In an eclectic mix of global styles Didjeridu virtuoso Stephen Kent hopscotches around the world in spirited musical encounters with Tuvan throat singing, Scottish bagpipes, Moroccan voices, Indian flutes in natural settings.
Pioneering didjeridu virtuoso Stephen Kent has done more than any other musician to bring the ancient Aboriginal sound into a contemporary context.
“I want to capture the essence and potential of the didjeridu and to put it on the musical map as a serious instrument with incredible versatility,” says the composer and multi-instrumentalist. During a twenty-year career with the didjeridu, Kent has developed an approach that is unmistakably his own, exploring a remarkable range of playing styles in diverse musical genres. Along the way he has amassed a catalogue of over a dozen critically acclaimed CD’s, including four solo releases and many others with his group projects Trance Mission, Beasts of Paradise and Lights In A Fat City.
Demand for Kent’s didj work has taken him all over the world, playing, recording and collaborating with top artists in divergent musical arenas, from Leonard Eto of Kodo in Japan, to Megadrums with Airto Moreira and Zakir Hussain, to Habib Koite of Mali, and back home to the Oakland Symphony Orchestra’s new work by Afro-Cuban pianist Omar Sosa.
His latest solo CD, Oil and Water (Family Tree)produced by long term collaborator Simon Tassano (www.rumiville.com) was recently hailed as a “potent mix of blood, guts and grace” in which the didjeridu becomes a “living, breathing, rhythmist, capable of transforming deep groove music into something magical.” Rave reviews of Kent’s playing exclaim that he “manages to sound both primal and cutting edge” by “merging spirituality and the modern world.” In his hands, one of the world’s oldest instruments is a powerful tool for bringing forth artistry “from the soul of the spirits to the soul of man.”
Raised in East Africa and the UK, Kent cut his teeth in the London music scene of the late 70’s with the punkish (and still beloved) band Furious Pig. In 1981 he found himself musical director of Australia’s Circus Oz, which led him to a relationship with Aboriginal culture and to the didjeridu. “Awakening to the Aboriginal world was like my own Big Bang. For me, the recreation of a musical universe on the didj, the culture of one note, continues to this day,” Kent says.
After seven years touring the world in the Circus Arts – four of them spent jumping in and out of locked suitcases with Ra Ra Zoo – Kent, based back in Europe, focused once more on music by composing scores for contemporary dance groups in Barcelona. He began to build a career around the sound of the didj, co-forming Lights In A Fat City in London and touring throughout Europe and North America. The group’s landmark debut CD Somewhere (1987) was the first European release of contemporary didjeridu music.
In 1991 Kent relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he co-formed the groups Trance Mission and Beasts of Paradise, performing and recording to great public and critical acclaim in the U.S. and abroad. With the ground-breaking and well-received Landing (City of Tribes), Kent embarked upon his solo career. The follow-up Family Tree (COT) is a stellar collection of works from the aforementioned groups along with dazzling new pieces that together trace the unique sonic journey Kent began two decades earlier.
Kent is also deeply involved with promoting music from all manner of global cultures, by producing a number of regional U.S. tours by Aboriginal musicians, Tuvan throat singers and other artists, and on his weekly radio show on KPFA in Berkeley (www.KPFA.org), which he has hosted for many years. He presents music education programs on the culture of the didjeridu and on world music to audiences of elementary through college-age students.
A wholly original talent, truly transcending categories, Stephen Kent is an innovator on the global music scene with the ability to both trigger the imagination and transport the spirit.