Illuminating India- Talvin Singh, Yorkston/Thorne/Khan 2
23 March 2018
As part of the British Council’s UK/India Year of Culture, Illuminating India at the Science Museum marks 70 years of Indian Independence and aims to showcase the contribution of India to science and culture globally over a span of 5000 years.
Photography 1857 –2017, a free exhibition presents a kaleidoscopic history of the subcontinent’s technological and cultural development of photography in India, examining its role in charting the history of the country, pivoting around two key dates in India’s recent history: 1857, the year of the Mutiny and 1947, the year of Independence and Partition.
Set against a background of specially-produced stills and archival moving images from the photography exhibit, Talvin Singh treated the audience to the world premiere of his latest project: a mesmerising live performance of brand new compositions inspired by these visuals. Singh, OBE, Mercury Prize-winning composer, producer and tabla player, is known for fusing classical Indian music with electronica and drum and bass. As an experimental musician he has collaborated with the likes of Madonna, Bjork and Massive Attack.
The format comprised of a layered and atmospheric electronic soundtrack, overlaid by the crisp, melodic grooves of Singh’s Tabla, and featuring the force that is Suhail Yusuf Khan on Sarangi and vocals. The slideshow moved through different eras of photography from portraits of Indian Royalty through to Partition, finally bringing us to the work of Modern and contemporary Indian photographers.
Singh was supported in the earlier part of the evening by Yorkston/ Thorne/ Khan. This somewhat unlikely trio is comprised of Scottish acoustic guitarist James Yorkston, jazz double bassist Jon Thorne (Isle of Wight) and New Delhi sarangi player Suhail Yusuf Khan. All three of them also double up as very distinct vocalists. What emerges from this union is a confluence of musical currents such as Indian classical music, Sufi sounds, Jazz and British folk music.
The sarangi, is an incredibly emotive instrument that hails from India and in the dexterous hands of Khan, an eighth generation Sarangi player, was something special. It is essential for the classically trained sarangi player to undergo vocal training as the instrument is believed to imitate closely the human voice and Sohail’s soulful, soaring vocals matched his instrumentalism. He has developed a particularly devotional style: “Sufi poetry has had great impact on my life and I try to convey that message when I sing,”
The evening saw a fusion of traditional Indian and UK folk songs, beautiful and poignant original compositions and idiosyncratic covers. We heard tracks from their critically acclaimed two albums and some new material from their forthcoming record. There were pieces that paid homage to Ivor Cutler, Scottish poet, songwriter and humorist, the poetry of Scottish lyricist Robert Burns, and Sufi musician, poet and scholar Amir Khusrow. The set ended with the achingly beautiful Sufi Song, with Sohail’s rendition of Sufi Philosopher-poet Baba Bulleh Shah’s poem about finding God within oneself.
Talvin Singh Tabla, Composition
Suhail Yusuf Khan Sarangi, Vocals
James Yorkston Double Bass, Vocals
Jon Thorne Guitar, Vocals, Nyckelharpa
Catch them at the next Upaj Collective on 13th July 2018 at the Jazz Cafe