Emily Burridge

 

Emily is a professional 'cellist, composer, performer and producer with twenty five years experience of working in the music industry. Born in the UK she was classically trained from the age of five and was awarded scholarships to the Wells Cathedral specialist music school and the Royal College of Music in London, where she was also awarded the Helen Just concerto prize.

Alongside her commercial productions her professional material reveals a symbiotic relationship between her music and her philanthropic motivation. In the eighties she composed music to accompany readings of the book "Sacred Elephant" by Heathcote Williams, going on to perform alongside the actress Virginia McKenna, touring throughout the UK and furthering an awareness of the plight of the elephants at that time.

Her association with tribal people began in 1991 when Emily visited the Senecca Indians of North America and was guest in the house of the esteemed elder Grandmother Twyllah. It was on this visit that she became interested in indigenous singing practices and made recordings of "spirit songs".

In 1990 she was invited to join friends travelling to isolated areas of the Mato Grosso. This experience was a turning point in her life and her initial response was to curate "In Our Hands", an exhibition of work by Brazilian artists and photographers promoting the natural environment of the Mato Grosso through their work. She also arranged for the production of fund-raising postcards depicting the Mato Grosso. Further motivated, she commenced the production of her first CD "Earth Songs" which was later published by a German independent company.

In 1992 she was invited to return to Brazil and perform her music at the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, and associated events in Brasilia. As part of the Earth Summit there was a Tribal Gathering - a forum for tribal people. Emily was a guest at this event and recorded the songs and ritual that the tribal people shared at the end of their meetings and subsequently compiled and produced the track "Vozes da Terra" - Voices of the Earth:

Vozes da Terra part 1

 

Vozes da Terra part 2

 

It was at her performance in the National Theatre that she was introduced to elders of the Xavante, who are indigenous to the Mato Grosso; in response to her performance they invited her to visit their village.

Chief in sun rays © Emily Burridge

Chief Francisco Pronhopa © Emily Burridge

Two years later she travelled across Brazil and was guest in the house of a Xavante Chief and his family. Aware that they needed some support she helped members of the community make the preliminary designs for a health centre.

On her return to the UK and as a direct result of her first visit to the Xavante, Emily founded this charity "The Indigenous People's Cultural Support Trust " which was registered with the Charity Commission in 1995 with the mission statement "To aid in the promotion and conservation of Indigenous people’s culture and traditional knowledge."

Between 1994 and 1998 Emily made annual visits to the Xavante community and worked in collaboration with them to build and equip a health centre with solar power, to provide basic health care for the village of Marimbu and surrounding villages.

The initiative was supported financially by the UK government's Overseas Development Administration, the rest of the funding being raised from donations by trusts and individuals. The health centre was inaugurated in 1998.

Inauguration of Xavante Health centre Marimbu Village

Whilst researching for the production of her second CD in the North East of Brazil she also arranged for a Xavante nurse to attend "Living Medicinal gardens", a course given by Professor Matos of the Federal University of Ceará in Fortaleza. The nurse used the knowledge he gained to tend and develop medicinal gardens adjacent to the health centre, and to prepare herbal medicines for the village.

During her time with the Xavante, Emily found music to be as fundamental to their culture as it was to her own life. She was invited to make recordings both of groups and of individuals. She has since integrated these recordings and ambient recordings of their environment into various musical productions including her 2010 double CD release "Out of the Blue & Into the Amazon" and her solo performance “Bach , Burridge & Into the Amazon”, in which she includes projected images featuring the Xavante.

 

Emily recording Xavante children singing

In 2007 Emily returned to the Mato Grosso after an absence of several years. She found the village and its surroundings dramatically changed. The impact on the environment and the indigenous community resulting from the rapid expansion of soya monocultural agriculture shocked her profoundly, driving her to commence the development of a tree nursery program to help the community to re-establish its proud tradition of independence and self-sustainability.

To find out more about Emily’s music and performance productions please visit her website at: www.emilyburridge.com