Making Tracks @ The Queen's Hall, Edinburgh, 10 Nov

The ardent sincerity of tonight's performers and their desire to bring their concoctions to life belies a genuine passion that is heartwarming to see

Live Review by Lewis Wade | 12 Nov 2019

Ever wondered what a Kenyan nyatiti and an Indian santoor might sound like together? Considered how well Estonian bagpipes would gel with Celtic fiddle? Or just been craving a little guzheng/kamancha improvisation? Luckily, the good folks at Making Tracks have got you covered.

The project is as unique as it is fascinating. Take eight musicians from distinct musical traditions around the world, put them up in rural Wales for ten days and see what music they come up with – then tour the results around the UK. The two-hour performance tonight sees the musicians come together in a variety of collaborative ensembles (usually just one or two players at a time, until the grand finale), giving charming explanations en route and showcasing a unified musical vision that literally transcends borders.

On paper this may sound like aesthetic posturing more suited to the academic world of musical anthropology, but the ardent sincerity of the performers and their desire to bring these concoctions to life belies a genuine passion that is heartwarming to see. Given the range of sounds on display, it's unlikely that everything will resonate – the aforementioned guzheng is a little too ethereal for the eerie, haunting kamancha, for example – but there's definitely something for everyone.

One of the standout compositions is Kisumu, an ode to the western Kenyan city, played by Rapasa Otieno and Kaviraj Singh. The glistening drone of Singh's santoor is a gorgeous complement to the nyatiti (a type of bowled lute), achieving a delicate harmony for Otieno's vocals to spring forth from.

The final song combines several of the performers, and features the surprise appearance of Arsen Petrosyan's virtuosic duduk playing (a double-reeded Armenian woodwind instrument) from the erstwhile empty upstairs section of The Queen's Hall. Touches like this, like Luna Silva and Otieno's crowd-baiting vocal sparring, help bring personality to these experimental exercises.

A final a capella song, with all eight performers and artistic director Merlyn Driver, closes the evening with a lovely, communal feel. It's a slightly cheesy testament to the 'music without borders' concept of the whole project, but delivered with an earnestness that can't help but make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.