November 2014 saw the Indian debut of Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti, at the Hindu newspaper's Friday Review November Fest in Coimbatore and Kochi. Supported by Creative Scotland, these performances marked the realisation of a long held ambition, to present in India a programme of my latest work exploring new genres developing Indian and Western traditions.
For the first time, Polish cellist Justyna Jablonska joined the quartet and we premiered my latest developments: a freshly reimagined Tappe (a Punjabi folk form) beautifully sung by Japjit Kaur, which will appear on our second album to be recorded later this year, and a very special collaboration with Raju das Baul, a spectacular young performer from one of Bengal's most philosophically and spiritually rich folk traditions.
After fortuitously discovering Raju's work online I had traveled to his home of Santiniketan to meet, work and rehearse with him, the goal being to create a new form of Baul Sangeet (Baul song). This turned out to be a meeting of kindred spirits with a deep musical understanding. Why? Perhaps because Baul's live for and through music, tapping into the well of shared human expression in its rawest, most profound form and this has always been my primary aim in my music.
The programme also included my virtuoso instrumental music, such as Aruna, the finale of the forthcoming duo album with Justyna Jablonska (which will feature tabla master Sarvar Sabri as special guest) and even my version of a favourite Gaelic song, which was received particularly ecstatically.
We were rewarded with standing ovations at both concerts and fantastic reviews:
"From Gaelic lore to lines from Lalan Fakir, Simon Thacker’s Svara Kanti stirred up a maelstrom of music, drawing from both Western and Indian Classical music with generous helpings of folk
....audience member, Parthasarathy....was full of admiration for Simon Thacker whose Western Classical upbringing must be so different from Indian music sensibilities. “For him to have studied our music, understood it and then reinterpreted it, is amazing,” he said." The Hindu, Coimbatore, full review here
"Simon Thacker’s musical experiments are joyously unconventional. When the cello, the tabla and the classical guitar merge with Baul and folk singing, the resulting music resonates well beyond the performance space....Unlike fusing several genres, what Thacker and his team have done is create their own musical tradition." The Hindu, Kochi, full review here
The reactionto my group and my music from audiences in the country that has provided so much inspiration told me that these could be the first of many successful performances in India, and I am sure that this was the start of a very special association with Raju das Baul, with whom I will produce exciting new work for a long time. In fact, we will be premiering a full programme at the Edinburgh Fringe festival as part of the prestigious Made in Scotland showcase this August.