Leicester musician David Dhonau lifts the lid on the local music scene

David Dhonau was born with music in his blood. His entire life has been dedicated to creating his own sound, experimenting with different collectives and genres to try to further his own musical knowledge. David’s father was a multi-instrumentalist and composer, just like himself, and his mother has been a violin teacher for thirty years, so he was introduced to an instrument at an early age, following in his mother’s footsteps and picking up the violin, before moving onto the cello when he was ten years old, and hitting grade eight by the time he was doing his A-levels.

Now 36 and playing the bass and cello for a number of different musical groups across Leicester, David is also a founding member of Anerki – a weekly night that showcases artists, musicians and performers from all over the world and encourages spontaneity and experimental performances. He came to speak to me after I heard about 1000000000 o’clock, a ‘dystopian hip-hop collective’ with David as one of the members, who have promoted Anerki through advertising the event and performing there regularly.

He said: “It’s really exciting because it’s such a mixture of art forms, we have singers, poets, musicians, rappers, live art, film projection, and its always expanding. In the next one we’re doing we have dancers and performance artists which is a first for us, so it’s really building up and going from strength to strength, and it’s really exciting because there’s not really anything else like it around here, or anywhere really, and people just seem to connect with it.”

After I heard that David played the cello, I was intrigued and had to find out why he took it up and how he uses it to match the industrial style of a lot of the bands he works with. He said: “I first picked up the cello at my primary school – they needed a cellist for the orchestra and I thought it looked interesting, and eventually it gave me an excuse to drop the violin. I studied the cello in quite a classical way learning scales, theory, technique, and the like, but I lost interest somewhat. I suppose I didn’t think the cello was very cool at the time.

“Growing up when I did there was a lot of great stuff happening – I remember buying Nirvana’s ‘In Utero’ album when they were still a band and that was the sort of music that really pushed me to form a band with a bunch of mates from school. I took up the bass, and that was a very different experience from the cello, which I enjoyed but it was very structured, you don’t question why you’re doing something, whereas as teenagers in an attic in Leicester with a drum kit and amps you’re not tied down to anything and its maybe a bit of a naive adolescent way of looking at it, but no-one can actually tell you what it should sound like – your teachers can’t, your parents can’t – its simply whatever you make it to be and thats such a great, liberating thing.”

David’s passion for creating original, experimental music has led him to take up the cello once again, and implement his own style into it, taking a more unconventional approach to make his own sound from it and make it work with his ambient, elemental string duo D’Juil, with Derby-based composer Julian Broadhurst, as well as with well-established instrumental band Maybeshewill, and his performances have taken him to festivals like Sheffield’s Tramlines and Summer Sundae in Leicester.

He said: “It’s not that it’s better or worse to do it more unconventionally, but I think it’s more appropriate to me, so for the last 9 or 10 years I’ve been using loop pedals and processing and effects with the cello rather than being restricted to the ‘proper’ way of doing it. Any technology can be used in a variety of different ways, such as record decks – they weren’t designed to do the things that people do with them now, but it took a couple of people in New York to use two of them to make a beat last longer, and suddenly thats been developed and DJ decks are now a standard thing, but it took someone to look at it in an eccentric way.”

With a repertoire of musical experience in genres ranging from ambient electronica to fuzzy alternative rock and from contemporary classical to improvised noise, David has explored so many musical paths and worked in many interesting, surreal and eccentric bands, but he is swaying from his usually strict musical path with an ambition to discover the potential of Anerki as a continuous event and to promote it and try to help it grow and develop to reach its potential. He said: “It’s currently being held at the Turkey Cafe on Granby Street on Thursdays, but we’re trying to upgrade the venue due to the popularity of the event. We were thinking of somewhere closer to the student side of town – we contacted The Font Pub and they’re considering letting us host it there. It’s just a really fun night for so many people from so many different backgrounds – and even people who don’t usually enjoy arty or performance-based events have really connected with it because it’s so raw and spontaneous. It’s basically just a massive display of human creativity.”

Anerki is held every Thursday displaying all sorts of visual and audible art forms and installations and is host to a number of David’s projects, including dream-pop band Dayflower who are an emerging band making waves in Leicester’s alternative rock scene, and making an appearance at the popular Handmade festival.

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