contemporary art cultural heritage England Mish Aminoff music performing arts



// Mish has been fascinated by visual arts, encompassing fine art, fashion design and photography, since childhood. Based in London, U.K., she both participates in and documents the Afro-Cuban music scene there. Her vibrant photos from the Afro-Cuban music scene show the joy (and colours) of music perfectly.

Mish says “Since I was a child photography has been central to my life. Much of my close family lived abroad and we would keep in touch by sending each other photographs so there was a lot of value placed on domestic photography and home movies.” She was introduced to darkroom techniques while studying History of Art in Venice. Later she studied Photography and Visual Culture at the University of Westminster in London. Her goals are to keep observing, documenting  and creating with freedom, fearlessness and authenticity. 

“Some pursue happiness. Others create it.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

What draws you to art?

“During the last year of the Pandemic, it became increasingly clear to me how fundamental the arts are to my wellbeing and spirit. Walking around with my camera gave me the opportunity to access a feeling of freedom and creativity in a world that was increasingly shut off. Prior to the Pandemic I travelled a lot but now I had to rely on finding inspiration in my immediate environment. Music and dance also give me huge amounts of pleasure and energy. I dance in the living room every day! I like to balance the ‘consumption’ of  the arts with allowing time for my own creativity. So I read every day, and go to a lot of exhibitions and watch art house films, but also make sure I take time to write a journal most mornings and always have my camera on me.”

What do you like most about photographing these Cuban musicians in London?

“In this series I am trying to convey some of the spirit and rhythm of London’s Afro Cuban Music Scene. I’m interested in the notion of synaesthesia – so that colour might suggest a sound for example. One of the things I love about the Afro-Cuban scene is that it combines all these elements; singing, percussion and movement.”

This series is about London’s Afro Cuban Music Scene. Mish is herself also a part of this scene: She has sung with the London Lucumi Choir for over 14 years, in addition to singing in other bands and projects within London’s Afro Cuban Community. “What I love about this community is that the disciplines are all connected. Many of the percussionists also sing and dance. Many of the singers also play drums and dance. I myself have danced salsa for over 3 decades and have dabbled in playing timbales drums.”

The images in the series comprise shots taken at London’s monthly Afro Cuban Music Night, organised by Bombo Productions, an evening of drum, song and dance from batá and orisha music to rumba. Some photos are behind the scenes shots from Lucumi choir rehearsals. During the lockdown the choir has kept going with Zoom meetings and the occasional socially-distanced outdoor rehearsal when possible. The Lucumi Choir, has performed in everything from community events to venues such as The Royal Festival Hall and The Barbican and on one occasion they supported The Afro Cuban All Stars.

London has always been a multi-cultural place and Mish discovered African dance classes in the 1980s as well as British-based  salsa and Latin jazz gigs. There were a core of people who attended these events who are now a major part of the London Latin and Afro-Cuban music scene. “For example, I met Daniela Rosselson de Armas back in the 80s when she was a salsa singer and she later became the director of the Afro-Cuban London Lucumi Choir.  Percussionist David Pattman was also originally a Latin Jazz percussionist and is now co-director of Bombo Arts that run the monthly Afro-Cuban night depicted. I would say the scene is still quite niche but that it does cross-over into more mainstream culture from time to time.”

Some of the people in the Afro-Cuban scene are also practitioners of Santeria  – the Lucumi religion. “I am not Cuban myself nor do I practice Santeria, and you don’t have to be initiated in the religion to be a choir member.  I have Persian and Israeli heritage and my mother was a dancer. I’ve also always been into music and was the producer of a BBC world music show called Planet Mambo for several years.” 

Mish attempts to show the joy of music through colours. “I have experienced synaesthesia quite strongly, where movement appeared as sounds. Then, as an art historian, I was interested in discovering that Wassily  Kandinsky was syntaeshetic and his abstract paintings were expressions of this. I always try and imbue energy into my own painting and drawing, and I like the idea of documenting moments where the energy, rhythm and spirit can be felt,” she says.

Happy colourful singing and dancing, Mish!

Images may be cropped for layout. Click on the photos to see the original version.

All photos © MISH AMINOFF

You could also visit Mish´s Instagram page and her website for more of her work.

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