Belfast punk jazz collective, Robocobra Quartet begin a tour of Russia tomorrow (Thursday, 6 February) as part of the UK-Russia Year of Music.
In what will be the band’s first ever trip to Russia they will play three back-to-back dates in Moscow, Saint-Petersburg and Murmansk, a city in the extreme northwest.
They are there with the support of the British Council - with the UK-Russia Year of Music programme celebrating the UK and Russia’s rich musical culture – and follow in the footsteps of Armagh Jazz artist, David Lyttle, who was previously part of the year-long cultural celebration.
The quartet, which is made up of two saxophonists, a bass guitarist and a drummer-vocalist, are well known for their genre-crossing live performances – and are excited to see how audiences in Russia react to their set.
Chris Ryan, their vocalist, drummer and producer said: “It will be interesting to see how the gigs go. Normally when you travel to places with a similar political context, you find that the people you meet who are into arts and culture are very progressive, even more so than those in Northern Ireland, so I’m hoping for a good reception in all three cities.”
As part of the tour, the band will perform at Inversia, an arts festival in Murmansk, located in Russia’s Arctic Circle.
Chris said: “Murmansk is such an interesting place and we’re really excited to get to travel there and see it for ourselves. The whole concept of the festival is about dispelling the negative connotations of northern regions and bring light to where there is normally just darkness. We feel really privileged to be playing here, as it’s somewhere you don’t think you’ll get the opportunity to travel to in your lifetime.”
Prior to this Russian tour, Chris was on a month-long residency in São Paulo, in Brazil. Also supported by the British Council, together with PRS Foundation, the four-week residency saw the multi-talented singer and musician spend time developing his own work.
He said: “When I’m at home I do a lot of different things, I play in a band, I produce and do a bit of composition and everything kind of bleeds into one another – so this residency was an opportunity just to focus on me. The city was amazing and it felt really special to have both the time and the space to just develop my own work.
“When we return home from Russia, I will have more time to reflect on my time away and this will slowly filter into our work. European touring has been the main thrust for the last few years, but this year we are writing a new album and plan to do a lot more Irish touring to help build up and showcase new material.”
The UK-Russia year of music runs until March 31 2020.
Speaking about the opportunity, Jonathan Stewart, Director, British Council Northern Ireland said: “Congratulations to Robocobra Quartet for being chosen to represent Northern Ireland in the UK-Russia Year of Music. It is really valuable to have local musicians engage in these large international campaigns. We are really hopeful that this international opportunity will lead to increased interest in their music and encourage wider connections and awareness of Northern Ireland globally and our rich and diverse music scene.”
Robocobra Quartet play the Powerhouse in Moscow tomorrow night (December 6), followed by Machty in Saint-Petersburg on Friday and the Inversia Festivak on Saturday, 8 February. To find out more about their work visit: https://www.robocobraquartet.com/
The British Council is the UK’s leading cultural relations organisation. For more information on current opportunities in Northern Ireland, visit nireland.britishcouncil.org or follow on Twitter: @BCouncil_NI.