Mojo the monthly music magazine has a regular article in which musicians, actors, artists etc. are asked amongst other things what their favourite Sunday morning album is and I’m certain more than one or two of them over the years would have chosen an album by Nitin Sawhney.
The producer/composer/multi-instrumentalist makes delightful Sunday morning albums that win him Mercury prizes, Ivor Novello nominations and BBC Radio 3 World Music awards which I’m sure are all very much deserved. However, watching Sawhney and his band of seven musicians and five vocalists including joss Stone, reproduce his music live on stage, can at times be a little soporific. It’s all very static and there wouldn’t have been too many steps added to the band’s Fitbit step measuring devices if they were wearing them!
The music is a mixture of Indian influenced world fusion with a bit of ambient music thrown in and the occasional slice of smooth soul (mainly courtesy of Joss Stone). It lacks a little bit of edginess for me but it’s superbly played and sung – all five vocalists plus Aref Durvesh on tabla and Ashwin Srinivasan on flute who also sing – have excellent voices. The gentleness of the music was personified by the presence on one song by Manu Delago playing the Hang – an instrument that looks like an upside down wok and makes a sound that if it wasn’t amplified, that’s as gentle as a summer breeze.
The lack of movement by the band was alleviated somewhat by two songs that were danced to by Honji Wang and Sébastien Ramirez. They’re two contemporary dancers who combine that form with mime, hip-hop and their tremendously supple bodies. They gave the audience something to focus their attention on and were a welcome addition to the evening’s entertainment.
The other thing that focused the attention throughout the show were the projections on the screen behind the band. However, they were often a little clichéd with the stereotypical clouds, rain, sunsets, geometric shapes etc. and at times were just as soporific as the music.
The Royal Albert Hall is the perfect setting for Sawhney’s music. He obviously has a fervent following who lapped up the two hour, twenty-four song set and he and the band were given a standing ovation at the end – although that’s not saying much as these days’ audiences seem to give them to performers just for turning up.
Although the evening was for me just a little too gentle and not really edgy enough, I’d be more than happy to sit down on a Sunday morning with the papers and have a Nitin Sawhney album playing in the background although I can’t guarantee I won’t mentally drift off somewhere cosy and warm.
Review by Alan Fitter
Acclaimed multi-instrumentalist and composer Nitin Sawhney performed a one-off show at the Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday 2 November featuring music from his new album Dystopian Dream.
For this unique performance Sawhney was accompanied by singer Joss Stone and a host of other special guests, including hip-hop duo Sébastien Ramirez and Honji Wang performing new, specially-commissioned choreography, in the first ever co-production between the Royal Albert Hall and Sadler’s Wells.
Nitin Sawhney with special guests…
Royal Albert Hall, SW7
Wednesday 2 November 2016