Sway of the Verses at Tate Lates
Pritpal Ajimal, aka Sway of the Verses is a designer and artist by day and a DJ with a difference by night. He is discovering the joy of sharing his love of raga music with clubbers and festival goers, not your normal Indian classical dance punters.
Pulse talked to Pritpal ahead of his gig due at the impressive Turbine Hall, Tate Modern on Friday 26 May 2023, about how he came to develop this specialism.
Sway of the Verses we normally think of DJ's presenting bollywood or bhangra music- how did you arrive at the idea of playing raga music at clubs and events?
I go to a lot of clubs and gigs. I've noticed that music from all over the world is played, and that music from the Indian subcontinent is restricted to a handful of tracks and that’s usually bollywood or bhangra music. I also feel that the label 'classical' is not an accurate description. Raga Music is a tradition that goes back a very long way, but due to the improvisational aspect of the tradition this music is not written down and played exactly the same way for every performance; instead there is a conversation between the performer and the Raga and the result are performances that are completely different every time.
This is closer to jazz music, so I took the inspiration of Gilles Peterson, who started playing jazz records in clubs, something that was unheard of at that time. He wanted to expose listeners to this type of music which can be difficult to approach as it has an historic tradition and the technicalities of the music can seem quite complex.
To lay a foundation for raga music, I started broadcasting on Voices Radio and Balamii, two independent internet based radio stations. I felt that this music needed to be represented in this environment rather than on an Asian based radio to expose a larger and more diverse listenership. I kept explanations to a very concise and simple format, so audiences were not overwhelmed, allowing tracks to play for 20 mins, so that listeners could really bathe in the sounds and the experience. I made sure there were a variety of performers and instruments and the tracks demonstrated different tempo's and time signatures. Over a year of two shows a month later, taking this music to the club was the next logical step!
How long have you been d-jing raga music and where else can we hear your sets?
I have been djing for almost a year now and normally have a mix of all kinds of musical styles with raga music incorporated to make a nice musical journey over the course of the set. It's been a nice journey of discovery both learning the art of djing and also what works musically in different environments. I played some raga music at a hip-hop gig and was very surprised at how well it was received, so it's nice to see how open people are to different types of music.
How did the Tate Late gig come about and what can we expect to hear?
Tate Lates is programmed by the amazing Global Roots - Thristian; he has been at the center of contemporary institutions such as Boiler Room and NTS radio, WorldwideFM and has been programming the music programme at the Tate Modern Lates for the past year or so and has programmed some very interesting and different types of music from all over the music spectrum, a gong bath at 2am in the Turbine Hall is quite the experience! Thristian has been an amazing supporter of my endeavor into radio, and taking raga music to different environments from the start; the opportunity arose to showcase this as part of this month’s Lates event, so here we are!
For those who are new to this form of music, what guidance can you give?
I would say if you're new to it all, then go through some of the shows that I've done on both Voices and Balamii, there is a lot of material to guide listeners through various ragas, instruments and there is a full tracklist with every show on mixcloud that identifies all the tracks and also has links to the full tracks which hopefully helps and encourages people to explore this musical tradition and on the Voices show I do a gig guide every month highlighting shows all over the UK to encourage listeners to get out there and experience the music in a live context!
https://linktr.ee/swayoftheverses - For a full list of radio shows on voices and balamii.