Meet Manu Delago

6 October 2023

A man stands holding a handpan up to his right ear, and holding a bicycle by its handlebars, in front of a huge pile of crushed cars of different colours.

On 8 and 11 October, we’ll be joined by percussionist, handpan player and composer Manu Delago for performances featuring a brand-new orchestration of his 2021 audiovisual album Environ Me. Inspired by the world around us, this work weaves together field recordings of the natural world, with his trademark percussive sounds and electronic manipulation, each track brought into sharper focus with accompanying animations. Here, Manu tells you a little more about his work…

Tell us a bit more about yourself and your musical interests.

I’m a composer and percussionist. I mainly perform my own music, often with a band or ensemble, sometimes solo or with orchestra. And sometimes I perform as a sideman with diverse artists such as Björk, Anoushka Shankar, Ólafur Arnalds, The Cinematic Orchestra, Ellie Goulding and many more. As a composer I try to give the audience an experience they’ve never had before. 

What drew you to the handpan and how does it inspire your work?

The instrument was only invented in the year 2001 and I started playing soon after that. It has a beautiful sound but also is very versatile. It combined various instruments that I had played back then like piano, marimba, drums and tabla and, as a composer, it was a great opportunity to enter pioneer land.

We’re excited to be performing Environ Us at Saffron Hall and the Southbank Centre. This is a brand-new orchestration of your 2021 audiovisual album Environ Me. What was the concept behind this album?

I’ve tried to bring the sound of our environment into the music and into the concert hall. Each piece is linked to a different element of our environment. Those could be natural elements like fire or water, but also industrial things like cars or electricity. Each piece comes with a video that in the concert is not only a visual, but also comes with its original sound that was recorded on location. 

For those who are planning to come to one of the concerts, can you tell us what’s in store?

I think it’s more than a concert. It’ll be a unique experience. Audiovisual synchronicity between our environment and one of my favourite orchestras in the world. 

We’ll be performing Environ Us with Manu Delago at Saffron Hall on Sunday 8 October and at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on Wednesday 11 October, in a programme that also includes music by the Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir and a traditional Indian Raga Bhairavi performed by sarod player Debasmita Bhattacharya.