PREVIEW: Yazz Ahmed Polyhymnia ( Southbank Centre 8th March) / #IWD2015

Tina Edwards (left) and Yazz Ahmed

Trumpeter YAZZ AHMED was interviewed this week by radio presenter Tina Edwards for the weekly Hoxton Radio show “Jazz Standard” which Tina presents. In the interview Yazz Ahmed looks forward to the premiere of a new work “Polyhmnia”, to be performed by the Nu-Civilisation Orchestra on March 8th on the South Bank, and to her second album. Tina writes:


British Bahraini trumpeter/ composer Yazz Ahmed’s music has been described as being “so fresh and inventive that it’s its own style” (John Fordham/ Guardian). What would be her words for it?  An amalgamation of “Arabic scales and rhythms” with “jazz element,” she says. “When I moved to England [from Bahrain], I felt like there was something missing in my life. I adapted to British culture and rediscovered my roots… and since then I’ve been delving deeper into that music”. Ahmed cites her Grandfather as being an important figure to her musically. “[He] was a jazz trumpeter in the fifties and a record producer. He played with the Dankworth Seven, Tubby Hayes and Ronnie Scott. And he’s driven me to get to where I am today”, shares Ahmed, before declaring, “he’s my hero”. 


Yazz Ahmed has been commissioned by Tomorrow’s Warriors to write a six-movement suite called Polyhymnia, inspired by “courageous women”. She’ll be leading the performance at the Women of the World Festival with an all-female ensemble. Whether you hold an extended interest in feminism or not, Ahmed’s suite won’t fail to entice you. She’s composed music based on figures such as the suffragettes and Saudi film director Haifaa Al Mansour. With pieces also built around British sax player Barbara Thompson and six-year-old activist Ruby Bridges, it’s evident that there’s a wealth of backgrounds to Ahmed’s role models. Nobel Peace Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai‘s 2013 UN speech forms the shape of one of the movements.

“I’ve picked six quotes from the speech that I found very rhythmical and musical, so I’ve transcribed those and made little melodies”, explains Ahmed. Protestor Rosa Parks is the sixth woman. Ahmed took the number of the bus that Rosa Parks protested on, 2857, to construct “a metric sequence and a melodic sequence”. Ahmed describes it as “something very interesting of two halves. The beginning is quite beautiful… the second half is quite rhythmic and angry”. 


Having had considerable success with her album Finding My Way Home (2011), a second album from Yazz Ahmed is on the way. This time, it won’t only be inspired by her Arabian heritage. Thanks to working with rock bands like Radiohead, Manic Street Preachers and Joan as Police Woman, Ahmed is keen to explore electronics in her second offering.

LINKS:   Tina Edwards’ entire interview with Yazz Ahmed 
South Bank Tickets for Polyhymnia
CD Review – Finding My Way Home

– Jazz Standard is live on Hoxton Radio every Monday 10AM-Midday. 

 This profile is also the first piece in our 2015 International Women’s Day coverage, the third edition, Commissioning Editor Catherine Ford

Categories: miscellaneous

Leave a Reply