Asian Music and Dance

Nitin Sawhney

Fresh from the lush exuberance of the Electric Proms in London, the ambience of the University of Manchester was that of any regular university gig. The audience waited outside whilst the DJs warmed them up nicely, giving a flavour of what was about to emerge before us. 

The crowd was surprisingly a more diverse bunch than you would normally find in London for this genre of music. Obvious music heads, university students and most notably, parents with their teenage kids, exposing them to something other than the embryonic mainstream manufactured one-hit wonders.

Nitin appeared unceremoniously, and the room was suddenly full. Heads started to bob as he played out his opening number ‘Homelands’ with Ashwin Srinavasan on flute and Lucy Jools on vocals. Nitin continued the flow with feature tracks from all his albums to date, mapping his musical journey with the best of his work so far. 

Aref Durvesh presented us a feast of beats, taking us around the world and straight back to the urban landscape of London drum and bass. The remarkable interaction between Nitin, Aref and Srinavasan in the three-way jugalbandi sent the crowd into a frenzy, lulling them back to an ethereal calm by Srinavasan’s flute piece followed by his amazing rendition of ‘Nadia’, which went down a storm in the absence of Reena Bhardwaj. 

Tina Grace gave sultry renditions of ‘Letting Go’ and new track, ‘October Daze’ from the London Undersound album, under a new identity shift, singing with Portugese/Brazilian vigour. 

Lucy Jools took us on a soulful journey with ‘Distant Dreams’ – written and performed on the new album by Roxanne Tataei, Jools did her immense justice, continuing with ‘Sunset’. Ian Burdge provided an almost cinematic feel on the cello with his deep tones throughout. 

All the while the crowd continued its whoops and hollers, Nitin sat perched neatly with his guitar, smiling on nurturingly to his band, commanding gentle yet firm attention with them, whilst smashing out flamenco/Indian infused, beat-led riffs. The audience demanded him back with an encore acoustic piece ‘Conference’, soothing them back to a gentle sway, building them up again to a spirited display of musical interaction between guitar melody and tabla beats, satisfying every sense possible. 

Nitin has come into his own through his diverse collaborations. By the time we hit the twenty-first Century, Nitin had freed himself of the London ‘Underground’ movement in favour of more international associations with artists steeped in their craft, willing to experiment with age-old traditions and new sounds. 

Nitin has upped his game with his most recent album, London Undersound, featuring collaborations with a selection of artists charting a wealth of musical history such as: Paul McCartney, Anoushkar Shankar, Ashwin Srinavasan and Ojos de Brujo. The latter emulate the bridging of East and West, a signature of Nitin’s musical growth. You will find excerpts of flamenco guitar in almost every album and live performance, signifying a relationship between the musical histories and migration of cultures from Asia to Europe.



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