Culture

Name to know: Sarathy Korwar

The London-based percussionist makes a haunting blend of contemporary jazz and folk music

Percussionist and producer Sarathy Korwar was born in America, raised in Ahmedabad and Chennai, went to college in Pune and finally moved to London—and perhaps that journey is reflected in his music too. Day To Day, his debut album released in July, swings between uplifting percussion-heavy tunes and pensive interludes. It’s a neat mix of contemporary jazz and the music of Gujarat’s Siddi communities. 

A common thread running through the album is the theme of migration. It also features haunting field recordings with Siddi musicians, who are known to blend Sufi and folk music. "The Siddi musicians were very generous with their time and I basically just hung out and recorded them in their homes or wherever we could find a relatively quiet space. The uniqueness of their music - which draws from East African, Sufi and regional folk music is what fascinated me," he says. "Their history as a community is reflected effortlessly through their music, from their songs, instrumentation and rhythms."  

He’s currently soaking in the positive reviews (and there have been plenty) even as he fills his calendar with shows around Europe and a major one back home, at Rajasthan’s Magnetic Fields festival in December. While his music remains difficult to box into one genre, he fervently hopes it will move beyond the art-house gigs and niche music festivals.

From starting out with self-proclaimed terrible rock bands in Pune, to being accepted into the prestigious Steve Reid Foundation, his arc has been awe inspiring. It was also here that Korwar found mentors in BBC Radio 6’s Gilles Peterson and experimental electronic artist Four Tet. He’s even collaborated with percussionist Nick Woodmansey (aka emanative) for mixing the album.

With continual practise in Indian classical tabla playing, with his gurus in Pune and London, he finds an effortless switch between the instrument and drums, during live performances. Perhaps one of the strongest points of Korwar and his debut record is how well the music, especially standout tracks such as ‘Bismillah’ and ‘Indefinite Leave To Remain’ translate from Dawn Studios in Pune onto a stage anywhere in the world.

 

Sarathy Korwar will be performing at Magnetic Fields festival, Rajasthan, between December 9-11. www.magneticfields.in