Once a month on a Saturday afternoon, Birmingham’s Symphony Hall is home to Mid-day Mantra. An initiative setup by SAMPAD, an arts organization dedicated in bringing the finest sounds of Asian musicians and artists from the UK and India in a series of chilled out and informal sessions.
Last Saturday saw the highly acclaimed musicians from Banglore. S.V. Balakrishna on Mridangam and R. Raghunandan on Flute. They were joined by my incredibly talented friend on vocals – Ambika Jois, a singer songwriter with unique sound of Indioul blending Jazz, classical Carnatic music and soul.
R. Raghunandan kicked off the performance with an invocation to Lord Ganesha – a beautiful solo on the Flute. Serving as frontline ammunition for the classical piece, it carried the melody and provided harmonies to the music. The eloquent switch between large and small flutes really gave it a moments of sweet playful gestures interjected with deep poignant sounds. Soon to be joined by are the rustic sounds of the Mridangam, a barrel-like hand-drum supplied us with notable improvisation sets dancing amicably with the flute ragas and providing delicate yet strong impressive sounds.
Ambika injected some powerful graceful vocals are a force to be reckoned with, which enhanced the depth and soul of the music. I’ve seen Ambika perform live with Shammi Pithia when she sings more western stuff, however seeing the classical side of her talent really hit home as to how talented this lady is. The sheer supremacy and might of her voice is remarkable. If you ever get an opportunity to see perform seize it as you will not be disappointed.
Ambika will be performing at Mid-day Mantra on Dec 10th …
The evening of two halves was introduced by the Asian Music Circuit who curated the night’s performances. The first half of the show was a collaboration of two cultures – that of India and Cuba via London. Hari Sivanesan, a Veena player and Pirashanna Thevarajah, a thunderous Mridangam maestro both London born were joined by two wonderful musicians from Cuba, the much-admired Cuban violinist Omar Puente and percussionist Oscar Martinez.
This quartet unravelled a beautiful concoction of sounds that amalgamated the structure and discipline of the South Indian Carnatic style with the more playful jazz laced rhythms of Cuba. Contrary to what people may think, these two styles marry well. This is beautifully demonstrated on the track “Vio-Veena” (written by Puente) which as the name suggests was an exchange between the Violin and Veena, against a backdrop of Indian and Cuban percussion.
“Maa” (meaning Mother) was a commissioned piece (written by Hari) for the show, which as Hari described is about the message of the mother’s love through melody – representing a journey of lullabies from various cultures around the world.
A fabulous display of musical vigour!
After a short break, Shammi Pithia and his band FLUX were up … This was certainly a treat for the audience as they got to experience some of the tracks from his new EP “Paredolia” (OUT NOW). Shammi was joined on stage with some of the finest home grown musicians London has to offer:
- Michael Goodey on piano, guitar, synthesiser, sitar.
- Ian Newton-Grant drums, percussion
- Suroj Sureshbabu guitars
- Salima Barday double bass
- Preetha Narayanan violin
- Alice Barron violin
- Natasha Zielazinski cello
- Damien Langkamer electric bass
There were some magnificent renditions from his first EP “Cinema for the Ears” and debut album “Audio Descriptive” and a couple of FLUX tracks – The Seeker, Poem without Words, Overcome, Pacifist and Ajnabee Anjani, to name a few.
Singing on the night was a pool of talent: the very soulful Ambika Jois who showcased her tremendously powerful voice with such charisma. The classical vocalist Unnati Dasgupta, Urban/R’n’B artist Ash King and providing Hindustani classical vocals was the spectacular Jatanil Banerjee, who moved the crowd with Ajnabee Anjani.
What a second half! – the audience were certainly wowed, after the show there was a buzz in the atmosphere. The crowd’s reaction was a direct result of the hard work of bringing together 12 people (no easy task) and executing that show like it was a walk in the park. Watching them on stage was a brilliant, smiles and banter amongst the musicians made the set more enjoyable to experience!
I’ve been following Shammi’s music since the release of his first EP and the progress he has made is outstanding. He is certainly building a solid name for himself as a composer/producer and multi-instrumentalist. As I tweeted on the night “Composers when in their element must be connected to the divine. It requires a certain level of genius to achieve this” and that is Shammi!
My respects go out to all the musicians and singers who performed on the night … it was a night of epic proportions!
*Thanks to Kabir Gobin for providing the video footage.
When I heard Shammi was producing a new E.P. naturally I was stoked. The musician who crafted “Cinema for the Ears E.P.” and debut album “Audio Descriptive” was on his next venture.
His latest E.P titled “Paredolia” is composed of six tracks, each individually bringing a different story to the ears leaving the listener to find their own meaning of the music.
“Switch” introduces the E.P with a somewhat dark sound but 22 seconds in, the equation is balanced with the elegant Bansuri. Naturally these sounds wouldn’t work together but on this track they manifest a harmonious contradiction. As the director Shekhar Kapoor said “if you take contradictions away there would be no creativity.” As the Bansuri dances majestically with its dark bassline partner, the vocals of Rita Morar give it that defining human emotion.
This is soon followed by the title track of the E.P “Paredolia.” A beautiful track introduced by the humble piano married with deep bass and the constant thread that weaves the story of this record together – the Bansuri. It’s an excursion of the two instruments that does not need words to tell the story – the feeling it draws out says it all.
To counter the soothing vibes of the previous track, Shammi launches into “Thanks to a Busker” an Indo-Latino number with the help of the fabulous vocalists Ambika Jois and Ash King – a very romantic flamenco style track with funky bass lines, sexy guitar riffs.
On to the fourth track “Taareyan di Chaan” – meaning Shade of the stars is an abstract poetic song about longing to meet a lover sang in entirely in Punjabi. Japjit Kaur graces us with her gorgeous and elegant voice giving the track a contemporary yet folksy feel.
The penultimate track, “True” is one composed entirely of strings. The polite yet playful sounds of the Cello, Violin and Guitar really give that old fashion warm feeling to the track. It reminded me of some of the work done by Michael Giacchino on the TV programme LOST, really capturing the moments of happiness and truth – something Shammi does very well here – an unadulterated melt of sublime soundscapes.
Finally we come to a “Sweet Nothings (Phaeleh Remix)” – and what a way to end the E.P! Phaeleh, the Bristol based prolific producer has his way with “Sweet Nothings” as featured on the “Audio Descriptive” album. This is a track where the affable vocals of Japjit Kaur, Bansuri and the dark melodies of downtempo electronica melt together into a beautiful frenzy.
Shammi Pithia, has the ability to absorb the sights, sounds and influences around him and translate them to what we hear, giving each string, raga, chord, beat and baseline a purpose in the grand scheme of things. If you liked any of his previous work you will adore “Paredolia”.
nada:brahma rating 4.5/5