Ruthless Jabiru records Soosan Lolavar composer portrait

This month London chamber orchestra Ruthless Jabiru heads to the studio to record its long-awaited album collaboration with British Iranian composer Soosan Lolavar for Nonclassical.

Declared pre-pandemic to be “long overdue” by the label’s founder Gabriel Prokofiev and now even more so, the wait for the first all-Lolavar album is finally nearing its end.

The proposal for a double-debut by Lolavar and conductor Kelly Lovelady, Ruthless Jabiru’s Artistic Director, elicited an outpouring of community support on a 2020 Crowdfunder and an offer of matchfunding from the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan’s Back to Business Fund. The album has now been further supported by the PRS Foundation’s Open Fund for Music Creators and The National Lottery through Arts Council England.

“This album has had a long evolution and I’m so happy things are finally flowing,” said Lovelady. “We have a fantastic team in place and the coming together of such inspirational Iranian and Australasian musicians here in London is going to be really special: Soosan’s music is a perfect frame for the magic to happen.” 

In addition to Lolavar’s cello concerto Tradition–Hybrid–Survival and sextet Girl, based on Iranian folk melody Dokhtare Boyer Ahmadi, the tracklist will include two Ruthless Jabiru commissions: an orchestral expansion of Lolavar’s monody for detuned violin, Undone (solo version commissioned by Riot Ensemble 2020), and a new setting of I am the Spring, You are the Earth for santoor and string orchestra; a work described by BBC Music Magazine as “a glorious, shifting collage of sound”.

The recording features three soloists: Iranian musicians Faraz Eshghi Sahraei and Roxanna Albayati alongside Lolavar’s repeat collaborator, violinist Sarah Saviet. Ruthless Jabiru will be conducted by Lovelady and welcomes Persian-Irish violinist Kourosh Ahmadi as the orchestra’s Guest Leader.

“I’m absolutely delighted to record this project with Kelly and Nonclassical,” said Lolavar. “As my debut portrait album, it represents the culmination of years of hard work and a view of my creative voice formed across a career so far. I can’t wait to hear the new realisations of these pieces and am really heartened to see the work of so many brilliantly creative musicians—Iranians and others—represented.” 

Lolavar’s music explores double-consciousness, hybridity and diaspora as experienced through her British Iranian cultural heritage. Following the May recording, a second phase of the project will see Lovelady and Lolavar in collaboration with Afghan-Iranian displaced and migrant artists to create a collection of video art further illuminating Lolavar’s soundworld. The album is due for release on Nonclassical in early 2024. 

Dr Soosan Lolavar is a British Iranian composer whose music draws on ideas from both western and Iranian traditions. She has been performed across the world, broadcast on BBC television in both the UK and Iran; and on BBC Radio 3, 4 and the World Service. In 2022 Soosan was awarded the RPS Composer prize and partnered with Cheltenham Music Festival; and more recently, shortlisted by the ISCM International Jury for the 2023 World Music Days (South Africa). Soosan’s work explores unique tuning systems using the infinite capabilities of her primary instrument, santoor. She strives to make music that resonates in the world long after we have stopped listening.

Kelly Lovelady is a conductor, curator and cultural Activist with a passion for experimental programming, concert dramaturgy and composer advocacy. She is the founding Artistic Director of London chamber orchestra Ruthless Jabiru and has devised, self-produced and conducted massed musical and cross-artform projects for festivals across the UK, Canada and Australia. Kelly is in demand in the UK and abroad as both a Guest and Assistant Conductor with a focus on contemporary repertoire and composer collaboration. She is represented by Polyphony Arts.

Ruthless Jabiru is a chamber orchestra of Australasian musicians in the UK merging contemporary music and Activism in an effort to promote compassion, sustainability and social consciousness. Under the leadership of its founding Artistic Director Kelly Lovelady, Ruthless Jabiru delivers curated performance events themed around humanitarian, sustainability and social justice stories in collaboration with the UK campaigning sector.

Nonclassical is a music promoter, record label and events producer presenting the best new classical, experimental and electronic music. Crossing genre and defying convention, they develop, produce and promote innovative music—supporting emerging artists and bringing new music to new audiences. Founded in 2004 by composer Gabriel Prokofiev, Nonclassical began as a clubnight focused on presenting new music in non-traditional performance spaces.


“Lolavar’s music, both vocal and orchestral, found the right blend of menace and compassion, and the three singers were exemplary. A future classic? You just never know.”


“Soosan Lolavar plays the santoor (a hammered dulcimer that adds a dazzling, percussive sheen to much of the music) and also writes one of the stand-out tracks—a gorgeous nine-minute ambient drone called I Am the Spring, You Are the Earth.”


“Kelly Lovelady conducted with masterful sensitivity throughout … [her] carefully considered programming makes abundant conceptual sense. [Ruthless Jabiru’s Silk Moth] was one of the most remarkable musical experiences of my year … demanding that we look and listen. A sincere and sensitive exploration of ethnicity, domesticity and violence.


“Utterly captivating … [Ruthless Jabiru’s Silk Moth] was a daring and powerful theatrical evening which lasted less than an hour, but whose emotion will resonate for far longer.”

Album due for release on Nonclassical, 2024


Soosan Lolavar I am the Spring, You are the Earth
Soosan Lolavar Undone
Soosan Lolavar Girl
Soosan Lolavar Tradition–Hybrid–Survival


Ruthless Jabiru
Faraz Eshghi Sahraei santoor
Roxanna Albayati cello
Sarah Saviet violin
Kelly Lovelady conductor

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