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News |  09 Jun 2019 09:00 |  By RnMTeam

Classical guitarist Simon Thacker and his Indian connection

MUMBAI: Scottish Classical guitarist Simon Thacker has a strong connection and deep-rooted love for Indian music, both classical and folk. He has relentlessly experimented in the various genres of Indian music and created a band called Svara Kanti. He recently released his project called Trikala featuring 13 unique talents of Indian classical music.

Speaking to Radioandmusic about his project, Simon says, “Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti is my community for creating and exploring new sound worlds with great performers from the Indian continent. I'm a Scottish classical guitarist and I also compose or re-imagine all the possible music.”

Svara-Kanti began eight years ago with just four members, but today it has full-blown into four segments. Simon backtracks on the journey of Svara-Kanti, “When it started in 2011 Svara-Kanti was a quartet, but over time it has grown to four different line-ups featured on the new Trikala double album, which respectively explore influences from Carnatic, Hindustani, Punjabi folk and Baul spiritual music.”

Each performer is a blend of tradition and creativity. The Carnatic line-up features three great percussionists: Neyveli B Venkatesh (mridangam), N Guruprasad (ghatam) and KV Gopalakrishnan (kanjira). The Hindustani influenced line-up features Jackie Shave on violin, who is a formidable player and also leader of one of Europe's best chamber orchestras, and Sukhvinder Singh ‘Pinky’ on Tabla, who has played with biggest legends of Hindustani classical music. The Punjabi group adds singer Afsana Khan and UK based Japjit Kaur, a Svara-Kanti member from the very start, as well as Polish cellist Justyna Jablosnka.

The second CD of Trikala is devoted to the genre of Baul sangeet. This features Farida Yesmin from Kushtia, Santiniketan's Raju Das Baul both as singer and khomok virtuoso, Kolkata's Sunayana Ghosh on tabla and also UK's Sarvar Sabri (son of the great Ustad Sabri Khan) on tabla on some tracks.

The classical guitarist is happy to have found his medium of expression through singles. “Even though the album, as a form, has been devalued in recent years with streaming's emphasis on single tracks, for me as an artist it is still the ultimate expression, testimony and statement of who and what you are, what you have achieved and where you are going. So, the journey to creating and releasing one of my album's is very obsessive.”

Elaborating further on his idea, he says, “I wanted to create an album that would be among the most advanced statements ever made for the possibilities of intercultural collaboration, to go beyond East and West to genuinely create a third direction genuinely of itself, not in ‘fusion’ a term I am not fond of, but by propelling musical forms and genres forward, or creating new ones.”

The response for Trikala has been overwhelming or in his words, “If you think not just big but stratospheric, then you often achieve more than you even considered was possible. Such was the case with Trikala, which is a dream turned into reality.”

Trikala (a Sanksrit word representing the three tenses of time, past present and future) took three years to be completed and was shot at three different locations. “Most of the first album was recorded in Scotland at Castlesound Studios, which happens to be in my home village! The Carnatic line-up tracks were recorded in Chennai at VGP Studios and AR Rahman's AM Studios. The majority of the Bengali second CD we did in Kolkata at Studio 104. I brought Farida across from Bangladesh for those sessions. Some of the Baul tracks were also recorded in Scotland when Svara-Kanti was performing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe as part of a prestigious showcase we were chosen for, called Made in Scotland,” shares Simon.

Explaining more about Svara-Kanti’s inception and inspiration, Simon says, “Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti is a means to explore and expand, and to render externally something of the vast inner world, as much as my compositional technique allows me to. I am creating the music of my dreams, the sounds and emotions that come into my head and heart when I'm least expecting it. But as you are always moving and in a state of becoming, the excitement and wonderment is always there.”

Speaking about his upcoming projects, Simon reveals, “One of my other groups, Simon Thacker's Ritmata, is just about to release a new album, Tàradh. The line-up is classical, piano, bass and drums, so it's my loudest and most pumped up ensemble!. It also features one of the Spain's finest young flamenco singers, Ángeles Toledano, as a special guest. After that, Songs of the Roma is working on a new album.”

With Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti, has achieved a lot. They also won the Scottish Award for New Music last month, however Simon thinks, “We have barely scratched the surface of the possibilities. I'm planning the follow up to Trikala already.”

Simon is fascinated by the rhythms of Carnatic music, the mystic of Baul sangeet, the improvisation of Hindustani Ragas, and the spirit of Punjabi music. The realm of Indian music doesn’t stop to inspire him for creating newer soundscapes. He aptly signs off saying, “Looking at my background, being from rural Scotland with my only direct connection to India, growing up, being the love for it's music, there is no rational explanation.”