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Silent film depicting herring fishermen gets live beatbox score in Great Yarmouth

PUBLISHED: 11:39 28 September 2017

Beatboxer and sound artist Jason Singh will perform live his score to John Grierson’s 1929 silent herring fishing film Drifters. Photo: Submitted

Beatboxer and sound artist Jason Singh will perform live his score to John Grierson’s 1929 silent herring fishing film Drifters. Photo: Submitted

Eoin Carey

Beatboxer and vocal artist Jason Singh will perform his astonishing vocal score to John Grierson’s 1929 silent herring fishing documentary Drifters as part of special tour of fishing towns.

John Grierson’s 1929 silent herring fishing film Drifters. Photo: BFI National Archive John Grierson’s 1929 silent herring fishing film Drifters. Photo: BFI National Archive

It’s an unlikely combination but one that brings part of Norfolk’s past to life and up to date.

A silent film made 87 years ago about Scottish herring fishermen following the shoals down the east coast is beign shown in Norfolk accompanied by performances by a beatboxer.

Internationally renowned beatboxer and vocal sound artist Jason Singh will perform live his astonishing vocal score to John Grierson’s 1929 silent herring fishing film Drifters shot in the rough and unforgiving waters off the East Anglian coast.

Beatboxer and sound artist Jason Singh will perform live his score to John Grierson�s 1929 silent herring fishing film Drifters. Photo: Eoin Carey Beatboxer and sound artist Jason Singh will perform live his score to John Grierson�s 1929 silent herring fishing film Drifters. Photo: Eoin Carey

Two dates in this region, one in Great Yarmouth another in Aldeburgh, are part of Jason’s tour to fishing ports from Scotland to Norfolk and Suffolk re-tracing the historic journey of boats, men and women pursuing the abundant herring shoals.

His considerable vocal skills soundtrack Grierson’s gorgeous, choppily edited and Soviet-inspired promotional film for the fishing industry.

Originally commissioned by the BFI for the film’s DVD/Blu-ray release, each performance of Jason’s score is totally unique combining live vocal sound effects, voice manipulation, beatboxing and pioneering live sampling techniques to create an exhilarating cinematic experience.

He was keen to take Drifters to the fishing towns that will best recognise the labour and the courage shown in Grierson’s evocative film.

“Drifters was made in 1929 and it tells the journey of herring fishermen,” he said. “What I’m doing is providing a vocal beatbox live score. It is an exciting film and for me it is an amazing opportunity to bring together lots of things that I do with the voice, bring it together with technology and live sample to mimic what is being shown in this amazing film.

“When I was approached by the BFI I knew nothing about John Grierson, but when I saw the film I just feel in love with it. For me it feels almost like a sci-fi film. This vessel in the middle of this vast sea and people on board doing their work and daily lives.

John Grierson’s 1929 silent herring fishing film Drifters. Photo: BFI National Archive John Grierson’s 1929 silent herring fishing film Drifters. Photo: BFI National Archive

“The sounds I do to accompany it are all about repetitive cycles of things which are put together to create huge patterns and textures. The performance changes every time I do it. It’s is never the same twice because of the space, the audience all plays a part.”

In the 1920s and 1930s, Soviet propaganda films profoundly influenced the emerging luminaries of British documentary filmmaking. Grierson was a formidable director who was passionate about highlighting the the toughness of working people’s lives.

Sergei Eisenstein’s groundbreakin Battleship Potemkin was not seen in the UK until the momentous London Film Society screening in 1929, where it was double-billed with Drifters.

The Aldeburgh screening this weekend also has a rare big screen presentation of archive films charting the coastal erosion with a new live commissioned soundtrack by innovative East Anglian folk ensemble Dead Rat Orchestra.

• Following the Fleet: Drifters is at Aldeburgh Cinema on Septemnber 28 and at The Drill House, York Road, Great Yarmouth on September 30, £9-£3, 01493 745458, seachangearts.org.uk

• More details HERE

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