Photograph by Tony Birch
Together In Love And Separation Album Launch
When two performers, who are well respected in their own fields, come together to try something new it deserves to be supported so that’s how I found myself at the Royal Albert Hall, certainly not my usual haunt. It would be something special to get me there, and a fusion album of Indian / Hindustani tradition with British and American tradition fitted the bill. Saskia is somebody whose music I’ve enjoyed for a long time, particularly her willingness to innovate and try new. I’d not come across Chandra before, who’s a Hindustani classical vocalist. The way they met is a great example of serendipity. Saskia knows Chandra’s son, so when they met up Saskia happened to have her guitar with her and played a couple of folk songs. Indian music, particularly the ragas that are Chandra’s speciality, is often based on improvisation so Chandra joined in, weaving her influences around the songs and an idea was born. This became, with support from Arts Council England and iKure, the album Together In Love And Separation, common themes in traditional songs around the world.
The album launch wasn’t actually in the main hall, but in one of the side bars, which was a perfect size to comfortably accommodate the sizeable audience, and opened with Saskia performing her own song ‘For You’ which was a good choice because it has a fairly simple chorus we could all join in with to break the ice. Chandra then sang an evening raga, improvising around a rhythm. Not speaking the language I can’t say if was vocalised or had lyrics, but that didn’t matter. What came from it was an emotion and I got the impression it was meant to felt as much as listened to.
There was no set format to the songs chosen, instead they’ve picked songs that touched their hearts rather than undertaking an intellectual musical exercise which, it can be argued, is the only way to play music. It certainly worked well here on songs such as ‘The Water Is Wide’ or even ‘Country Roads’, a tune that everyone in the audience recognised and joined in with. Chandra’s soaring improvisations and the tabla made it a different song, which is so important in a fusion of style. What I would have liked to have been able to appreciate more is the impact the other way, so see how the songs Chandra brought to the partnership were influenced, but it didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the evening at all.
The backing band of Yamin Chowdhury (Tabla), Amith Dey (Keyboards, Harmonium, BV’s) and John Wood (Guitar) added to the general feel of the evening so well, combining their various sounds and rhythms into a unified whole.
The album is only available digitally through Bandcamp, and also on Spotify. There’s also a chance to hear it live at Cecil Sharp House in London on 19th July. For people who enjoy music that blurs lines and experiments I’d highly recommend going along.
Artist’s website: https://www.saskiagm.com/
‘Bhromor Koiyo Giya’ – official video: