Dangerous Song combines the human voice with the sounds of endangered animals accompanied by modern and ancient instruments, to create an intriguing and moving musical piece like nothing seen or heard before. Nance Haxton speaks to the creative team:

Interwoven throughout Dangerous Song are refrains of distinctive Mongolian throat singing and the haunting sounds of the Mongolian horse head fiddle, played by Bukhchuluun Ganburged

Singer Lizzie O’Keefe’s incredible range and sensitivity is also on show with this difficult subject matter. As she explains, the unusual musical collaboration brings home the fragility of animals that are often taken for granted,

“It’s just a lot of harmony between the three of us with him (Bukhu) and his amazing singing, his horse head fiddle playing, and the animals and my voice – I love it”.

Dangerous Song WOMAD 2019

Linsey Pollak & Lizzie O’Keefe

Lizzie and Linsey Pollak devised the show and had performed it a couple of times, before meeting Bhuku, a master Mongolian musician, who added another dimension to their creation. Bukhu – as he calls himself in Australia – says being part of Dangerous Song is an incredible experience,

“Horse fiddle is the only instrument in the world that plays horse tail with horsetail.

“With throat singing I actually make two notes at the same time from my mouth. I actually started throat singing when I was 15 years and started learning my instrument when I was 9 years. A very long time.”

Dangerous Song WOMAD 2019

Linsey Pollak

Linsey plays the endangered animal calls in the performance using an electronic wind controller where breath, lip pressure and fingering combine with live sound looping technology. He says this takes the listener into a world of sound, where the human and the animal combine into a story without words,

“I have been working with sounds of endangered animals and playing them on my digital wind instrument for quite a few years.

“It’s an instrument called a midi wind controller, so it’s basically like a synthesiser but it’s using breath as the main controller. It will only play the sound when you blow. Also, the lip pressure can affect different parameters like pitch bending and so on. But otherwise with the fingering it’s just like you’re playing a synth, so you can control any sample of synthetic sound but you have that added expressive character where you can use your breath in the same way as I would use it when I’m playing the clarinet or sax.

“During that journey, I was always looking for something to make it a little bit more organic. So I started working with singers and that was great I found the blending of the human voice gave a much more heart felt connection in a really strong way.

“From the first time we played it it was very easy – we have a great musical rapport that has grown and grown. Bringing that also as well as Bhuku’s voice together with Lizzie’s voice just gives us that really rich pallette of sound.”

At the end of one of the pieces in Dangerous Song, Lizzie is moved to tears – using the sounds of endangered animals themselves speaks directly to the human heart in a way words cannot,

“That piece is called Creatures of the Deep – Linsey and I wrote that piece about three and a half years ago and we asked Bhuku to join us.

“Linsey’s sister is an amazing artist and she developed this beautiful video for this song. It’s this turtle swimming through the ocean and then you get these plastic bags coming through. And so the song with the actual imagery is very moving and that’s why I start to cry at the end.

“It’s a very emotive piece and very sad and it’s a really sad reality that our ocean is full of plastic and it’s killing everything that lives in it.

Dangerous Song is definitely an awareness piece where we’re trying to speak to people’s hearts because everyone knows what’s going on, and they kind of turn off after a while. But we feel that with our music, if we can connect with people on a heart level, make them feel something and fall in love with the things that we’re losing, when you love something you’re more likely to protect it.”

Dangerous Song plays as part of WOMAD Festival until 11 March 2019. For more information, visit the festival website.