Throughout her career as a composer and self-taught experimental cellist, Kathryn Locke has been asked what kind of music she plays. Finally, she has an answer: Chodompa Music.
Together with Sarah Allen (flutes), Jo Freya (saxophone and clarinet), Jo May (percussion) and Geoff Coombs (mandola), she has created Chodompa Music, the band. Drawing on her background in traditional music and experience as a composer in contemporary arts, she has created music that is elemental, visceral, tender, playful and fierce. It is unique. It is surprising. It is Chodompa Music.
With Chodompa Music, it is really important to Kathryn that each of the musicians gets to express their own voice. Each piece begins with the spark of an idea discovered through improvisation on the cello. It might be a sound, an interval or a rhythm. By playfully exploring it with each musician, the idea develops into a landscape of energy, texture and emotion, which Kathryn hones until the final piece emerges. The process usually involves knotted fingers, scrambled brains and faces that hurt from laughing.
Making the album La marks the return of Kathryn Locke after several years’ silence, having recovered from an illness that left her unable to speak. However, due to her direct ability to communicate through her cello, she never lost her voice. Instead, it helped her to develop her unique and deeply personal language for the instrument, which enables her to speak of every part of her experience. Nothing is off limits. The techniques she has discovered and developed leave no aspect of the instrument unexplored and form the backbone of the band’s music.
Sarah Allen, Jo Freya, Jo May and Geoff Coombs all share experience and a love of traditional music, but each has trodden a very different path. Their backgrounds are diverse, from orchestral to the avant garde, but they all revel in the joy of being physically and musically challenged. Kathryn loves to see how far they will go… and they go far.
About Kathryn Locke
Kathryn Locke’s performing life began as a duo with Jude Abbot (Chumbawumba), both singing and playing. Busking and doing floor spots at folk clubs and festivals led to bookings, then to being asked to join a string of bands. Each one required something different, each one enabled her to learn something new. And so, her musical life took off. Kathryn has worked with an enormous range of outfits and individuals, including The Chainsaw Sisters, The Mellstock Band, Peggy Seeger and Scarp.
The techniques she developed were inspired by watching musicians playing other instruments: guitarists, percussionists, fiddle players and traditional musicians from around the world… but never cellists. Kathryn watched how their hands and bodies moved when they did something she really liked. By replicating these movements on the cello and improvising with them, new sounds and techniques emerged and her vocabulary developed. Writing music followed on from there.
Kathryn’s first commission as a composer was Straight Jacket for the National Dance Company of Wales, a solo suite performed on stage with the dancers. It toured for two years, including in Europe and Asia. The success of Straight Jacket led to further commissions from dance companies and choreographers, in theatre and in film. Playing for dance is Kathryn’s great love, whether that’s with a contemporary dance company, the exuberant ceilidh band “Token Women”, or electronic duo Lamb.
Kathryn’s career was riding high, when out of the blue she was struck by a neurological condition that left her unable to speak. Her career came to an enforced, abrupt stop. Recovery was only possible if she gave up her professional life completely. Bur she never stopped playing. Meditation proved to be the key to Kathryn’s recovery. She went regularly to Samye Ling Tibetan Centre in Scotland to study and learn. There, they introduced a Saturday night music session in their café and Kathryn was taken back to her roots. For the first time in years, she was able to play music with and for other people and rediscover the joy of it. Her health continued to improve and opportunities to perform solo at Samye Ling’s events and celebrations followed, as did her return to writing. Kathryn recognised that she had to be a musician again.
After a chance meeting with Sarah Allen, who had played on Kathryn’s favourite dance commission (for Ricochet Dance Company), she realised how much she wanted to play with and write for Sarah again… and the seeds of Chodompa Music were sown. Together with Geoff Coombs, they began to work on the ideas Kathryn was having and to create new pieces. When Jo May and Jo Freya joined them, the band was able to develop its full sound. Meanwhile, Kathryn had fully recovered and was ready to record with the band.
The release of Chodompa Music’s first album, La, is a celebration of the energy of recovery, the joy of making music and freedom in having a voice. Kathryn Locke has played with a myriad of different bands and has written music for dance, theatre, film, TV and radio, but it is Chodompa Music that gives her full freedom to express her creative voice. It is the love of her musical life.