Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti
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Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti

Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom | Established. Jan 01, 2011 | INDIE | AFM

Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom | INDIE | AFM
Established on Jan, 2011
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"Coimbatore, India, live festival review Nov 2014"

Indian music, the un-Indian way

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

Funnily, it worked. A guitarist from Scotland, a cellist from Poland, a Baul singer, a Punjabi folk artiste and a tabla maestro from our country…they made music that was sometimes strange but always interesting. One hesitates calling the performance a fusion concert as Simon Thacker, the creator of the group detests that term. He explained why at the inaugural concert of The Hindu Friday Review November Fest.

“It is diversity, not fusion. Each of us brings our own classical tradition of music and we stay true to that and, at the same time, develop new traditions.” He uses the word ‘coalesce’ to describe the music.

Cellist Justyna Jablonska was pure magic. The sonorous and sometimes soulful strains of sound coming from an instrument had one swaying to it. “We rarely get an opportunity to listen to this instrument here and it was grand,” said music critic Ramadevi. She also commented on the difficulty of marrying Indian and Western Classical music traditions. Another audience member, Parthasarathy, agreed but 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.

It was like a lec-dem as Simon took time off to explain each piece before launching into it — the scales, the tonal quality of the instruments, the re-interpretations. He pointed out how certain compositions had abstract Indian influences that were then recast in ‘un-Indian ways’. The duet with the cello and the guitar was all about that. In one of his solo guitar performance, the sounds were more Middle Eastern while another solo saw Simon using digital delay to create textures.

Japjit Kaur lent the vocals with her lilting Bhojpuri and Punjabi folk songs. For those who understood the lyrics, they were about the beloved and unrequited love. The music was familiar yet unfamiliar as the sonorous notes of the cello accompanied her, instead of the Punjabi dholak or the dafli.

Swaranjali, a guitar and tabla duet, followed. Sarvar Sabri’s flying fingers kept pace with the lightening movement of Simon’s fingers; it was like watching a sitarist. They then followed that up with a foot-tapping sawal-jawab.

For many, the performance by Raju Das Baul was the icing on the cake. Simon and Raju met on Facebook and came up with this performance, that had its world premiere in Coimbatore. Raju, in a flowing gown, a turban and with bells on his feet lovingly played the Khamak. Din to gelo, sandhya holo, paar koro aamare (the day is done, it is evening, take me across)…he sang. It was goosebumps all the way as Raju threw open his voice. One was transported to the paddy fields of Bengal and its blue skies.

There is something to be said about ancient folk traditions, they are simple and straight from the heart and one can’t help but respond in the same way. Raju Das sang another gem written by Lalan Fakir. The song exhorted one to drown in oneself. That was the only way to find the treasure. The one who merely floated through life would never find the gem…The Khamak that Raju played was phenomenal. Such a simple instrument and so much depth. And he brought drama and flourish into his performance by spontaneously breaking into a dance.

As Jayashree Vivek from the audience later observed, “There is something so primeval about this music. The Western music we heard was also brilliant. But that is something we appreciate, enjoy and acknowledge cerebrally. My response to Raju Das Baul was straight from the gut!”

A melancholy Gaelic composition came next. Simon explained it was the love song of a poor girl who falls in love with a rich man and is betrayed by him. It was a lore from the Highlands, and closing one’s eyes one could imagine the wild beauty of the meadows and the loch beside which the heart-broken girl sang her heart out. Of course, it was all instrumental with the cello and the guitar playing plaintively. When asked why he did not sing the song, Simon rolled his eyes and replied, “I’d rather poke my own eyes out with a hanger than sing!” But it was beautiful and moving and conveyed the pain without using words.

The finale was a shining coming together of all the musicians to perform ‘Aruna’, which means the lustre of the rising sun.

Web: www.thehindu.com/novemberfest

Tickets: http://thne.ws/novfest-tkts

Facebook: Friday Review November Fest 2014

Twitter: @frnovfest - The Hindu, India


"Kochi, India live festival review Nov 2014"

Harmonious blend

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. Thacker’s ‘Svara-Kanti’ is the quartet he founded to create new sounds and genres through extending the traditions of Indian and Western music.

Unlike fusing several genres, what Thacker and his team have done is create their own musical tradition. Simon warns, at the beginning of the show, that some of the Indian influences have been represented in an “unIndian” way.

The opening piece, titled ‘Shooting Star’, explored the marriage of Carnatic (in raag Bhairav) with Flamenco and jazz harmony. Says Thacker: “There is no such thing as pure music. Music has always been influenced by different cultures and nationalities. Flamenco, they say, originated from the music of the gypsies who came from Rajasthan.”

Japjit Kaur’s vocals brought alive the rich folk tradition of India, but radically reworked. The Bhojpuri love song she sang was backed by the cello and the guitar. Thacker’s solo performance, titled ‘Enchanted Forest’, was inspired by a strain he heard from the 1980’s Tamil film Arasiyal. He used the digital playing technique that creates denser textures in a classical guitar. “The classical nylon string guitar,” Thacker says, “is such a remarkably unIndian instrument and the limitations it imposes on the musician when playing Indian raga –based compositions are many.”

‘Swaranjali’, a guitar and tabla piece, is Svara-kanti’s claim to fame, played well to an appreciative audience. Thacker’s inclusion of a Gallic love song played brilliantly by Polish cellist Justyna Jablonska created a landscape of a Scottish countryside with music.

The highlight of the ensemble, however, was a bit of Baul singing by Raju Das Baul, whom Thacker fortuitously met at Santiniketan, Kolkata. Raju’s soulful voice with the khamak (instrument) and his slow twirls elicited quick appreciation from the audience.

Sarvar Sabri on the tabla kept rhythm through out the performance, his expertise evident from the effortless transitions between taals. - The Hindu, India


"Rakshasa album review"

Following the acclaimed guitar concerti of Nava Rasa Ensemble (Slap The Moon, 2011), which saw nine musicians blend Carnatic, Hindustani and Western classical traditions, classical guitarist/composer Simon Thacker scales back the ensemble size, but not his ambition, for Rakshasa, a formidable quartet exploration of Asian and Western sounds that bends the traditions as much as it does one's preconceptions. Specially commissioned works by composers Terry Riley, Nigel Osborne and Shirish Korde sit alongside Thacker's own compositions and arrangements of Punjabi folk songs. Like guitarist John McLaughlin's band Shakti, Thacker draws from both Northern and Southern Indian classical music, but whereas McLaughlin brought jazz vocabulary to the mix, Thacker's personal idiom is more heavily influenced by flamenco and classical traditions.

Thacker's guitar intro to "Dhumaketu" conjures flamenco and Indian spirits and is a continuation of a tradition whose roots lie with the arrival of the gitanos to Andalucia from India in the early fifteenth century. Violinist Jacqueline Shave states the melody before uniting with tablaist Sarvar Sabri and Thacker in intimate dialog where unison lines alternate with rapid call and response. These three-way dynamics are a recurring feature of the seventy plus minutes of Rakshasa, with the rhythmic fluctuations and tonal variations of composed and improvised lines proving constantly engaging.

Osborne's five-piece suite "The Five Elements" introduces vocalist Japjit Kaur. On the delightful "Ether-Akasha," Kaur's lulling voice seduces like the warmth of early morning sunlight, buoyed by gently singing violin, low-key tabla and Thacker's nuanced comping. "Air-Vayu"'s distant, other-worldly violin intro gives way to urgent guitar and violin—trilling then riffing— Kaur's fast-paced vocals and tabla. "Water-Jal" weds Kaur's soft vocal with Thacker's charged classical/flamenco voice. "Fire-Agni"'s greater rhythmic drive is matched by a pronounced sense of drama characterized by lightening unison lines and bursts of frenetic guitar and violin riffs. Kuar and Shave combine in lyrical harmony on the hypnotic "Earth-Prithvi."

Riley's sweeping fourteen-minute instrumental "SwarAmant" takes in European classical harmonies and Indian rhythms, pitching guitar and violin in striking contrapuntal orbits of shifting tempos where virtuosity and simple melody go hand in hand. Both a student and teacher of Indian classical music in his time, Riley's compositional breadth provides plenty of grist to Thacker improvisational mill. Riley's circular motifs and repeating patterns provide a framework for the dense, breathless unison lines between violin and guitar and Sabri's equally demanding—and notated—tabla parts. The contrast between delicate finger cymbals and dashing flamenco rasgueos hints at the range and depth of this compelling work.

Shirish Korde's ""Anusvara—6th Prism" begins from voice and drone and is described by its author as a sonic meditation. Yet the constant drone apart, this episodic piece is bursting with drama. Tense, insistent unison passages dissolve into slow, lyrical terrain with Shave's exquisite tone to the fore. Guitar, vocal and violin move between measured dialog and heady exclamation and on first listen this number's wholly unexpected conclusion sets the blood racing. Thacker and Sabri let rip on the scintillating duo piece "Svaranjali," while Shave expands the sonic playing field on the slightly manic "Multani"—a riveting, raga-based trio excursion, which for sheer power alone, provides an album highlight.

A tryptich of folk songs—three odes to love—highlights the romantic, lyrical nature of Punjabi song tradition. The catchy pop-like "Kahnu Marda Chandariya Chamka," the tender "Main Tenu Yaad Aavanga" and the rhythmically vital, dancing "Shava Ghund Chuk Ke" are vehicles for Kaur, and celebrate melody and story-telling. Thacker's "Rakshaka," with its psychadelic sound manipulation is singularly eerie. Singing Tibetan bowls, waterphones, and reverse recording techniques inspired by guitarist Jimi Hendrix' "Are You Experienced?" evoke the aura of Rakshasa, the shape-shifting demon of Hindu and Buddhist mythology. In the context of the music that goes before, "Rakshaka" may make for a surprising finale, yet its innovation and bold juxtapositions are in line with the spirit of the recording as a whole.

Pristinely mixed and produced by Calum Malcolm and boasting a lavish gatefold jacket beautifully illustrated by Sam Hayles, Rakshasa is a delight from start to finish. Thacker has crafted a work—an obvious labor of love—that would grace any classical concert hall or World Music festival. In short, a contemporary classic.
Track Listing: Dhumaketu; The Five Elements: Ether-Akasha, Air-Vayu, Water-Jal, Fire-Agni, Earth-Prithvi; SwarAmant; Anusvara – 6th Prism; Svaranjali; Multani; Kahnu Marda Chandariya Chamka; Main tenu yaad aavanga, Love Song; Shava Gund Chuk Ke; Rakshasa.

Personnel: Simon Thacker: classical guitar; Japjit Kaur: voice; Jacqueline Shave: violin; Savar Sabri: tabla.

Record Label: S;ap The Moon Records - All About Jazz


"Fascinating synthesis: Rakshasa"

Edinburgh based guitarist Simon Thacker is classically trained but his performance interest lies in the edge between Western classical music and Indian classical music. On this new disc, Rakasha, he performs with his ensemble Simon Thacker's Svara Kanti, in which he collaborates with Japjit Kaur (a singer from North India), the violinist Jacqueline Shave (leader of the Britten Sinfonia) and tabla master Sarvar Sabri. The material on the disc is a similar mixture with pieces by Thacker himself, Nigel Osborne, Terry Riley and Shirish Korde

Dhumaketu is the Sanskrit word for 'great comet' or 'falling star'. Simon Thacker's Dhumaketu is written for classical guitar, violin and tabla. It opens with a guitar solo which fulfills the function of the atap in North Indian classical music by introducing and exploring the tonality. The piece is based on an eight-note Western scale (the white notes of the keyboard) which corresponds to Raag Bhairavi in Hindustani music. The opening guitar improvisation to my ears has rather a Spanish sound, but when all three instruments join the results have a catchy rhythmic impetus and an interesting interaction develops between the three.

Nigel Osborne's music featured on Simon Thacker's previous disc, and he wrote The Five Elements for the ensemble on this disc. Each of the five movements is based on on of the five elements of Ancient Indian philosophy with Sanskrit texts drawn from references to the five elements in the Katha Upanishad. Each movement is a complex structure and in the notes Nigel Osborne describes the amazing fine details which have gone into them.

The first movement Ether - Akasha makes use of Hindustani and Carnatic ragas associated with the ether. It combines the rather contemplative tradition style vocalism from Japjit Kaur with rather more Western but very evocative rhythmic accompaniment. The second movement Air - Vayu is based on ragas related to the air. It opens with a fascinating violin solo which takes Jacqueline Shave's technique to the very edge (and she is magnificent), but then Kaur's vocals start they are fast and exciting and the whole movement takes on a rhythmic impetus.

The third movement Water - Jal describes the presence of purifying water at Naciketa's entry to the house of death and makes use of water related ragas. This combines Kaur's traditional style with a more Western accompaniment in the guitar, plus a selection of what sounds like electronics which get the piece some aetherial moments (in fact this is from a waterphone). The fourth movement Fire - Agni is based on fire ragas. It opens with another virtuoso violin solo, then joined by tabla and guitar, and finally Kaur's catchy vocals. The fifth and final movement Earth - Prithvi makes use of earth based ragas. It is a slow piece with a rhythmically hypnotic accompaniement.

Terry Riley became interested in Indian classical music after a 1964 concert given by Ravi Shankar and All Rahka and he went on to study with Pran Nath. His work SwarAmant for guitar, violin and tabla was written specially for the ensemble on the disc. It is a haunted, slightly disjointed piece, long and complex which builds slowly. Along the way, the combination of guitar, violin and rhythmic tabla rather reminded me of Stefan Grapelli's performances with the Hot Club of France (not a reference I would quite have expected) though there are also hints of Astor Piazolla. A fascinating piece, but not one I would quite have expected from Terry Riley.

Shirish Korde is an Indian composer who spent his early years in East Africa, arriving in the USA in 1965 he studied jazz, composition, analysis and ethnomusicology. The title of his piece Anusvara - 6th Prism is related to the Sanskrit word for 'after-sound', a concept associated with Yogic traditions of meditation. Written for guitar, Indian singer, violin and tabla, the piece is described as a sonic-meditation and the composer had the Yogic notions of sacred-sound in mind. It opens with intensely soulful vocals and throughout the piece moves between soulful and more intense rhythmic sections. It is a varied and rather intense piece.

Simon Thacker's Svaranjali (Sanskrit for 'tonal offerings') for guitar and tabla explores a hybrid scale which implies several Hindustani ragas (if you want further information I refer you to Simon Thacker's excellent booklet notes). For me the interest in the piece was rhythmic and the way Thacker combines the different rhythmic textures of the two instruments, though there is rather catchy melodic interest too.

Raag Multani is a widely played afternoon raga. Simon Thacker's Multani is inspired by a 1957 performance by the Hindustani vocalist Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Thacker's work is written for guitar, violin and tabla. The result is all based on a rather fascinating melodic germ which generates the whole work.

Thacker has arr - Planet Hugill


"Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti: Rakshasa review"

The rich diversity of musical influences available in this world can yield truly inspired works which weave multiple threads into a single aural “rope” or works which use cursory cultural details out of the desire to sound “exotic.” Happily, Rakshasa is a work in the first category, bringing together musical elements into an attractive musical package.

Thacker’s compositional output on the disc reflects this polycultural synthesis with a delightful blend of traditional sounding Indian music with very Western harmonic progressions. Shave’s violin playing clearly draws from traditional Indian practices but to my ears her sound is only a slight nudge away from American fiddle technique. Kaur’s voice is bright and clean without ever becoming irritatingly nasal. Sabri’s tabla playing is direct, focused, and provides ample forward momentum when present.

As I am not an expert in music of India, I can’t speak much about the traditions surrounding the influences of each composition. The notes provide a wealth of guidance on all of these issues but I never found much need to refer to them in order for specific tracks to make sense. Everything on the disc makes sense as it is and left few questions that led to a need for research.

If I could point to a single track that represents the core of the music, I would choose Thacker’s compositions Svaranjali. The scales and rhythms used throughout this propulsive work are right on the edge of traditional ragas and something you might find on a Bela Fleck album. It isn’t that Thacker has “cleaned up” Indian rhythmic and pitch vocabulary to fit Western classical guitar tradition, Thacker instead draws on elements of both musics to shape a fiery and groovy piece. - Sequenza 21


"Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti: Rakshasa review"

About a year and a half ago, we covered a stunning album called NADA ANANDA that featured the Nava Rasa Ensemble. This collection of powerful and innovative new music explored the synthesis of Indian and Western sounds and the interaction between the respective musicians.

The next evolutionary step in this venture is to develop this achievement into a more concentrated and interactive group. One that would pursue a more intricate interplay between the musicians and further the exploration possibilities of sounds all the while drawing out the richness and contrast between the cultures.

Simon Thacker’s Svara Kanti: Rakshasa is the embodiment of just that! With four composers, US pioneer Terry Riley, India’s Shirish Korde, Scotland’s Nigel Osborne and the visionary guitar virtuoso himself, Simon Thacker, who brings together three talented individuals to accompany him. The stunning voice of singer-songwriter – Japjit Kaur, Jacqueline Shave on the Violin and renowned Tabla Master Sarvar Sabri.

Their combined efforts result in 14 magnificent tracks (73 minutes) of world premieres that push the boundaries of inter-culture sounds. With each composer bringing their own perspectives and experiences ranging from North or South Indian classical, Western harmonics and Jazz to Punjabi folk and flamenco … Global Folk music in its true form! So if you’re going to wait for the bass to kick or that infamous ‘drop’ you can forget about it! …

The beauty about this album is that there is so much to take in, musically, philosophically and spiritually. While listening to the tracks I was working my way through the sleeve notes as it provided vital information on the meaning behind the workings. As much as there is scope to interpret what you are hear, there is actually purpose to the music.

Out of the 14 wonderful pieces the one that really stands out for me is the title track ‘Rakshasa’ (Sanskrit for Demon). From the moment it starts, there is a different quality about it, an electronic sound, but without the electronics just the use of reverse or backward recordings of the guitar. This technique was inspired by Jimi Hendrix’s track – ‘Are You Experienced?’ where reverse recordings of guitar and rhythms to create a sound where out of no where and nothing a crescendo would be reached (almost a surprise attack on the listener). Combined with choppy and dramatic Tablas (the style you’d find Talvin Singh playing) contributed by Sarvar Sabri and dark raga inventions by Simon make this a exceptional track! - NADA:BRAHMA


"Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti: Rakshasa review"

Musical adventures in India, Spain and more!
“Svara Kanti” is the creation of Simon Thacker, a classical guitarist based in Edinburgh. In this cross-cultural project , Simon and his fellow adventurers blend the musical flavours of the West and East in an exciting musical thali! South India blends with the flamenco guitar of Spain, western classical, jazz and influences from Jimi Hendrix to Indonesia. None of it feels forced, artist’s input weave the influences together whilst the whole the “work” if I may call it that, feels balanced. Classical, Indian, Flamenco and the other musical friends who meet in this musical feast , all get on to make this an exciting listen.

I’d heard “Svara Kanti” at the Sage Gateshead, promoted by Gateshead based Gem Arts UK,(who also provided support for this disc). I was disappointed that I was not able to purchase the work on CD that night. I felt thoroughly uplifted by the verdant spirituality, pulsing energies and musical tensions that the evening generated. It had been an experience not just a concert! Sometimes the recorded version of a memorable evening can lack some of that atmosphere that makes live performances so electric. Not with this disc!

Simon was joined for this project by violinist Jackie Shave , also a member of the Britten Sinfonia, vocalist Japjit Kaur, as well as internationally renowned tabla player Sarvar Sabri. Together they combined to perform the constituent parts of the project which included works by a number of living composers, as well as Simon Thacker’s own compositions and arrangements of existing pieces. This included Simon’s Edinburgh based colleague Nigel Osborne with his “Five Elements”.

The album has numerous personal highlights. “Air-Vayu”, part of Nigel Osborne’s “ Five Elements” has scurrying tabla and singing sorrowful violin from Jackie Shave. “Svaranjali”, has an opening whose theme has become a favourite for me with its gentle guitar and Sabri’s tabla ushering the listener gently in, with a gradual increase in pace and intensity as the guitar and tabla seem to be skipping together through the piece. Later the piece concludes its playful romp by experiencing a calming hush descending on the piece , which left me at peace also. Simon’s title work “Rakshasa” has the other wordly, surreal and deeply engaging sound of backwards recording (all explained in the excellent accompanying booklet) , whom Jimi Hendrix is credited as the influence for. This produces the effect of the listener never being allowed to feel that comfortable as the guitar and tabla work their way through this ominous musical morass-well, the title does mean in Sanskrit “Infested by Demons” so be careful in there! Finally, there is the absolute delight of the sweet voice of Japjit Kaur, whose opening to “Ether-Akasha” is pure serenity and conveys an elegance and grace to the music that is utterly beguiling in the opinion of this listener.

This album is a compelling and exhilarating meeting of musical styles, cultures, traditions, and moods. It is, as said earlier, lilke a delicious thali such that you’ll not need dessert afterwards. Listen and buy! - Roots of the World


"Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti: Rakshasa review"

A thrilling CD which develops innovations enjoyed in these musicians' first CD and offers a generous 73 mins of exciting music.

Japjit Kaur is a lovely singer who trained at Bhavan in West Kensington, where we often go. Jacqueline Shave is a distinguished free-lancer violinist who has traversed all the musics to be heard in our greatest of all musical centuries...

Simon Thacker is a restless innovator, and this great compendium ends with an enthralling piece which incorporates "reverse recording" of his guitar with notes, instead of decaying, "crescendoing" to demoniacal effect.

I don't have time or space for a full review, and so prefer to refer you to the experts at Nada Brahma. But make no mistake, this is music not to passed by or ignored by classical music lovers who are prepared to explore.

The presentation is colourful and exciting too, and this is likely to become one of our recordings of the Year.

Peter Grahame Woolf - Musical Pointers


"Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti: Rakshasa review"

The music of the Indian sub continent has long exerted a powerful influence over the imagination of western musicians of whatever category: classical, popular or jazz. In jazz music alone one recalls, and enthusiastically revisits, the wonderful cross cultural realisations of John Mayer and Joe Harriott, Paul Horn, Don Ellis and more recently John McLaughlin and Jan Garbarek. There are many others. Indo / Jazz fusion is a powerful genre within the jazz canon and though this disc is not wholly dedicated, nor indeed hamstrung, by the need to seek an accommodation with jazz per se it will be of great interest to readers of this website who possess an ecumenical frame of mind and are enthusiasts of the cross-over category that some commentators call `World Beat`.

It is evident from Thacker’s generously detailed sleeve notes that his project is informed by a high degree of musical and philosophical scholarship but one doesn’t have to have academic leanings to enjoy the staggering display
of virtuosity on offer, still less the passionate interpretations that take the fusion genre to new heights of sophistication.

Throughout the eight pieces that comprise the set list, which includes two song cycles, featuring beautiful purity of Japit Kaur’s voice, and an extended concertante like invention by the American minimalist pioneer, Terry Riley, one
is made aware of the rhythmic affinities that link Indian Classical music with Western folk and jazz modes. There are also references to Middle Eastern forms and flamenco. Thacker’s enthusiasm for the music of Segovia is clearly evident whilst there is more than a whiff of Romanian and Turkish exoticism in Ms Shave’s Enesco like violin voicings. A heady mixture, indeed! Furthermore, Thacker deploys his instrumental resources with subtlety so his sound world
never becomes oppressive to the ear; quite the reverse in fact and one is amazed that such textural variation can be achieved with so few instruments.

Similar variation is achieved in the programming with balances music of pietistic significance with lighter pieces, a couple of which achieve an almost `pop single ‘appeal whilst masking their deeper complexities. One such is a duo
for classical guitar and tabla utilising the blues scale and the Aeolian mode and sounding uncannily like `Classical Gas`, the 1968 Mason Williams hit. But the most intriguing cross-over realisation is saved for last with the title
piece. `Rakshasa` is a Sanskrit word for demonical possession and to achieve a truly malevolent sound Thacker employs the reverse multitracking effect first used by Jimi Hendrix in his tune `Are You Experienced` . The effect is both haunting and arresting, a most fitting testimony to Thacker’s fertile musical imagination with which to bring this fascinating disc to a close.

Reviewed by Euan Dixon - Jazz Views


"Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti: Rakshasa review"

The closing bars of “Dhumaketu” – a frantic but impeccably synchronised climax of strings, guitar and tabla, comprised of panicked descents and sudden leaps between octaves that ping with a brisk, elasticated propulsion – could comfortably be translated into swooping guitar solos and explosive power-chords, bringing a symphonic heavy metal epic to a point of triumphant collapse. It’s an example of the album’s fluid and conversational attitude to tradition. Thacker’s creative drive is borderless, fusing a great respect and fascination for cultural origin with the acknowledgement that even deeply embedded musical values can be uprooted from their geographical source and rethreaded through an elsewhere. That being said, this isn’t a garish collision of the West and the East, and rather than merely tack genres together to answer a few self-indulgent “what if”s, Rakshasa is a much more hazy compound of influences; an unconscious swirling of ideas that just so happens to draw cultural diversity to a dazzling central point.

Virtuoso melodies unravel like ribbon, or like spontaneous conversation – the players catch a point between meticulous co-ordination and seemingly organic consequence, flowing up and down between pitch and tempo like a river within which each ripple and splash has been carefully pre-empted. The centrepiece is Terry Riley’s “SwarAmant”: a 14-minute argument between Thacker’s moody and nimble classical guitar runs and Jacqueline Shave’s spikes and swan-dives of violin, stooping to contemplative exchanges of quiet before a dizzying final minute of rapid-fire micro-notes. Yet not a moment of stiffness sets in to the music’s technical precision, and Rakshasa pours forth from relaxed limbs that warmly welcome each sudden slowdown or frantic burst of energy, channelling each moment as if it were a timely inevitability unfolding from the moment previous. - ATTN: Magazine


"Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti: Rakshasa review"

An ambitious but highly successful melding of Indian and western music with instruments including violin and tabla brought together to create a cohesive sound.

Edinburgh’s Simon Thacker is a classical guitarist but, like George Harrison, he has seen how intertwining two styles can actually work.

Opening effort Dhumaketu is based on the eight note scale mixing flamenco, tihais (a rhythmic technique found in Indian classical music) and jazz harmonies.

By blending them, he has created something highly listenable but very different.

The styles don’t jar-they emote. Turn this on, tune in and be transported. A must for holiday listening. The album is out now. - Daily Record


"Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti: Rakshasa review"

How many times we have read the “fusion” label stuck to an indigestibly shallow mingle-mangle of an album and instantly felt the urge of throwing up, heaven only knows. For our good luck, there are still musicians who absorb hundreds of influences and synthesize them into substances that transmit, for lack of a better word, peace. Such is the case of left-handed guitarist Simon Thacker, who cites anything but the proverbial kitchen sink (including Hendrix and – get this – Megadeth) amidst his juvenile (or less) passions. At any rate, the principal focus of Thacker’s work resides in the chemical action between Eastern and Western components to bring forth various forms of aural compensation flavored with proper spiritual vibe. Music that sounds honestly melodic, intelligibly involved, rhythmically ambitious but, at the same time, effortlessly assimilable. And without traces of postcard commonplaces, believe it or not.

The leader is gifted with an unwavering yet super-sensible touch, a style unintoxicated by trivial tricks and thus cleanly efficient. Fans of John McLaughlin circa Natural Elements and Egberto Gismonti (just to name two names, one should add more to this list) will have no trouble in welcoming the forward-looking “rational emotionality” shown by the Edinburgh-based virtuoso, who penned several chapters in the program. In that sense, the gorgeous “Svaranjali” is my overall favorite of the whole CD; I heartily invite everybody to take a look at the YouTube clip of this piece – Thacker has a great channel there. Other highlights are Terry Riley’s “SwarAmant”, 14 minutes of rewarding display of lynx-eyed skill where Shave’s violin and Sabri’s tabla interact like constituents of a single body, and the cycle “The Five Elements” composed by Nigel Osborne. The latter includes a portion of Japjit Kaur’s contribution to the record; another is featured in a tryptic of attractive Punjabi folksongs towards the end of the set. The vocalist’s near-infantile tones are a little perplexing at the beginning; however, as soon as you become acquainted with that enchanting sinlessness, the realization that this type of accent is essential for the tunes is immediate.

There are lots of cultural derivations and technical details in this material, impossible to quote in the space of a mere writeup; a surgical analysis of the liners (and a visit to the composer’s website) will disclose the experiential extents of a man who strives to make brain and heart fight to a draw. After spending a few days with Rakshasa, this writer feels that the goal has been achieved. - Touching Extremes (Italy)


"Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti: Rakshasa review"

Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti's Rakshasa was released on 14th May on Slap The Moon Records. This debut recording with Svara-Kanti has been long and eagerly awaited. Now that it is here, where do you begin, with an album that is as monumental as this?

Perhaps I ought to start with a brief preamble and state that, for one thing, I have always been nothing less than in awe of Simon Thacker's classical guitar. We have very few, if indeed any of his generation or even younger classical guitarists of this caliber and musicianship, nor of his incredible breadth of material handled, ranging from classical to flamenco and classical fusion with Indian classical music and more. For another, I have to also confess to having given a previous recording with a previous ensemble, Simon Thacker and The Nava Rasa Ensemble, titled Nada ~ Ananda, a slightly mixed review, where I was somewhat less than overwhelmed by the Shirish Korde and Nigel Osborne compositions, with a particular bone of contention for me having been both composers' style of writing for the guitar, although there was nothing else to fault if you tried. Furthermore, I had also given a somewhat mixed review for a live performance of the first incarnation of Svara-Kanti (which featured Carnatic classical violinist Jyotsna Srikanth, since replaced by western classical violinist Jacqueline Shave), where I was less than happy with vocalist Japjit Kaur - who, in light of the present recording, must have suffered a dreadful cold or similar on the day, and/or might have been badly distorted by the SBC's in-house sound engineer, or else undergone a miraculous transformation, for I cannot fault her performance here, quite the contrary - and the same Korde composition, albeit in a different arrangement, as on the previously referred to Nava Rasa Ensemble album. Otherwise, there was little or nothing to fault about the performance and indeed much to like, and I was particularly taken also with Thacker's own composition.

The present incarnation of Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti consists of, in addition to Thacker on classical guitar, vocalist Japjit Kaur, classical violinist Jacqueline Shave and Sarvar Sabri on tabla. The replacement of Ms. Srikanth with Ms. Shave seems to have resulted in a better East - West equilibrium over all. Shave, the leader and director of the esteemed Britten Sinfonia, is outstanding and seems just perfect for this ensemble.

Rakshasa is, from start to finish, an incredible tour de force that leaves you breathless from the start and right through. Thacker, I was delighted to discover, has found the confidence to include four of his own superb compositions, all equally delightful, and three reimagined Punjabi folksongs that are as delightful. Straight from the opening Dhumaketu, Thacker and Shave, as well as Sabri, show their mettle, with a piece that also prominently highlights Thacker's strong flamenco influences both in composition and guitar, with touches of Segovia and Rodriguez discernible here and there and flamenco style guitar playing and strumming that not only will leave many a specialist flamenco player gasping but are an immense thrill. Shave keeps up admirably and elegantly, as does Sabri with his inventive tabla. The tonality is clearly Hindustani (North Indian) - essentially Rag Bhairavi, albeit with the addition of a diminished fifth, or rather, an augmented fourth as Indian music does not permit the former - but in Thacker's improvisational style, influences of the Middle East and Turkey are also discernible mainly in the opening free time guitar improvisation. After this, the interaction among the players and the rhythms get complex, with influences of the Carnatic (South Indian) konakol vocal rhythmic system prominent. The harmonies are also complex and might have come straight out of modal jazz. This, and all of the other works on Rakshasa, are worthy of more detailed exploration, but alas, time does not permit this.

Of Thacker's other compositions, Svaranjali - already familiar from a previous live performance, referred to earlier - is a duet for guitar and tabla. An extremely lively composition, using a hybrid octatonic scale of tonic, major second, minor third, natural fourth, augmented fourth, perfect fifth, minor sixth, minor seventh, tonic, that could imply a number of Hindustani Rags, as well as blues and altered Aeolian Church mode. The rhythm is complex with a polyrhyhmic structure in the theme. Thirty years ago this track might have been a sensational best-selling single, when guitar often entered the charts. Multani is based on the Rag of that name's parent thaat or scale (tonic, minor second, minor third, augmented forth, perfect fifth, minor sixth, major seventh, tonic - on D), another complex piece with an unusual cyclic rhythm of 4+3+4+4 beats and complex modal harmonies that Messiaen and Scriabin might have been proud of. And if you think Thacker's inventi - Rainlore's World


"Spirits in the Ether – The Sorcery of Svara-Kanti"

Do you believe in magic? I do. What’s more, I know that alchemy is real and spirituality still matters. I can prove it too, and I present Rakshasa, a new recording by Simon Thacker’s Svara-Kanti ensemble, as evidence in support of my claims.

In a climate of cliché, “musical alchemy” shows its age as a hackneyed description of work that you quite like, but don’t fully understand. Nonetheless, Svara-Kanti transform ancient ideas into strange new thought-dreams using mind, method and imagination. This is music that fully transcends genre because it traces the migrations of Indo-European ideas and traditions, not along earthly roads but through multiple dimensions.

The most accomplished attempts to create interconnecting pathways in music are seldom fully able to hide all the joins. In this collection of sometimes challenging, and often devastatingly beautiful pieces, world music is seen from above, without borders and beyond horizons. The differences dissipate and we are free to contemplate undisturbed our ingenious history, our cultural commonality and our shared humanity.

I make a rule never to read sleeve notes, previous reviews or press releases prior to listening to new music. I feel doubly justified in this case because the over-arching ambition seems self-evident from the first hearing of Rakshasa. It is music that is not a crude prototype but a brand new phenotype. This is what Thacker himself says in his opening remarks in his own extensive sleeve notes, “Svara-Kanti continues my exploration of the meeting of Indian and Western music and culture, not merely combining these traditions, but extending them into new sounds and genres”.

If this is the case, then I imagine that the meeting place is by a river, such is the fluidity of the playing and the confluence of thought within the arrangements. The overall feeling is of a relentless journey through a diverse landscape accompanied by a babble of international voices narrating, exclaiming, singing and talking. There is a brisk sketch from Spain in Dhumeketu, delicious gossip from the Punjab in Kahnu Marda Chandariya Chamka and a fiery tale of shape-shifting demons in the title track Rakshasa.

Kahnu Marda Chandariya Chamka (excerpt) by SVARA-KANTI ?

There is also an abundance of crosstalk in the scat-like quality of the vocal and instrumental exchanges, also hinted at in the background noise of world radio. The fuzzy sounds between the stations of western pop, raga blues, Hendrix’s acidic guitar and Bollywood jingle-jangles drop in and out of the playing in moments of great clarity and breathtaking technique. At times, I was reminded of the energy of Radio Tarifa harnessed to the discipline of the recital room with thoughts of Cruzando del Rio perhaps reinforcing the riparian imagery.

What seems remarkable to me having since read other reviewers, is the scant attention paid to Ether, a song from The Five Elements suite by Nigel Osborne. It is one of the most beautiful pieces of music that I have ever heard. For me, it sits easily alongside Gorecki’s Zakopane Graffitto inspired second movement from his Symphony of Sorrowful Songs as a piece of classical existentialism. It is a most visceral vocal expression of the almost unbearable beauty of being darkened by the bittersweet self-knowledge of non-existence.

Ether (excerpt) by SVARA-KANTI ?

Svara-Kanti combines Simon Thacker’s East Is West approach to classical guitar with the singular skills of stunning vocalist Japjit Kaur, world-renowned tabla player Sarvar Sabri and violin virtuoso Jackie Shave. Rakshasa is a rich mix and features specially commissioned new works by composers, Nigel Osborne, Shirish Korde and Terry Riley, along with a rich mix of Thacker originals and fresh arrangements of Punjabi folksongs.

Frankly, I have always suspected that avant-garde music makers have a touch of mischief about them, so it seems fitting that Rakshasa should also have a slightly disruptive air about it. You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs and the aforementioned Hendrix (to whom tribute is duly paid on the title track) decided that you had to smash your guitar to smithereens too. Simon Thacker and Svara-Kanti don’t go quite as far as making their instruments suffer for their art, but they push the boundaries just as hard. If you are the sort of jaded listener who feels that the shock of the new is old hat, then you may discover that Rakshasa is something else – quite something else.

The Curator

May 2013 - instrumentali.com


"Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti: Rakshasa review"

5 stars
Simon Thacker pulls off the impossible by creating a unique hybrid unto itself, Indian music composed with classical structure and with the improvisational depth found in traditional western jazz.
@CriticalJazz

Seldom am I at a loss for words and when I am some consider that a public service so allow me to start at the beginning. I severed ties with two publicists due to scheduling / health concerns as well as an incredibly mediocre level of talent that seemed to take finding it's way to my mailbox on a daily basis. Bottom line...I was bored. I wanted to continue my quest for new sounds and new levels of sonic enlightenment.

I received an email press release from guitar virtuoso Simon Thacker heralding his new release as literally being all things to all people with the primary focus revolving around an improvisational fusion of Indian music with the classical discipline and the improvised music known here in the United States as jazz. The name Jimi Hendrix was invoked, recording technology pioneered by the Beatles was referenced and to be blunt it all sounded a bit too good to be true. From a personal perspective, Indian music has never been in my wheel house be it from a pure harmonic perspective or the over abundance of odd if not occasionally bizarre time signatures that create an incredible sonic disconnect for this critic.

With the back story in place, Simon Thacker is a critics worst nightmare and a dome scratcher for most label executives. This is far more than Thacker attempting to show off his prolific talent as a classical guitarist while doing a riff on Indian music, Thacker performs with the technical proficiency of a highly skilled surgeon while embracing the music with a well developed connectivity that permeates not only the supporting cast here but the release as a whole.

World music gone wild...

While never attempting to burden the reader with an overtly technical review of any release, Rakshasa is perhaps the poster child as to why this rule continues to serve as a wonderful guideline. The theoretical aspects of this release are such that only those that have either studied the music or are perhaps theory majors would get anything out of a description that space prohibits me from providing. Similar artists have attempted to make this transition and most have failed miserably in the attempt. Simon Thacker is a guitar virtuoso that puts on an amazing musical display that should have fans of Indian music, world music and virtually all six string aficionados dropping their jaws in collective amazement at a new hybrid of sound that is fluid, effortless and embraces an often misunderstood culture with passion, grace and fire. - Critical Jazz


"Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti: Rakshasa review"

Elsewhere is always pleased to introduce interesting music from elsewhere . . . and this exceptional album is about as elsewhere as it gets.

British classical guitarist Simon Thacker is one of those well-traveled world citizens who has performed across Europe with various world music artists, leads his own ensembles which bridge the East/West divide, is passionate about Segovia, knows his jazz (and is a thrilling improviser as we shall see), here includes commissions from Terry Riley, British composer Nigel Osborne and India's Shirish Korde alongside his own work . . .

The small Svara-Kanti ensemble includes singer Japjit Kaur, violinist Jacqueline Shave and tabla player Sarvar Sabli . . . so we are in the world between contemporary classical, innovative Indian music and what can sometimes sound like Indo-gypsy jazz with a twist.

It is expansive, inclusive and thrillingly inventive, often unpredictable music which is grounded in many traditions (notably Indian folk) and -- hold your breath -- the title track at the end is a tour de force of backward/forward guitar sonics (over tabla, Tibetan singing bowls and waterphone) which is a real headphones trip. At six and a half minutes it is like a mini-raga inverted in from Mars.

Osborne's multi-part piece The Five Elements is a subtle suite from Ether through the whisper-thin opening of Air into Water, the tense Fire and into Earth -- and is the perfect lead-in to Riley's 14 minute centrepiece SwarAmant where scouring violin sears across the top of incendiary tabla and frantic acoustic guitar. Imagine the Kronos Quartet with Alla Rahka and a gypsy-jazz guitarist and you are almost close. Its mood, tempo and dynamic shifts will keep you enthralled.

Thacker's Multani is a mini-raga condensed into four and a half minutes and his adaptation of three Punjabi folksongs includes a hypnotically delightful love song and the evocative and exciting Shava Ghund Chuk Ke.

This 70 minute album -- in a beautiful and informative cover -- is a cleverly convoluted journey which will take you through Spain and the Middle East to northern India . . . and then in that final track send you out into the cosmos.

Yes, this is world music of a kind.

And most definitely elsewhere. - Elsewhere, New Zealand


"Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti: Rakshasa review"

"Rakshasa" is an album that features Simon Thacker’s unique perspective on Indian classical and ancient folk music; which includes experience of that great culture of South Asia. It also revolves around four principal characters: the guitarist, who is a sublime technician blessed with immense powers...
At first blush Simon Thacker’s Svara Kanti might give the impression that they are Shakti Redux, but could not be further from the truth. From the music on Rakshasa, it is clear that Mr. Thacker’s approach to fusing the European with the Indian is quite different from John McLaughlin and Shakti.
If anything, Mr. Thacker’s approach to the music digs deeper into Hindustani (North Indian), Carnatic (South Indian) and the least-known, yet oldest form of Indian classical music: Dhrupad. Mr. Thacker’s working virtuosity also features flamenco sketches, classical cadenza-like movements and improvisations in the jazz idioms that appear in his brilliantly executed inflections as he plays classical guitar. Then there is the instrument itself—an unadorned classical guitar, unlike the one Mr. McLaughlin used when he played with Shakti, which had several resonating strings under the main six strings he actually played. Mr. Thacker might perhaps be the first to acknowledge the influence that John McLaughlin’s experiments have had on his consciousness—and they would very likely remain just that—but then again this might not even be the case. The late sitarist Ravi Shankar and his beloved tabla player, Alla Rakha preceded any music that Shakti did at the height of their powers. Moreover Mr. Shankar’s elder brother—the great musician and choreographer and dancer Uday Shankar—took Indian music to the doorstep of the rest of the world even before his better-known brother did with his 1923 ballet, Radha-Krishna, a celebrated event that featured the prima ballerina, Anna Pavlova. But perhaps it does not pay to labour the point more than this, but is almost breathtaking to allow the music to waft over mind and heart, where it is best heard.

Rakshasa is an album overflowing with possibility. It is an album that features Simon Thacker’s unique perspective on Indian classical and ancient folk music; which includes experience of that great culture of South Asia. It also revolves around four principal characters: the guitarist, who is a sublime technician blessed with immense powers of expression, a rich dynamic and a musician with considerable compositional abilities. Mr. Thacker also reveals—based on the evidence on this record—that he might have contributed greatly to the language and literature of a music that has existed in some shape and form for thousands of years. The violinist, Jacqueline Shave, leader of the Britten Sinfonia, is an instrumentalist who brings a majestic technique, unbridled virtuosity and a wild imagination to this record. Her contributions are invaluable to the music. Despite her Western Classical background, she recalls the wonderful abilities of the great L. Subramaniam and his younger brother, L. Shankar, yet has a singular voice full of a floating grandeur that is marked by the ability to paint a myriad of hues and conjure wonderful textures in her “jugalbandhi” (musical dialogue) with Mr. Thacker and the tabla player, Sarvar Sabri, who in turn equals the magnificence of players such as Zakhir Hussain, Karsh Kale and Trilok Gurtu. Finally there is Ms. Japjit Kaur, an angelic voiced Indian classical vocalist who soars in a rarefied realm every time she is featured on this record.

The leader of the pack clearly is Simon Thacker. His playing affects an ethereal beauty that is unsurpassed by most musicians today. In fact he might easily be the worthy equal of guitarists such as Egberto Gismonti and Ralph Towner. Not only is Mr. Thacker a sublime technician but his artistry seems to soar above that of most mere mortals. His ability to extract such meaning and expression from merely six nylon strings speaks of true genius. His lines are well-rounded and curvilinear. His phrases float like feathers loosed by majestic condors as they soar in the thin air above all else. He leaps from plane to plane with improvisations that are worked forwards and backwards; then inside-out. Yet these lines have a dexterous flowing continuity about them and like all great music that emerges out of India, tells a compelling story with soulful depth. The guitarist is also a fine composer and his feature, “Dhumaketu” features an extended “alaap” (the Indian classical music statement of a theme) which is set at the beginning of Indian “raagas”. As a matter of fact, this composition is based on the harmonic inventions of the Phrygian modes that correspond to one of the most celebrated “morning raagas”: Raag Bhairavi. Mr. Thacker’s other significant contribution to this fabulous project is “Rakshasa” a bold leap of faith. It not only is a brazen meld of Indian modes, invisible Tibetan chants and considerable electron - The World Music Report


"Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti@Ardross Hall Nov 2012"

East meets West at an Ardross night to remember

A night to remember!
WHAT better place on a cold, wet Tuesday night in the Highlands than be transported to the subliminal heat of India?
Not the India of old, nor that of the 60's and Ravi Shankar, but a truly modern India, a juxtaposition of new and old, modern and traditional. Simon Thacker and Svara-Kanti (translates as "the beauty of sound") brought this modern fusion of East and West to Ardross Hall with a concert that brought together the best of Western classical and Indian music.
Simon Thacker on guitar was the melting pot, gliding effortlessly from the western octave to the eastern pentatonic scale with jazz chords merging in between, in truly virtuoso style.
Jacqueline Shave, leader of the Britten Sinfonia was the melodic core, a truly stupendous performance of musical agility with the background of her classical training complementing the complexities of Indian improvisation.
The rhythm and backbone came form the wonderfully dexterous Sarvar Sabri on tabla and percussion, he played with such perfection and precision and mesmerised us with the ethereal sound of the waterphone in the subliminal water track, part of the Five Elements by Nigel Osborne.
But the jewel in the crown was the beautiful voice of Japjit Kaur, transporting us through the Love Songs of the Punjab into the modernist Anusvara 6th prism by Shirish Korde.
The complexities of the pieces were unravelled by the humorous wit of Simon Thacker, giving us short descriptions of the origins and background, providing translation and understanding to this complex cross-cultural music.
This was a truly unforgettable evening, we will be hoping to welcome Simon Thacker and Svara-Kanti back to the Highlands next year with new beautiful and thought provoking music. - Ross-shire Journal


"Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti@Sage Gateshead Dec 2012"

Roots of the World, written by Richard Hurren

Simon Thacker’s Svara Kanti, Sage Gateshead, Thursday 6th December 2012

I had been very much looking forward to this concert having had the chance to listen to some of Svara Kanti beforehand. Despite a cold wet December Tyneside
night, I was not going to be put off some hot music! Indeed this music fusing together Indian and Western traditions proved for me a perfect vehicle to transport myself to somewhere warmer than Gateshead!
Simon who is a classical guitarist and based in Edinburgh was joined for this project by violinist Jackie Shave , also a member of the Britten Sinfonia, vocalist Japjit Kaur, as well as internationally renowned tabla player Sarvar Sabri. Together they combined to perform the constituent parts of the project which included works by a number of living composers, as well as Simon Thacker’s own compositions and arrangements of existing pieces.
Simon gave a helpful brief introduction prior to each of the pieces which highlighted a variety of influences including Indian Rags, the sacred Hindu texts Upanishads, blues, Hispanic influences, and minimalism. Jackie Shave’s violin at times played melodies and sounds which reminded me of aspects of the Russian 20th century composer Shostakovich.-The palette that the work was drawn from was therefore truly a fusion of cultures. There was also more detailed musical theory information regarding the music from Simon as well as much warmth and humour which contributed to the enjoyment of the evening.

From the very beginning, with the first piece Dhumaketu , one of Simon’s own compositions an Hispanic style of guitar playing took me to somewhere like a hot day in central Spain, the guitar then adopted a plaintiff mournful tone whilst the tabla expertly played by Sarvar Sabri , began its insistent percussive waves creating a sense of drama that never left the whole evening. I was prepared for the further musical and emotional excitement that lay ahead by the manner in which violin, guitar, and tabla engaged. It felt to like musical jousting or call and response- an exhilarating interplay. This set the overall tone for the evening, there being no sense of anti-climax after the initial work. We were then joined by Japjit Kaur whose sweet harmonies, hand movements and the sheer joy she displayed in her music making added another wonderful layer to the music on offer. Throughout the evening, the instruments conversed with each other, in a musical conversation. At times there were layers of sound built up including when the pace of the music particularly on tabla, voice and guitar was frenetic- it felt as if an explosion would take place. At other times there was utter tranquillity, Jackie Shave’s violin in particular bringing this for me in music that was dissonant and had a languid quality. This was an evening of great variety musically but also of varying feeling and energy levels. The whole effect for me of this musical cocktail was one of energy, calm, and emotional release as I felt myself taken on a sensory and emotional journey.
The highlight of Svara Kanti for me was the work Anusvara 6th Prism for voice, guitar, violin and tabla . Although short it made up for this with the wonderful combination of short stabbing sounds of guitar and violin, Japjit Kaur’s quickfire singing and Sarvar Sabri ‘s rapid delicate tabla playing producing a time of great excitement. I for one would love to see the music interpreted in dance adding movement and the physical colour of dancing garments to it! The piece resolves in a very laid back end with sitar backing leaving the listener at peace which is also how I was left at the end of the concert!The conclusion of the evening also included a thoughtful encore-a Punjabi love song beautifully sung by Japjit Kaur
If you are wondering whether Svara Kanti or any of Simon Thacker’s projects/works are for you , and if you like East meets West or “classical” meets “World” then this may be for you or at the very least an intriguing and potentially highly rewarding prospect. Simon promises further works which hopefully will mean he will get the chance to return to Sage Gateshead with Svara Kanti or a new project once again.
Before ending this review thanks are due to the Sage Gateshead and local multicultural arts organisation Gem Arts for helping to make this evening a reality.

first published on Dec 7th 2012 at https://www.facebook.com/RootsoftheWorld - Roots of the World


"Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti@Symposium Hall Edinburgh Nov 2012"

Symposium Hall is a new 158-seat church conversion venue in Edinburgh’s attractive Hill Square. Its mix of tradition and newness made a fitting venue for the final date in Svara-Kanti’s UK tour. Encoded in the name (svara = sound/notes and kanti = beauty) is the group’s raison d’être; the new territory to be found in the marriage of Indian and Western instruments and traditions. Led by classical guitarist and tireless seeker Simon Thacker, the group presented a programme of commissions, arrangements and original compositions.

Seated in the front row was Scottish composer Nigel Osborne. The movements of his suite The Five Elements are based on ether, air, water, fire and earth as described in the Hindu Upanishads. The resulting slow-fast-slow-fast-slow structure features a Sanskrit text which was movingly sung by Japjit Kaur. What the Western instrumentalists bring to the project is more than the interpretation of a written part. Violinist Jacqueline Shave, also leader of Britten Sinfonia, shone in some very affecting passages which were improvised on the raga of the movement. Thacker nicely defined a raga as “more than a scale but less than a melody”. The central movement had tabla player Sarvar Sabri reaching for his waterphone (invented by Richard Waters). This instrument’s mesmerising sound involves bowing its variously sized metal rods and allowing the sound to be modulated by water moving inside the metal pan at its base.

Destined perhaps forever to be labelled a minimalist pioneer, Terry Riley’s musical interests are diverse, and he has studied with Hindu musician Pandit Pran Nath for 30 years. He also has a son who is a classical guitarist, which makes him an obvious choice for a commission. Riley’s SwarAmant (a neologism meaning “Lover of musical sounds”) was introduced as a “concerto for three”. Unusually, it features a fully notated tabla part. As far as this engaging piece is from In C, I could detect Riley’s voice. It was certainly a vigorous virtuoso workout for all three who, in its 15-minute course, gave a very good account of themselves.

The evening’s final commission was by Boston-based composer Shirish Korde, whose “sonic meditation” Anusvara 6th Prism featured many aspects of Indian musical culture: “alap”, where the notes of the raag slowly unfold during unmetred improvisatory passages, “jor”, the ancient Dhrupad rhythmic vocal style which contrasts with alap, and a “shruti box”, providing an atmospheric and grounding tonic drone throughout. Based on the Rohini raag, the flattened sixth degree of the scale made for some very poignant phrases, beautifully played by Jacqueline Shave.

The programme’s lengthier pieces were punctuated by much lighter songs, arranged by Thacker. Main Tenu Yaad Aavanga, a Punjabi love song by Asa Singh Mustana and Surinder Kaur, had a simple charm. Ironically, its triadic harmony qualified it as the evening’s most Western-sounding item. Narinder Biba’s Khanu Marda Chandariya Chamka advised all males present to treat their girls well. The lightest of the three, which served as encore, was Surinder Kaur’s Sava Ghund Chuk Ke. The range of Japjit Kaur’s vocal style was thrown into relief in her ability to alternate between these popular songs and the more serious items.

The quest for new musical territory has edged Thacker into composition and this programme featured three of his pieces. Dhumaketu (“Great Comet”), which opened the programme, featured a virtuoso guitar introduction. Wisely, in my view, Thacker retained the improvisatory urgency of Indian musical culture and this piece contains space for extemporisation on tabla and guitar respectively. What impressed me about this piece was that there was no distinction in tightness between composed and improvised passages. Svaranjali (“Tonal offerings”), the programme’s only duo, featured catchy guitar-tabla conversations. The pairing of classical guitar and tabla seems so natural that it’s surprising it hasn’t been used more often in the past.

It’s a chicken-and-egg issue but part of what makes Western music sound Western is the instruments. A natural hybrid of East and West perhaps does not lie easily on a guitar. One solution is alternative tunings. The one which best suits the raag at the core of Thacker’s Multani converts the standard tuning of E–A–D–G–B–E to D–A–D–G–B flat–E flat. This extraordinary situation, where the pitch of half the instrument is unreliable, requires major rewiring of a lifetime’s habits. This was nowhere apparent in this piece. Thacker threw himself into it as though it were home soil. It is this sort of courage, together with the dedication to make the unnatural familiar, that results in extraordinary musical projects like this. I sensed from the musical communication between the very impressive individuals involved that they know they are onto something special. I expect great things in the future.

Submitted by Alan Coady on 27th November 2012

***** - Bachtrack.com


"Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti@Symposium Hall Edinburgh Nov 2012"

By Jim Gilchrist

Contemporary classical sensibility, heated flurries of flamenco, cosmic deliberations from ancient Vedic texts and a hastily admitted youthful infatuation with heavy metal… you get it all with the powerful East-West fusion ensemble led by eclectically-minded Scots classical guitarist Simon Thacker, which played Surgeon’s Hall in the penultimate concert of a lengthy tour of Scotland and beyond.

Svara-Kanti comprises Thacker with violinist Jacqueline Shave, tabla player Sarvar Sabri and singer Japjit Kaur, between them generating often beguiling tonal textures and shifting moods. They opened with the quick-fire Indo-Flamenco exchanges between guitar and percussion in Thacker’s own composition, Dhumaketu, before the full quartet played a new work by Nigel Osborne, The Five Element. This was an often restrained but vividly toned sequence, shifting from drifting violin harmonics and gently crooning vocals to more muscular developments – not least when Sabri’s waterphone seemed to unleash a cavern full of spectral voices, while Shave’s violin smouldered beautifully in the Fire movement.

This ambitiously ranging programme also included SwarAmant , a commission from Terry Riley, which featured intense conversations between guitar and violin and frenetically complex tabla work. Elsewhere, Multani combined brisk riffing with shadowy Indian Ragi modes.

Leavening the more intense material were some winsomely melismatic Punjabi songs from Kaur who also shone in, Anusvara 6th Prism.

* * * *By Jim Gilchrist
Published on Monday 26 November 2012 03:18

Music

Contemporary classical sensibility, heated flurries of flamenco, cosmic deliberations from ancient Vedic texts and a hastily admitted youthful infatuation with heavy metal… you get it all with the powerful East-West fusion ensemble led by eclectically-minded Scots classical guitarist Simon Thacker, which played Surgeon’s Hall in the penultimate concert of a lengthy tour of Scotland and beyond.

Svara-Kanti comprises Thacker with violinist Jacqueline Shave, tabla player Sarvar Sabri and singer Japjit Kaur, between them generating often beguiling tonal textures and shifting moods. They opened with the quick-fire Indo-Flamenco exchanges between guitar and percussion in Thacker’s own composition, Dhumaketu, before the full quartet played a new work by Nigel Osborne, The Five Element. This was an often restrained but vividly toned sequence, shifting from drifting violin harmonics and gently crooning vocals to more muscular developments – not least when Sabri’s waterphone seemed to unleash a cavern full of spectral voices, while Shave’s violin smouldered beautifully in the Fire movement.

This ambitiously ranging programme also included SwarAmant , a commission from Terry Riley, which featured intense conversations between guitar and violin and frenetically complex tabla work. Elsewhere, Multani combined brisk riffing with shadowy Indian Ragi modes.

Leavening the more intense material were some winsomely melismatic Punjabi songs from Kaur who also shone in, Anusvara 6th Prism.

* * * *By Jim Gilchrist
Published on Monday 26 November 2012 03:18

Music

Contemporary classical sensibility, heated flurries of flamenco, cosmic deliberations from ancient Vedic texts and a hastily admitted youthful infatuation with heavy metal… you get it all with the powerful East-West fusion ensemble led by eclectically-minded Scots classical guitarist Simon Thacker, which played Surgeon’s Hall in the penultimate concert of a lengthy tour of Scotland and beyond.

Svara-Kanti comprises Thacker with violinist Jacqueline Shave, tabla player Sarvar Sabri and singer Japjit Kaur, between them generating often beguiling tonal textures and shifting moods. They opened with the quick-fire Indo-Flamenco exchanges between guitar and percussion in Thacker’s own composition, Dhumaketu, before the full quartet played a new work by Nigel Osborne, The Five Element. This was an often restrained but vividly toned sequence, shifting from drifting violin harmonics and gently crooning vocals to more muscular developments – not least when Sabri’s waterphone seemed to unleash a cavern full of spectral voices, while Shave’s violin smouldered beautifully in the Fire movement.

This ambitiously ranging programme also included SwarAmant , a commission from Terry Riley, which featured intense conversations between guitar and violin and frenetically complex tabla work. Elsewhere, Multani combined brisk riffing with shadowy Indian Ragi modes.

Leavening the more intense material were some winsomely melismatic Punjabi songs from Kaur who also shone in, Anusvara 6th Prism.

* * * *By Jim Gilchrist
Published on Monday 26 November 2012 03:18

Music

Contemporary classical sensibility, heated flurries of flamenco, cosmic deliberations from ancient Vedic texts and a hastily admitted youthful infatuation with heavy metal… you get it all with the powerful East-West fu - The Scotsman


"Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti@Sage Gateshead Dec 2012"

Review by Hedd Thomas

Simon Thacker returned to the Sage Gateshead on this icy winter evening to perform an eclectic mix of new compositions. Many were original compositions by Thacker himself or his arrangement of traditional and popular Punjabi songs, while compositions by three other professional composers also featured, including one by the father of minimalism, Terry Riley. The electric tenpura drone was switched on and the performers tuned their instruments as a steady flow of latecomers dripped into the hall. Then the magic began.

Simon Thacker struck a string and a single note, pure and steady, resonated around the room. Another strike: the same note, turning into a two-note trill. A third strike: the same note, the same trill, then a flurry down and up the scale and back to the start. A fourth strike: the same note followed by an even more embellished flurry that landed back at the start. Each strike went on its own bluesy exploration, yet each strike started and finished on the same note, its tonal centre, its home. Suddenly, a riff was established in the guitar that saw it leap from string to string. Sarvar Sabri entered with strikes and explorations of his own on the tabla, shortly followed by Jacqueline Shave entering on the violin. Somehow the violin and guitar enter into a conversation. They united in tone and rhythm. But it didn’t last, for something caused an argument! The violin raced up and down full of raw emotion while the guitar futilely tried to reason with her in a composed voice. It was a battle between two minds, two ways of seeing, and in the middle was the tabla playing the flurry of extra thoughts that in these situations are never said but are simply lots in the ether. Finally, there was calm between the opposing forces. Just the tabla remained, the eternal mediator. It was called Dhumaketu, which Thacker translated as ‘Great Comet’, and ideas of a cosmic proportion could certainly be heard and felt.

A new commission written by the Edinburgh-based composer Nigel Osbourne appeared next. Titled Five Elements, it was a five-movement song-cycle based on the mysteries of ether, air, water, fire and earth respectively, with the text taken from ancient Hindu tales. Thacker explained that a quirk of the composition is that the tempo mark of the first movement has one crotched equalling 68.82, which is the frequency in hertz of a low D in a particular temperament. Singer Japjit Kaur entered the stage and took her place in the centre. She sang into a microphone and read from notation on a stand, both of which caused an unfortunate barrier between her and the audience, which meant that from the stalls only her eyes and forehead were visible. The first and second movements were a mixture of steady drones and exploratory melismas – pleasant but perhaps a little unoriginal. It was the third movement, however, that grabbed the attention of the audience. Sabri picked up his waterphone and bowed a few eerie, transparent shrills, which seemed to dance around the hall as he spun the instrument in circles with his wrist. Japjit Kaur’s voice cut across, its quality pure and almost childlike in its narrowness and lack of vibrato, as if the tone was all made in the mouth, bypassing the lungs, chest and throat altogether. The combination was both haunting and lulling and was unlike anything I had ever heard before. “Wow,” whispered Sabri as he bowed one final icy beam of sound before gently placing the waterphone back on the ground.

Terry Riley’s SwarAmant closed the half. Another piece commissioned especially for Simon Thacker, he explained that its name means ‘Lover of Sounds’ and that, unusually, every single strike for the tabla is notated as opposed to merely guidelined with lots of space for improvisation. On first impression SwarAmant sounded less Indian in its tonality and more Hispanic, though the rhythms and the use of the tabla weaved into it unmistakable strands of the Subcontinent. The melodies that each instrument played seemed unrelated, though each was hypnotic in its own way, and there were numerous cadenze for all providing each a chance to display some virtuosic flair.

The second half was going to be devoted almost entirely to Thacker’s own compositions and arrangements, which I was pleased about as it seemed to me that Dhumaketu had been the more successful and more engaging work of the three performed up until now. The first of these next ones was Svaranjali, a duet for guitar and tabla – two instruments, reckoned Thacker in his spoken introduction, that have a number of similarities, including the fact that they are both played by striking it with the flesh and both have a lot of virtuoso solo repertoire. A number of arranged Punjabi songs also featured, which provided an opportunity for Japjit Kaur to show off the many different qualities to her voice. In Main tenu yaad aavanga she sang beautifully, the notes being pure but each phrase starting and ending ever so - United World Radio


"1320 Radio Edinburgh Festival review 2015"

It’s been my habit each year to pick one or two things that I really want to see at the Edinburgh Festival and make a concerted effort to overcome my aversion to the teeming hordes that engulf the Scottish capital throughout August.

This year, I paired a visit to The Amazing World of M.C. Escher with the latest incarnation of Simon Thacker’s Svara Kanti. The former is an exhibition of visionary graphic art by a twentieth century Dutch Master, the latter is an equally prescient musical exploration by a twentieth century music master from Pentcaitland.

More about Escher later, but the link is nowhere near as tenuous as my trite introduction would suggest. The somewhat reclusive Dutch artist was seen as an oddity in his lifetime, but later came to be revered as a “one man art movement”. Thacker is a classical guitarist and composer of considerable note who also likes to plough a singular artistic furrow. He could usefully be described as a one-man sound movement.

Thacker is Scotland’s highest profile, best-kept secret insofar as he has already established a reputation for taking the cutting edge and sharpening it even further. His work involves immense patience and intense concentration, but he’s consistently been rewarded with five-star reviews and enthusiastic audience responses. Still, you can’t escape the feeling that his free-spirited music really ought to be broadcast from the ramparts of the famous castle. The results of his cross-cultural, investigative mind-set would surely restore faith in Fringe as a hotspot for ambitious music with a truly international outlook.

Svara Kanti is one of several colourful musical personalities Thacker has created alongside his Ritmata project, and his more classically orientated solo/duo work. In this latest line-up at the Sumerhall venue, he was joined by the young Bengali minstrel Raju Das Baul and the wonderful tabla player, Sarvar Sabri. Thacker on classical guitar makes up an extraordinary trio full of power and raw energy using unexpected instrumentation that includes Raju Das Baul on khamak. The overall outcome was extremely percussive with strong interplay in particular between guitar and khamak, a peculiar stringed drum that, to my ear, sounds almost like an acoustic precursor of the theremin.

Sabri on tablas takes on the role of the sublime leveller. Although the music (like all things young and new) was sometimes in a frantic rush to make itself heard, Sarvar Sabri’s wise hands provided a light but necessary touch of worldly experience. On songs like Menokaa Maathaay Dilo Ghomtaa, a traditional Baul song, the sharp shapes thrown by guitar and khamak are somewhat softened by the warmth of the tablas, yet there is the always the feeling of Sabri egging the others on and giving them licence to roam.

As Thacker himself has commented in notes to the setlist, the effect on this song was achieved with, “the playing of extended techniques on all the instruments, particularly guitar, and a spiky harmonic character I developed from expanding the scale to create an anarchic soundworld and unique extension of the Baul tradition.”

Raju Das Baul is one of the most exciting new personalities to emerge from an 800-year old tradition of peripatetic song. The twenty-five year old was born and raised in the Baul heartland of West Bengal, and he infuses a youthful sense of joy into the profound spirituality of Baul song.

A Baul minstrel traditionally wanders from village to village, bringing music with him and leaving behind a sense of continuing relevance between the past and the present, between ancestors and descendants, and more importantly, between faith and existence. Much of lyrical content is about the smallness of humankind in relation to the greatness of spiritual totality.

In order to sing convincingly about such things, you must have belief, and that is the abiding memory I will have of seeing Raju Das Baul for the first time. He is an absorbing performer who has been singing since the age of five, and his maturity is already self-evident. More than that, a song seems to pour out of him, streaming down through his open arms and emanating from his outstretched fingertips.

Simon Thacker plays classical guitar like a man who is determined to push his instrument to the very limits of its tolerances. Sometimes, you can even hear it fighting back, but this is the sound of musicians testing the boundaries of music, not necessarily their own virtuosity. Thacker’s latest Svara Kanti incarnation was built to boldly go out into the unknown, but it’s on a journey to create new forms, not simply seek them out.

In a performance that lasted just over an hour, some highly seductive new soundworlds were visited where the liquidity of Baul balladry gelled marvellously with Thacker’s delicate touch and Sabri’s mellifluous tabla playing. Their version of Tagore’s Ekla Chalo Re, the famous anthem of the Bengali anti-partition movement in 1905, re-instated the stamp of authenticity to the song’s original premise. It’s a tune that has been made over many times to the point of bastardization, but Svara-Kanti not only resuscitated the melody, they gave it a new suit of clothes too. Thacker explains his approach this way, “(It was).. a favourite song of Gandhi’s, (and) this song I would say is the most harmonically sophisticated of my re-imaginings as I actually changed the [perceived] mode of the piece through the progression I came up with.”

As I write this, one of the most interesting sound movements in music today has already recorded in a studio somewhere near the Athens of the north. The results will be as startling aurally as anything that Escher ever imagined visually. For me, the parallels between Escher’s endlessly morphing, yet seamlessly interlocking tessellations, and Thacker’s stretching of eastern and western forms into new patterns are as obvious as they are striking.

However, Svara-Kanti is different in one essential element, and that is the visceral nature of the music they play. Escher’s new worlds of the imagination reflected his rather austere personality. Thacker, Sabri and Raju Das Baul celebrate the esoteric with something approaching wild abandon. Creative Scotland and the Made in Scotland initiative are to be commended for being quick to recognize the relevance of Svara Kanti with financial backing. However, in terms of greater cultural outreach and potent collaboration in the arts, it must be hoped that Thacker gets even more support to develop this project much further. The rewards for all will be very rich indeed.

Michael S. Clark

26.8.15 - 1320 Radio


"The Herald Edinburgh Festival review 2015"

A real asset to the 2015 Made in Scotland Showcase, this marvellous mix of cultures is a fresh and fascinating approach to global folk music. A remarkable fusion of East and West, Simon Thacker’s Svara Kanti exposed the mesmerising beauty of Bengal’s traditional music, fragranced with jazz, flamenco, blues and Celtic hues. Having long been exploring the musical heritage of the South Indian subcontinent, Thacker has brought together a sterling trio who reimagine this centuries old music in a modern, multicultural context. Showcasing the ancient Baul tradition of expressing spirituality through song, vocalist Raju das Baul conveyed the mysticism of these haunting and captivating songs with a stirring and soulful tone. A melting pot of musical styles, the trio produced a moving and magnetic sound. Traditional Baul song Menokaa Maathaay Dilo Ghomtaa which describes a conflict between the God Shiva and Goddess Uma began with intricate rhythmic relationships, with tabla player Sarvar Sabr bringing an astonishing palette of colour to this piece. Raju das Baul’s intricate improvisation makes the vocal line sound almost like free jazz, with the multicultural strands of the music made evident by bluesy harmonies coming through from Thacker’s virtuosic guitar playing. - The Herald


"The Scotsman Edinburgh Festival review 2015"

Edinburgh Festival Fringe music review: Simon Thacker’s Svara-Kanti, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Jim Gilchrist

★★★★

RAJU das Baul looks as if he has stepped out of a particularly opulent piece of Mughal art. Clad in vivid motley topped by an orange turban, bells jingling at his ankles, he is extravagant in garb and gesture and sings with passion.

The latest recruit to venturesome Scots classical guitarist Simon Thacker’s ongoing Indian explorations, Baul proves something of a revelation, representing a seven-centuries-old Bengali tradition of itinerant minstrel-mystics.

He also plays the khamak, a small drum tightened or slackened by a string which he strikes with a plectrum, producing an astonishingly vocal sound that can range from rhythmic twanging to explosive barks and yelps.

In Thacker’s “re-imaginings” of Baul repertoire, singer, guitarist and long-standing percussionist associate, Sarvar Sabri, seemed to be thriving on the collaboration. Songs such as the traditional Menokaa Maathaay Dilo Ghomtaa, saw Baul’s impassioned singing accompanied by almost bluesy strikes and riffs on guitar and some dramatic sparring between guitar and the khamak, the distinctive rattle and thump of Sabri’s tablas underpinning all.

Thacker’s guitar work was seamlessly subsumed into the mix, rather providing any overtly lead passages, although an untitled instrumental opened with a Hispanic-Indian sounding guitar prelude before the trio worked up quite a groove together.

The Baul tradition was apparently a big influence on the Bengali poet and polymath Rabindranath Tagore, the trio playing his song Ekla Chalo Re, which became an anthem of the anti-partition movement in the early 20th century and which in this arrangement, with its flamenco-like guitar flurries, developed dramatically.

The final song, Dil Doriar Majhe, was, we were told, a warning of the insidious nature of evil and lustful thoughts. With its forcefully percussive climaxes, such thoughts were dismissed, if with a decidedly suspicious degree of relish. - The Scotsman


"TV Bomb Edinburgh Festival review"

It can be a tricky business bringing the traditions of different musical cultures together purposely, to produce something that sounds whole, complete and intelligent. Of course, the entire history of music is replete with examples of musics mixing, influencing, fusing and merging; it is something that often happens very naturally and undetectably. The resultants frequently become new cultural traditions, sometimes seamlessly taking the place of old ones.

The premeditated hand-knitting of the intercultural can be more difficult to pull off, but Simon Thacker is an experienced intercultural collaborator, and deftly avoids all the potential pitfalls. On the face of it, putting together a classical guitarist, a tabla player and a singer of the Bengali Baul folk tradition might at best seem eccentric, but what Thacker’s Indo-Western ensemble delivers is the opposite: various elements of their respective traditions are teased out and brought together to create something new and very sane.

In many ways the star of the show is the singer Raju das Baul, whose most beautiful of voices is simply entrancing to hear. His performance is wonderfully understated—timeless—and he punctuates it with graceful movements and turns that set his ankle bells off in an accompanying tintinnabulation.

Thacker’s accompaniment makes use of a number of extended techniques, which allow him to integrate fully within a tradition whose sound world is differently inflected and nuanced to the Western one. His guitar playing becomes part of the warp and woof of the ensemble—integrated rather than distracting. The ensemble is held together by Sarvar Sabri’s brilliant tabla playing, which punctuates the music with great subtly, dotting its i’s and crossing its t’s.

The intimate setting—one of Summerhall’s many quirky spaces—wholly works in the ensemble’s favour, allowing the audience to hear with absolute clarity, the delicate traces of the music. By the end of the evening, Thacker has more than shown us exactly how good an intercultural collaboration can be. - TV Bomb


"ThreeWeeks 5 star Edinburgh Festival review"

This too short hour of virtuosic Baul music – re-imagined by guitarist Simon Thacker – reinterpreted Bengal’s traditional, mystical song. Relaxing and invigorating in turns, the interweaving of punk, funk, flamenco and soul with Baul ensured it was not too unfamiliar for western ears. Thacker was not the only great artist entertaining us this evening, Raju das Baul has travelled from Bengal to sing beautifully, telling the traditional stories of his culture with clarity and sensitivity. Tabla master Sarvar Sabri played with deceptive ease, demonstrating why this hardest of percussion instruments is also the most expressive. A highlight was Menokaa Maathaay Dilo Ghomtaa fusing cutting edge guitar technique with traditional eastern instruments. The ‘Made in Scotland’ initiative has excelled itself.
Summerhall, till 23 Aug.
tw rating 5/5 | [Louise Rodgers] - ThreeWeeks


Discography

Debut CD "Rakshasa" released May 2013 on Slap The Moon Records

"Trikala" (double album) coming in 2016, supported by Creative Scotland

Photos

Bio

Indian/Western ensemble Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti has been acclaimed across the world for redefining the limits of intercultural collaboration. Simon’s pioneering new music and reimaginings, as well as commissions by some of the world’s greatest composers, have developed new genres exploring the meeting and expansion of Indian and Western traditions. They are currently working on their second album, the double album Trikala, designed to be the most advanced Indo-Western release up to this point.

Svara-Kanti last year made their debut in India to standing ovations and ecstatic reviews, and their consistently brilliant performances have seen them tour extensively across the UK, including Alchemy at London’s Southbank Centre, Cheltenham Music Festival, Buxton Festival, Milapfest, Sound Festival, Edinburgh Fringe, Liverpool Jazz Festival and Glasgow Jazz Festival.

Their debut album Rakshasa set a new benchmark for Indian/Western music. Featuring world premieres by Simon, US Minimalism legend Terry Riley, India's Shirish Korde and the UK's Nigel Osborne, as well as Simon’s reimaginings of folksongs by Punjabi luminaries, Rakshasa was hailed as the most important Indian/Western release for a generation by over 50 major publications and journalists around the world spanning Indian, Western classical, jazz, folk, Asian, free improv, Rock, and world music. With awards in several “albums of the year” lists and Simon’s Svaranjali played on over 200 US radio stations alone, Rakshasa has transcended all boundaries and been recognised as the most important intercultural release for many years. The follow up is currently being recorded, and features several special guests.

Simon’s vast musical experiences inform his unique musical language, developed through a lifetime of immersion in many musical cultures and a quest for new forms of expression. His music unites the immense expressive possibilities of ragas with Western harmonic explorations, combines the explosive Indian rhythmic systems with the boundless searching of Western classical and jazz, reinvents folk styles and draws inspiration from sources as diverse as Flamenco, Qawwali, Heavy Metal, and Jimi Hendrix.

Usually also featuring the beautiful voice of Japjit Kaur, violinist Jacqueline Shave and tabla master Sarvar Sabri, their Indian debut last year saw them joined for the first time by Polish cellist Justyna Jablonska, as well as the premiere of an exciting new collaboration with Raju das Baul, a spectacular young exponent of one of Bengal’s spiritually and philosophically richest folk forms. This new collaboration was selected to be part of the 2015 made in Scotland showcase at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, performing 10 shows, on BBC Radio 3 In Tune, BBC Asian Network and on STV.

More reviews:
"Simon Thacker’s Svara-Kanti is far more than just a vehicle for his virtuosic fusion of Western and Indian classical guitar stylings.... the group straddle jazz, raga and contemporary classical traditions....Opening with a Thacker composition – a trio for guitar, tabla and violin – the interface between contemporary classical music, Eastern traditions and the post-ECM sound was very apparent....Fusing old and new aspects of two very different musical cultures, Thacker's programme contained a piece by Shirish Korde (who is not only a noted composer but also studied jazz at Berklee), a five-movement composition by Scottish composer Nigel Osborne, a specially commissioned piece written by the legendary father of minimalism Terry Riley (Swar Amant), and a haunting traditional folk song"
Jazz Journal

"The audience were treated to a concert which was thrilling in its departure from the relative ‘safety’ of traditional music....Simon Thacker’s compositions and reworkings demonstrate his skill and sensitivity in the teeth of what amounts to a considerably complex and original journey with little precedent. His mastery of the guitar allows him to pilot the ensemble through unchartered waters with great conviction....All in all, a very exciting concert, embellished with thoughtful explanations from Thacker. We await the next development with great anticipation."
Edinburghguide.com