Simon Thacker (guitar)
Japjit Kaur (voice)
Jacqueling Shave (violin)
Sarvar Sabri (tabla)
rec. Castlesound Studios, Pencaitland, November 2012 and January 2013
SLAP THE MOON RECORDS STMRCD02 [72.51]
The booklet notes for this disc open with an introduction in the first-person singular – one can deduce from the content of the note that the author of this is Simon Thacker, but a name at the end (or start) of the note making this absolutely clear would have been desirable! There is also no reference made to the performers in the booklet notes, for whom there is no listing, let alone artist biographies – although we do have a double-page spread photograph (and, thankfully, artists are listed on the back of the CD case).
That anonymous introductory page in the booklet makes it clear that this disc, further to a previous (and excellent) disc entitled Nava Rasa Ensemble, is a further exploration of Indian music by Western composers, the idea being to fuse the two worlds, along with other influences, such as flamenco, blues, Indonesian music and jazz. This time, the instruments to be employed are guitar, violin and tabla, along with a female Indian vocalist.
Five works by Simon Thacker – including an arrangement of Three Punjabi songs – are joined by compositions by British composer Nigel Osborne, the celebrated American Terry Riley, and the Indian composer Shirish Korde. Indian musical cultures drawn upon include Hindustani, Carnatic and the Dhrupad systems, while various ragas are often included or alluded to. Texts, programmatic ideas, or inspirations behind all the works are based upon Indian ideas, philosophies, or Sanskrit texts. Occasionally other instruments are used (waterphone and Tibetan singing bowls for instance), and much use is made of special effects, as in Nigel Osborne’s The Five Elements and the concluding Rakshasa – a suitably demonic work about rakshasas.
All the works are extremely effective indeed. This disc could be gimmicky, or too new-age-y, but somehow it entirely manages to avoid these pitfalls; the works are interesting, unusual and evocative, and, above, despite the fusion of so many different worlds and styles, they work (and perhaps especially those by Nigel Osborne and Simon Thacker).
The artists are all of the very highest standard and play with commitment, feeling and conviction, as well as with excellent rhythmic drive and energy. I should declare emphatically that I am not a fan of “fusion” music: but I love this disc; perhaps because it has a real sincerity, and the love of, and knowledge of, Indian music and philosophy really shines through. The booklet information and layout still leaves something to be desired (I quite like the design, however) – but the music, I feel, is something special.
The Five Elements:
Ether- Akasha [3.38]
Water – Jal [3.02]
Fire – Agni 2.46]
Earth – Prithvi [3.31]
Trad arr. Simon THACKER
Three Punjabi Folksongs:
Kahnu marda Chandariya Chamka [3.00]
Main Tenu Yaad Aavanga [4.23]
Shava Ghund Chuk Ke [3.24]