I love to listen to Nitin as I practice yoga – some of the favourites are Nadia, Sunset, Homelands and the more recent Spirals. His music never fails to energise and uplift me and I think there is something truly magical in the music that he makes, the ragas (scales) that he uses and the beats that he blends.
Last night I experienced the magic of Nitin Sawhney in concert. The gig was in Heaven and the acoustics were great in this club under the arches in charring cross. There were 3 unique and strong female vocalists, a male flautist and vocalist, somebody on the tabla, Nitin on the guitar and coordinating, a second guitarist who had been discovered through a competition and a base player who was so into the music he looked like he was having the most fun! The performance became increasingly compelling with each track as he mixed tracks from his earlier Beyond Skin album with the latest Dystopian Dream. The visuals were kept simple and the most recent album cover flashed in different colours throughout the show. I love the way that Nitin has the ability to recognise the best parts of music from global cultures and mix them in a classical Indian way. He used Spanish gypsy flamenco and a Brazilian song to promote peace. A great message for this Earth that we all share.
The part that of the concert that blew me away the most was when the male vocalist did a life performance homelands – and it actually is that fast! They also did a classical call and answer that comes from the days in the darbar (court) in North India where men would perform stories through Kathak dances. I could recognise the music as being an entire dance that we learned with the intricate footwork to match the beats of the tala (beats / time measures).
In classical Indian music there 120 talas and there are are 6 basic ragas (scales) which invoke different emotions in us. Each raga has a natural correspondence to a certain hour of the day and season. For example Bhairava Raga is played on an autumn morning to create a mood of tranquillity. The ancient rishis discovered the relationships between the ragas and the impact that they could have on our spirit and feelings. After-all we are just a series of vibrating atoms that create our physical structure so it only makes sense that the vibrations of music can impact us! If you are a fan of Nitin Sawhney, I strongly recommend that you also take a listen to Anoushkar Shankar as she is another modern musician who uses the classical structures with her beautiful sitar. If you want to know more about Indian classical music, chapter 15 of “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Paramahansa Yogananda has a great explanation!