Micro-commission: Kai Chareunsy


Concord Youth Experience, The Digital Era

The latest in our series of micro-commissions is a short film from Kai Chareunsy: Concord Youth Experience, The Digital Era.

Watch Concord Youth Experience, The Digital Era – premiers 12pm, Wednesday 13th December.

We caught up with Kai about this compelling insight into the digital lives of a group of young people in Birmingham.

Can you tell us a bit about this micro-commission and how you approached it?

This piece is really the work of all the young people involved, I have been wanting to facilitate a piece that is youth-led for a long time and when I saw that the brief for this commission was about the ‘digital world’, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to work with some of the young people that I see in schools and various other settings around Birmingham.

When we first discussed the brief, a few key themes came up such as misinformation, entertainment, distractions, education, communication, and opinions of elders. We decided the best way to communicate their feelings on all these subjects would be to record a long informal conversation, creating a space share opinions, question each other, and understand one another’s point of view as we had an age range of 11 to 23, all with different relationships to technology.

The music is then just about framing the clips we used from the conversation in an interesting way and helping to emphasise these feelings.

How did you get involved with the Concord Youth centre? It seems like a great space!

I started working with Concord through a project we ran with Jazz at The Spotted Dog called ‘Intersect’. This involved a spoken word artist and a jazz musician going into the centre to create music with the young people.

Despite ongoing budget cuts to youth services, the centre is a really amazing space, they have great staff members and facilities, there is always something fun going on, and it is always busy with young people. Spaces like this are really important in any community but unfortunately it is harder and harder for places like this to stay open. I’d encourage any other artists/musicians to find ways to support and work with youth centres however they can.

There’s a lot of recorded sounds in your piece – what is it about these types of recordings that speaks to you? And what equipment did you use?

I find that this style of recording and making music is a really fun way to get young people thinking creatively about sound. In this project we got to experience their local area in a different way, going to the park and the high street capturing sounds that they hear everyday but perhaps hadn’t noticed before. They we’re mostly thinking about capturing a variety of textures, rather than thinking ahead to how we would make them into a piece of music. The mic we used was a Zoom H5, but the activity could definitely be done with any type handheld mic, even on a phone.

It’s so interesting to hear about the relationship young people have with their phones and how complicated that can be. What do older people need to understand about this relationship?

They need to watch the video to find out!

Can you tell about what’s going on in your creative life right now?

I’ve been busy this year playing drums as a sideman/collaborator in a lot of great projects. One of my best friends and longstanding musical partners, Tom Harris, released his album ‘Buddleia’ last month. It’s been really special to see people enjoying the music that I’ve witnessed Tom working on and developing over many years.

Another great friend, Maria Graspa, recorded and released a fantastic album this year called ‘Life’. It features her original compositions which have been really interesting to get into, creating drum parts and seeing how I can help bring the compositions to life.

A band I’m part of called ‘Collidescope’ also released our debut EP at the start of this month. It is a chordless quartet featuring alto sax, trumpet, bass, and drums, however we just finished a short run of gigs that featured the incredible trumpet player, Laura Jurd, to make it a quintet. This was made possible through the Midland Jazz Mentoring Programme, who funded some of the gigs and also facilitated mentoring sessions and rehearsals with Laura.

All of this music is out on Bandcamp, so I will put some links below if anyone is interested to check it out and maybe even buy it!

And what are you listening to – any recommendations for us?

I’ve been listening to a lot of Molam music which is a type of folk music from Laos, the country that my Dad is from. The music has some amazing instruments including a type of mouth organ called a Khaen, I’ve managed to get hold of one and it’s very difficult to play!

There’s an album on Nimbus Records called ‘Music from Southern Laos’ by Molam Lao, it is a nice collection of songs which give a good idea of the genre for anyone who would like to hear it. I’d also recommend watching some youtube videos as the instruments, outfits, and dancing all look amazing too.

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