Painted Bride launches record label with ‘Skins & Songs’

Philip Hamilton's "Voices" is one half of the "Skins & Songs" collaborative ensemble. Credit:
Philip Hamilton’s Voices is one half of the “Skins & Songs” collaborative ensemble.
Credit: Painted Bride Art Center

Last year, the Painted Bride premiered “Skins & Songs,” a collaboration between Philly’s Spoken Hand Percussion Orchestra and New York-based a cappella group Philip Hamilton’s Voices. The unique evening of music was a multi-cultural fusion marrying percussion traditions with a vast array of vocal techniques. The collaboration was 10 months in the making, but the logistics of the 24-piece ensemble made additional performances a complex and daunting proposition.

But for those who missed it, “Skins & Songs” is now available as a CD, launching the Painted Bride’s new record label, Live @ the Bride. The label and its inaugural release will be the focus of a celebration Saturday night at the Bride, which will include a brief performance by the ensemble as well as food, drink, and opportunities to meet the artists.

“The idea for the label was to get the work that we do here at the Painted Bride out further into the world,” says Laurel Raczka, the Bride’s executive director. “It’s directly connected to our mission, which is about promoting and supporting the work of artists.” The current plan is to release one CD a year, including new recordings and performances from the arts center’s archive spanning 25 years of concerts.

Spoken Hand consists of four distinct percussion batteries: North Indian tabla, Brazilian samba, West African djembe and Afro-Cuban batá. Voices, in the meantime, runs the gamut of vocal styles from Tuvan throat singing to hip-hop, doo-wop to choral music, Portuguese fado to Balinese monkey chanting.

That range of influences may be unusual, but Spoken Hand co-founder (and Bride music curator) Lenny Seidman points out that the link between percussion and drumming is one of the most basic elements of music. And personally, he’s always been attracted to vocal music since childhood, when he would listen to his father sing cantorial music. “The most emotionally moving music for me historically has been choral music,” he says. “Beethoven’s Masses and Ode to Joy, Bach’s oratorios, Mahler’s Symphony of a Thousand, Okinawan folk music and my father’s synagogue choir. That music always resonated with me more than anything else.”

“Skins & Songs” began life when Seidman and Hamilton met while both were touring with Philly hip-hop dance choreographer Rennie Harris’ show “Facing Mekka” in 2003. “Philip and I were on the same wavelength with a lot of things,” Seidman says. “Aesthetics, looking at music with a similar component of spirituality. The tour lasted three and a half years, and we often talked about his dreams for Voices and mine for Spoken Hand. We fantasized that a collaboration would be a cool thing to do.”

Live @ the Bride launch party
Oct. 26, 7 p.m.
Painted Bride Art Center
230 Vine St.
$30-$50, 215-925-9914
www.paintedbride.org


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