Simon Thacker and The Nava Rasa Ensemble was my first project innovating on the meeting of Asian and Western cultures, commissioning major guitar led works by Shirish Korde, an Indian composer who has forged a compelling and distinctive voice in the West with his native music as a basis, and Nigel Osborne, a great Western composer profoundly influenced by Indian music, for an all star nine piece instrumental ensemble made up of leading performers from both cultures.
Acclaimed as "a mesmerising melding of old and new, Indian and Western" (The Classical Review) and "a bold and highly successful project that fuses imaginative improvisation and virtuosity within a compelling sequence" (The List), The Nava Rasa Ensemble gave ten concerts across the UK in late 2009, followed in 2010 by the celebrated CD releaseNada-Ananda. The Nava Rasa Ensemble was a crucial project in my development whose many achievements I have expanded upon and developed in a myriad of directions with Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti.
Simon Thacker and The Nava Rasa Ensemble features nine musicians of the highest calibre representing three continents: me on guitar, Carnatic (South Indian) violinist Jyotsna Srikanth, Hindustani (North Indian) tabla master Sarvar Sabri, Scotland’s leading string quartet the Edinburgh Quartet, Brazilian bass dynamo Mario Caribé and renowned multi-percussionist Iain Sandilands.
The Nava Rasa Ensemble premiered two major new commissions: by Shirish Korde, an Indian composer born in Uganda and based in Boston, USA, whose music is an authentic presentation of his thorough Indian, Western classical and jazz training melded with other world musics; and the UK's Nigel Osborne, who is renowned for effortlessly incorporating musicians from non Western traditions into large scale works. Nigel has also pioneered the use of music in therapy and rehabilitation for children who are victims of conflict, particularly in the Balkans and Middle East.
Shirish's Nada Ananda ["the joy of sound"] concerto for guitar and chamber ensemble, is in three movements. The first movement is in the style of a North Indian Alap and the guitar writing the explores the expressive possibilities and colours of the instrument, combining the ornamentations and figurations of the sitar with the timbre of the classical guitar. The first and the second movement are based on the raga Lalit which, according to Indian music theory, is generally played at daybreak. The third movement, Joy, sees extended cadenzas for the guitar, Indian violin and tabla lead to an explosive climax for the whole ensemble.
Nigel's The Birth of Naciketasfor guitar concertante is based on an episode in the Upanishads where Naciketa’s mother dies in childbirth and his father makes a bargain with Death to save his son’s life. The work is based on the ten thaats, or scale patterns, which are considered by many to have been the forerunners of the raags of Indian classical music. The piece's ten sections correspond to the tenthaats in a 24-hour cycle related to the times of day associated with the scale patterns. These ten sections fall into five main movements. The Birth of Naciketas continues Nigel's search for an Indian classical modernism.
Simon Thacker and the Nava Rasa Ensemble play Nigel Osborne's The Birth of Naciketas
Simon Thacker and the Nava Rasa Ensemble play Shirish Korde's Nada Ananda
Simon Thacker and The Nava Rasa Ensemble was supported by Creative Scotland, PRS Foundation, Hope Scott Trust, Gem Arts, Nancie Massey Charitable Trust, and The Golsoncott Foundation.