Friday 7 December 2018

Simon Thacker’s Svara-Kanti: Trikala

Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti: Trikala
Simon Thacker’s Svara-Kanti: Trikala Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 4 December 2018
Classical guitarist Simon Thacker returns with his ensemble, with further explorations of music from the Indian sub-continent

The classical guitarist Simon Thacker continues his cross-culturation explorations with his ensemble Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti with this new double-album Trikala on Slap the Moon records. For this disc he has brought together a total of 13 musicians from a variety of traditions, both Western Classical and Indian, including different traditions from the Indian sub-continent. They come together as a series of different ensembles and explore a wide spectrum of the musics from the sub-continent. 

The music on the disc encompasses Hindustani classical (north), Carnatic classical (south), Punjabi folk (west) and the Bengali mystical folk Baul tradition of both India and Bangladesh (east), and there is also a work with a Tamil inspiration, and one of Bengali polymath Rabindranath Tagore’s best loved melodies. With all the music on the disc re-imagined by Simon Thacker.

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

The album's title is a Sanskrit word for the three tenses of time, past, present and future. And this very much explains the album's philosophy, as traditional music is refracted through the present to create something new. Whatever the source of the music, the constant throughout the album is Simon Thacker both as guitarist and as composer, so that the most traditional piece is given in a version which reimagines it, and often Thacker's classical guitar is a surprisingly component of the mix. The other Western Classical  musicians on the disc are violinist  Jacqueline Shave and cellist Justyna Jablonska

The result is perhaps not so much fusion, as Thacker immersing his musical personality in the music and philosophies of the Indian sub-continent. The synthesis inevitably brings in a wide variety of elements, one of the fascinating limitations is that the guitar, with its fretted pitch system, is very much aligned to the Western Classical scales, yet here Thacker and the Indian musicians manange to meld in a remarkable way

This is a huge project, there are two CD's (138 minutes of music) with recordings made in East Lothian, and Chennai and Kolkata in India over what looks like a period of three years. And the music follows this wide variety, with not just different traditions, but different line-ups of artists and different combinations of instrumental and vocal textures. If Thacker's intentions weren't so serious and his sympathy with the music so striking, it could all very much feel like a child playing in a toy-box. But it doesn't and listening with ears barely attunded to the nuances of the various Indian classical musics, there is a continuity to the pieces which represents Thacker's own contributions to the mix.

The disc comes with a substantial booklet with explains the various tracks, where the music comes from and how Simon Thacker has worked with it. This is very much a disc for those with questing minds, for the curious and for those willing to experiment.

Simon Thacker’s Svara-Kanti: Trikala
Simon Thacker (classical guitar), Raju Das Baul (voice, khomok), Sunayana Ghosh (tabla), K.V. Gopalakrishnan (kanjira), N. Guruprasad (ghatam), Justyna Jablonska (cello), Japjit Kaur (voice), Afsana Khan (voice), Sarvar Sabri (tabla), Jacqueline Shave (violin), Sukhvinder Singh “Pinky” (tabla), Neyveli B. Venkatesh (mridangam), Farida Yesmin (voice)

1. Panchajanya
2. Ajj Koi Saade Vehre Aaya (trad. Punjabi)
3. The Fire of Intention
4. Chan Kithan Guzari Ayee Raat Ve (trad. Punjabi)
5. Vande Mataram (J. Bhattacharya )
6. MaNN Vāsanai
7. Tappe (Tuttey dil da ilaaj nahi) (trad. Punjabi)
Beyond Mara:
8. I
9. II
10. Nirjanavana

1. Hari Din To Gelo (trad. Baul)
2. Helay Helay Din Boye Jay (Lalon)
3. Tomra Kunjo Sajao Go (S. A. Karim)
4. Bhromor Koio Giya (R. Dutta)
5. Keno Dubli Na Mon (Lalon)
6. Dhonyo Dhonyo Boli Tare (Lalon)
7. Menoka Mathay Dilo Ghomta (trad. Baul)
8. Prabhava
9. Ekla Chalo Re (R. Tagore)
10. Pakhi Kokhon Jani Ure Jay (Lalon)
11. Dil Doriyar Majhe (Lalon)

Recorded at AM and VGP Studios, Chennai, India, 2018; Castlesound Studios 2015, 2017, 2018; Studio 104, Kolkata, India, 2018
Available from Simon Thacker's website.

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  • Profoundly beautiful: Simon Boccanegra at the Royal Opera  (★★★★) - opera review
  • Last Man Standing: Cheryl Frances-Hoad premiere at the Barbican  (★★★★) - concert review
  • One crazy day: Jonathan Dove on his new opera Marx in London which premieres at Theater Bonn  - interview
  • Landscapes of the mind: Anna Þorvaldsdóttir's Aequa (★★★½) - CD review
  • Antonio Caldara - cantatas for bass and continuo (★★★½) - Cd review
  • Viol music: RCM International Festival of Viols - concert review
  • Naturalism and realism: Puccini's La Boheme with Natalya Romaniw and Jonathan Tetelman (★★★★) - opera review
  • A 20th century monument: Hindemith's five brass sonatas  (★★★★) - CD review
  • Old Bones: Nico Muhly, Iestyn Davies and the Aurora Orchestra at Kings Place (★★★½) - concert review
  • Storytelling in music: Kevin Puts and his opera Silent Night - interview
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