A Festival Of Underground, Experimental & International Music
April 2021
More Information Coming Soon

John Butcher



Calligraphy Square, Sharjah - as part of Revisiting Tarab

Calligraphy Square, Sharjah – as part of Revisiting Tarab – www.johnbutcher.org.uk

John Butcher is one of the most prolific and versatile performers and creators in the scene today. His commitment to the development of the saxophone has genuinely extended the instruments voicings and range. This new project sees him exploring further the methods of improvisation in relation to ancient compositional and devotional qualities found in Sufi music and Tarab.

In 2011, John Butcher was commissioned by the New York live-art curators “Performa” to compose a 15 minute piece inspired by this concept. This was for part of the 5-hour performance, “Visiting Tarab”, conceived and programmed by the Lebanese musician Tarek Atoui as a modern day response to the classical Arabic music in the enormous private collection (7000 78s from 1903-1950) of Kamal Kassar in Beirut.


The notion of tarab is rooted in a pre-1930s repertoire of Arabic classical music, largely thought to be thereafter diluted and diminished (although it has been argued that it’s essence remains alive in Egyptian Sufi chant). “Tarab Cuts” takes it’s inspiration from these qualities, but is not an attempt to copy this music. It is an interaction across decades and cultures that throws an intriguing light on the contemporary musical practice of Butcher and Sanders. A meeting of distant voices with their own, in pursuit of both common and unfamiliar ground.

Counterflows is excited to be working with Out Of The Machine who have now commissioned Butcher to expand the work into a full concert presentation, where Butcher has invited drummer Mark Sanders to join him.