Zubin Kanga

Piano

"It would be difficult to imagine a more skillful advocate, patron and practitioner of this repertoire than Kanga"

Max Erwin, TEMPO

"Kanga is an equally exciting pianist, effortlessly virtuosic and in complete command of this (quite literally) electrifying modern repertoire."

Lisa MacKinney, Limelight Magazine

"not afraid to explore conceptual and expressive horizons well beyond the boundaries of a traditional piano recital"

Ben Wilkie, Limelight Magazine

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Zubin Kanga is a pianist, composer, improviser and technologist. His work in recent years has focused on models of interaction between a live musician and new technologies, including motion-sensor-controlled live electronics, Artificial Intelligence, reinterpretations of cinema history, live-generated 3D visuals, analogue synthesizers, new interactive instruments, magnetic resonators, stop-motion animation, keyboards as video-game-style controllers, motion and bio-sensors, interactions with live-video, and internet-based scores.

He has performed at festivals and venues throughout the UK, Europe and Australia, including the BBC Proms, London Contemporary Music Festival, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Melbourne Festival, Festival Présences Paris, Klang Copenhagen, Podium Festival, Resonator, November Music, CUBE, and Borealis Festival.

Recent collaborations include the internet-based work WIKI-PIANO.NET with Alexander Schubert which has been performed in 23 cities, and Scorsese Etudes by Nicole Lizée as part of her auteur focused Criterion Collection which creates studies from the sonic and visual materials of classic films.

Upcoming projects include Neil Luck’s Panopticon which uses MiMu sensor gloves and features the deaf performance artist Chisato Minamimura in a work which explores media created for people with visual and hearing impairments, and a major new work by Philip Venables which uses pianos, keyboards, electronics and video to explore the life of artist David Wojnarowicz, and his experience of the AIDS crisis in 1980s New York.

After graduating from the University of Sydney and the Royal Academy of Music, Zubin Kanga was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Nice and IRCAM in Paris, and a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is currently Lecturer in Musical Performance and Digital Arts at Royal Holloway, and director of Cyborg Soloists, a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship-funded project exploring new music-technology collaborations between artists and industry.

This biography is for information only and should not be reproduced.

Selected Reviews

But it was impossible not to be gripped and fascinated by Zubin Kanga’s Steel on Bone, featuring the adventurous composer-pianist all wired up with electronics, poking around in his piano’s innards wearing expensive multi-sensor gloves that transfer hand movements into sound. Henry Cowell, the pioneering American piano basher famous for his cluster chords played with the forearms, would surely have loved the bravura and madness of Steel on Bone. I know I did

Geoff Brown, The Times

Kanga’s Piano Ex Machina is a rewarding experience, rich in possibility, infused with curiosity and playfulness, and not afraid to explore conceptual and expressive horizons well beyond the boundaries of a traditional piano recital

Ben Wilkie, Limelight Magazine

It would be difficult to imagine a more skillful advocate, patron and practitioner of this repertoire than Kanga – from the frenetic flailing of Rose’s contraption to the neo-Gnostic delicacy of McLaughlin’s metastable assemblage, he is always in complete, charming command of the performance situation – a debonair cyborg emcee

Max Erwin, TEMPO

Zubin Kanga lifted his hands off the piano and over his shoulders, slow-motion, Matrix-style, the fading resonance of the instrument twisting and morphing through electronics... Overall Cyborg Pianist was slick and incredibly fun. Kanga is a dynamic and versatile pianist, bringing both virtuosity and a sense of play to his performances, deftly juggling the technical and dramatic requirements of the diverse works... From the sepulchral beauty of Ricketson’s The Day After Drowning to the delightful B-movie antics of Transplant the Movie!, Zubin Kanga’s Cyborg Pianist was a fascinating exploration of piano, theatre and technology

Angus McPherson, Limelight Magazine

Kanga's interpretation was engrossing, the work's mutable rhythmic steadiness and continuous juxtaposition of pointillism with colour-washes accomplished splendidly, the performance reaching a serenely illuminating climax across the last two sonatas, where the gentle clangour generated by this gifted pianist invested the festival with a blaze of retrospective creative brilliance

Clive O'Connell, The Age

An exciting program of new works that were conceptually united by the idea of extension and expansion through various forms of electronically generated mirroring. Kanga is an equally exciting pianist, effortlessly virtuosic and in complete command of this (quite literally) electrifying modern repertoire

Lisa MacKinney, Limelight Magazine

For Kanga, electronics are clearly not an addition, but a fundamental part of working with his instrument, and the physicality of his performance a keystone rather than an afterthought.... It is because of Kanga’s assuredness not just as a pianist but as a performer of sound and action that this programme worked so well as a whole

Ann Murray, The Journal of Music

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Answer Machine Tape, 1987

A major new work for piano and multimedia by Philip Venables, created in collaboration with Zubin Kanga and dramatist Ted Huffman, focussing on new York visual artist David Wojnarowicz and the turbulent period leading up to the death of close friend and fellow artist Peter Hujar from an AIDS-related illness in 1987.

It uses a transcription of Wojnarowicz's answering machine tape in the days leading up to Hujar's death, featuring calls from Hujar, other artists, friends and lovers, to explore not just his life, but that period of the New York art scene, queer history and the AIDS crisis.

Using new technology, the piano will function not just as an acoustic instrument, but as a typewriter to transcribe sections of the tape onto screen, as well as a controller to add electronic sound and light.

This will be Philip Venables' first major work for solo piano.

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Panopticon

Composed by Neil Luck, Panopticon is a new 45-minute multimedia work for piano, electronics and movement.

It explores fissures in communication within media environments through the rhetoric of ‘object-based’ broadcasting; techniques for making multimedia environments accessible for audiences with visual and hearing impairments. This flexible approach to the creation of broadcast media allows its individual elements (i.e. audio, video, captioning) to be reconfigured, re-mixed, re-formatted.

Panopticon reframes a live piano performance as ‘object-based’. Kanga’s live performance will be underlined, outlined, and extrapolated out into electronic sound diffusion, video clips, subtitles, textual descriptions and performed gestures. The performance will mix piano performance, theatre, and live and pre-recorded video and electronics sculpted using MiMU’s motion/gesture-sensor glove technology. Central to the piece, Luck and Kanga will also collaborate with Chisato Minamimura, a deaf performance artist who integrates British Sign Language into her practice, who will appear on screen a parallel performer.

Panopticon disorientates and elucidates for the listener/viewer the slipperiness, truths and fallacies of multimedia constructs.

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Piano and Multimedia

The Piano and Multimedia programme explores how an acoustic instrument can be expanded using new technologies:

Shiva Feshareki envelops the piano with immersive electronics created using her virtuosic turntable techniques and ambisonic surround sound, combined with immersive visuals. Zubin Kanga draws together analogue synthesizers and ROLI’s 4D expressive keyboards, creating cascading walls of sound.

Oliver Leith uses a TouchKeys keyboard to mould and bend sounds in this fragile and intimate work. Emily Howard’s work, inspired by Ada Lovelace, combines neuroscience and AI – using brain data collected from participants using ANT Neuro EEG sensors to inform the piano writing and video, as well as electronics derived from machine-learning, exploring multiple connections between music and mind.

Laurence Osborn’s Absorber 2 continues this successful series of virtuosic multi-keyboard works, with hands rapidly switching between manuals and keyboard sounds. Laura Bowler’s work Show Me explores musicians’ complex relationships with social media, from the professional to the toxic. It combines live video and audio (including talking emoji), speech, and movement theatre using MiMU’s sensor gloves to shape sounds in the air.

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Machine Dreams

Machine Dreams is a programme for keyboards and multimedia which can be performed in venues which don't have access to an acoustic piano. It uses cutting-edge technology from Cyborg Soloists industry partners and includes new commissions by Mira Calix, Tansy Davies, Jasmin Kent Rodgman, Amble Skuse, Robin Haigh, Cee Haines, Alex Paxton and Zubin Kanga

Technology explored includes biosensors, heat and light sensors. MiMU gloves, ROLI and TouchKeys keyboards, as well as classic analogue and modular synthesizers.

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Whirling Dervishes

Whirling Dervishes is a new 40-minute work by British-Iranian composer and turntablist, Shiva Feshareki, inspired by the ancient Sufi tradition where dancers spin until they reach a simultaneously meditative and ecstatic state.

The electronics were created out of Feshareki’s spatial turntable improvisations, edited together and distributed into a 360° sonic space using cutting-edge ambisonic technology. The reinvented sounds of her previous compositions, cathedral choirs, warped pianos and Shiva’s own voice swirl around the audience, infinitely transforming in a constant state of flux. At the eye of the maelstrom, the solo piano starts as a still centre, gradually building into tempestuous whirls of sounds. As an intrinsic element of the composition, there is a bespoke lighting display, linked to the movement of sound around the room, creating an immersive audio-visual experience for the audience.

Whirling Dervishes can also be performed in a duo version of variable length (18-50 minutes), with Shiva Feshareki performing live on turntables and electronics alongside Zubin Kanga on piano.

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