Archipelago 2022

The Material Conditions of Our Music

Saturday, 18 June 2022

Free, until full capacity is reached, with prior ticket collection on the Museo Reina Sofía website from 10am on the last working day before the activity. A maximum of 2 per person. Doors open 30 minutes before the concert

Sabatini Building, Auditorium and Garden
Auditorium: 144 people; Garden: 425 people
Rubén Coll y José Luis Espejo
Organised by
Museo Reina Sofía
Luis A. Albornoz
A trailer by the Ever Given jammed on the Suez Canal, Middle East Eye, 29 March 2021
A trailer by the Ever Given jammed on the Suez Canal, Middle East Eye, 29 March 2021

For the sixth year running, the Archipelago concert series invites the public to delve into the complex nature of the contemporary world through listening, this time setting out from one of the most remarkable images of 2021: the container ship Ever Given stranded on the Suez Canal. In the image, one of the world’s biggest ships is the backdrop to a trailer harvesting crops. The picture, taken in Egypt, demonstrates the lavish scale of global consumption, bringing two means of transport separated by a supposed technological evolution face to face. Conversely, however, the trailer is not that old and the ship has been following a well-travelled route for thousands of years. It is through this image that the 2022 edition of Archipelago recaps learnings around the common history of tradition and experimentation, adding to this narrative accounts of forced migration, the transportation of raw materials and goods, the importance of ports, colonial routes and ocean currents.

The construction of the Persian Royal Road in the fifth century BC set off a kind of proto-globalisation that radically ground to a halt when the Ottoman Empire took Constantinople in 1453. Given the monopoly of that empire and Venice over materials travelling from China, India and Persia, Europe began its overseas expansion, establishing alternative trade routes. It was at that time that a seafarer, possibly Genoese, rode trade winds through sheer luck and ended up in what is today known as Antilles. Once established in the Caribbean, the Spanish Empire opened a route from the Viceroyalty of New Granada (Cartagena de Indias today) to Seville, but not before passing through Cuba, and, making use of the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean, its boats travelled to the European continent.

In 1565, following the Kuroshio Current in the Pacific Ocean, a route known as the Manila Galleon was established, joining Acapulco and the Philippines via Hawai. The power of a communications network and the sea shipping of materials laid the foundations for modern imperial control, and with it, in parallel, unexpected musical mutations. The trade winds and the Gulf Stream and Kuroshio and Humboldt Currents were and continue to be decisive for health, identity, supplies and shortages.

It is no coincidence that the interoceanic submarine cables that create the internet’s infrastructure coincide with the mapping of British, Spanish and Portuguese imperial routes. Taking advantage of the situation caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic, “platform capitalism” has sought to regulate streaming, promising to “rejuvenate” the music industry as a form of leisure and communication. Yet this “new” data flow transmitted by submarine cables is one further chapter in an ongoing material history of the expansion of imperialist power which, via maritime routes, exploits life, extracts minerals and projects the routes of people’s voluntary and forced migration.

This new edition of Archipelago, therefore, retrieves the image of the Ever Given stuck on the Suez Canal, verifying how modes of current listening are always conditioned by a profound history of currents, routes and musical mutations.

Estrella Damm


6pm / Sabatini Building, Auditorium
—Conducted by Rubén Coll and José Luis Espejo

For the first time, the Archipelago curators will present the framework of texts, concepts and documentation they use to structure the festival’s programme by looking at the theoretical reference points from the past five editions of the festival — Habib Hassan Touma, Jean-Claude Éloy, Eugenia Fraga, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o and Édouard Glissant, among others — along with the recent addition of approaches by Michael Denning and his “archipelago of colonial ports” in Noise Uprising: The Audiopolitics of a World Musical Revolution (2020); Jussi Parikka with A Geology of Media (2021); Nick Srnicek’s Platform Capitalism (2018); and Kyle Devine’s view on the material cost of music in Decomposed: The Political Ecology of Music (2019).

6:20pm / Sabatini Building, Auditorium
Erkizia + Cantizano: O’Gemer, live quadraphonic performance

Xabier Erkizia works from the Basque Country, drawn by a curiosity to any form of communication or creation involving listening and sound. He has co-directed the ERTZ Festival and is a member of the Audiolab Association. Erkizia is a scholar of soundscapes and coordinator of the Soinumapa sound map, and a record label, audiovisual and radio producer. O’Gemer is an experimental film directed by Erkizia and centres on the tuning of the noise made by the axles of ox carts: an ancestral sound and possibly the oldest known sound design in a means of transport; the groan Atahualpa Yupanqui alluded to in one of his Milongas and never wanted to oil. O’Gemer is also a testimony of the journey made by these carts between Europe and Brazil, most likely following the shipping route established by Pedro Álvares Cabral in 1500 and which, since 2021, has connected Latin America and Europe via the company EllaLink’s fibre optic cables. The event will feature a live spatial version accompanied by Raul Cantizano’s electroacoustic hurdy-gurdy. Raúl Cantizano, for his part, is a guitarist from Seville. On his albums Guitar Surprise. Mito y geología del Canti (2017) and Zona Acordonada (2021) he explores the limits of flamenco, experimentation and improvisation. Moreover, his guitar has served as an accompaniment for Llorenç Barber, Niño de Elche, Juan Carlos Lérida, Belén Maya, Andrés Marín and Rocío Márquez, but for this performance he will draw from an amplified hurdy-gurdy, its hypnotic sound bearing a relation to the sound of ox carts in O’Gemer.

7:30pm / Sabatini Building, Garden
Mohammad Reza Mortazavi

Mohammad Reza Mortazavi was born in Isfahan two months after the start of the Iranian Revolution. He has lived in Germany for the past two decades, where he has shaped his career as a musician and composer. His approach to the tombak and the daf instruments, after a childhood fascination, transcends traditional playing techniques — the influence of both stretches from Central Asia to the northwest corner of Africa. This longitudinal expansion was connected for thousands of years by the Silk Road, which was paved with the construction of the Persian Royal Road, at the centre of which was today’s Iran. Mortazavi’s focus on music seeks to detach the constrictions inherent in the tombak and daf, as well as national narrative cultures. His approach on albums such as Ritme Jaavdanegi (Latency, 2019) was lauded by the English-speaking music press and in experimental circles, leading him to take part in the thirtieth anniversary of Tresor, Berlin’s legendary techno nightclub and label, as well as participating in festivals such as Berlin Atonal and Rewire. Mohammad Reza Mortazavi’s performance in Archipelago is also a chance to encounter the sounds from his most recent album Prisma (Flowfish, 2022).

8:15pm / Sabatini Building, Garden
Pujllay Masis

The first journeys between the Iberian Peninsula and today’s Americas were made by following trade winds. At sea level, these winds blow regularly from east to west, but at an altitude of 6,000 metres there is a trade wind inversion. These winds are at once a meteorological force that rocked the boats of looters and slave traders and the stream that allows planes to travel from the Americas to Europe on the route used by Latin American diaspora. The Pujllay Masis cultural association is a Madrid-based brotherhood of Bolivian origins whose objectives include disseminating Pujllay (which means “game” in Quechua), a set of dance rituals linked to Yampara culture; dances carried out in the rainy season to honour Pachamama, the Andean goddess of fertility, crops and harvest. Equally, they remember an indigenous victory that occurred in 1816 during independence from the Spanish colonies. In 2014, UNESCO declared Pujllay Intangible Cultural Heritage.

8:40pm / Sabatini Building, Garden
Edna Martinez

Edna Martinez is an artist, DJ and curator from Cartagena de Indias who lives in Berlin. Throughout her career, she has focused on spotlighting Caribbean picó, leading her to delve into the roots of popular Colombian music, African rhythms, tropical sounds and even Arabic folklore. These sounds are often the result of the industrialisation of maritime shipping and the framework of contemporary ports and canals, most notably the Suez and Panama Canals, the Strait of Malacca and the Honolulu fuel supply port. For centuries, these have been intersections of geopolitics and global trade. Martinez creates and organises an array of initiatives: Prende la Vela, a celebration of Afro-Latin culture; El Volcán - El Orgullo de Berlín, a night devoted to Colombian soundsystems; and LatinArab, a musical journey from Alexandria to Cartagena de Indias. She also works in radio on Radio Alhara and Worldwide FM.

10:30pm / Sabatini Building, Garden

In 1998, Ahmed El Maghraby formed Mazaher in an attempt to keep the tradition of the Egyptian Zar alive and prevent it from dying out. The Zar originally spread from Ethiopia to the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, through the nineteenth-century slave trade, incorporating Sufism elements in Egypt. Ceremonies, officiated by women, initiate the devout by cleaning their spirit through song, dance and polyrhythmic percussion, inducing a trance and driving evil out. The participants inherit the practice of Zar from their mothers and grandmothers. Mazaher sees out the sixth edition of Archipelago, which gets under way with maritime shipping through the Suez Canal, inaugurated in 1869 during the British colonial occupation of Egypt, and ends with the same canal blocked by the Ever Given — the starting point of this programme — in 2021, and also the same canal through which submarine cables pass, following the sea trade routes joining China and Europe for thousands of years, and which stop in each major city in North Africa to enable a data flow listened to as music and, formerly, to transport materials from which instruments and their sounds are made.