bandit while still at Cambridge University. During his time with the band, it scored a hit with 'Mozart's House' (the band has subsequently gone on to many other high profile successes).
Having left Clean Bandit to complete a PhD in laser spectroscopy, Ssega returned to music as a solo artist. He received PRS Foundation Momentum Music Fund support for his second EP ‘Emancipation!’ (2017), leading to worldwide attention, including from BBC Music Introducing and the BBC World Service.
Ssega has performed on Glastonbury’s Other Stage in front of 45,000 people, and in Japan and South Korea. His music has also been performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Concert Orchestra.
London composer and producer Jasmin Kent Rodgman was born to an English father and Malaysian-Chinese mother.
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 for, as well as curating, its 2018 programme.
Other recent projects include the jazz influenced ‘Kiko’ for band YUSUFLA, premiered at the Royal Albert Hall’s Late Night Jazz series; ‘The Story of Looking’, a VR film centered on filmmaker Mark Cousins’ book; and transmedia LGBT project ‘The Book of Gabrielle’.
Independence and career control are important to producer, artist and DJ, FEMME (aka Laura Bettinson). Bettinson was recruited by Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich to front critically-acclaimed electronic alt-pop group, Ultraísta, but then took a sabbatical to launch her solo career as FEMME.
Her debut single, ‘Fever Boy’, led to an invitation to join the US tour of Charli XCX and was also featured in adverts, on catwalks, and on TV soundtracks. FEMME successfully applied for and received PRS Foundation Momentum Music funding.
Vanessa Reed, Chief Executive of PRS Foundation, said:
“I am delighted that through this partnership with the British Council we are able to support the very talented and acclaimed music creators FEMME, Love Ssega and Jasmin Kent Rodgman, with this unique international opportunity.
“Since 2011, 15 music creators have been supported through this programme to create new music and build new international networks in China, which has contributed both to their creative development and their potential to reach new audiences. I look forward to following their creative adventures in China and the impact it has on what they do next.”
Cathy Graham, Director of Music at the British Council, said:
‘I am so pleased that our partnership with PRS Foundation continues to thrive, and so proud of the work that has emerged from the artist residencies since we started nurturing these musical links between the UK and China seven years ago.”
Find out more about the programme, the cities, the musicians and the work they created by following the links on this page. Keep up to date with all the latest news by following #MIRChina on Twitter and keeping up with @BritishMusic_ and @PRSFoundation on Twitter and Instagram.