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Review of BISHI: The Good Immigrant – King’s Cross London

BISHI - Credit Claire Shovelton
BISHI – Credit Claire Shovelton

Sitting in Lewis Cubitt Square on one of the hottest nights of the year (the hottest?) listening to Bishi playing her sitar it was more like being in Mumbai than King’s Cross!

Bishi Bhattacharya to give her full name was kicking off Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival, an event playing over three weeks in ten venues across and around the Euston Road celebrating all things opera but not in a conventional sense.

Bishi certainly couldn’t be called opera as we know it as her roots are Bengali and her musica fusion of Eastern and Western influences. The piece she performed last night was a song cycle called The Good Immigrant consisting of six songs composed by her, inspired by a collection of essays from twenty-one BAME writers ruminating on race and identity in contemporary Britain and each song is a response to a particular essay in the book.

Using pre-recorded backing tracks, voice loops recorded live, voiceovers from some of the authors of the essays and Bishi’s voice, the sound is a wonderful mixture of all these sounds. Added to all of this is Bishi on electric sitar and it’s all a heady concoction of sounds. She’s a charismatic performer and in her cape, leotard and golden headdress (which turned out to be a full-face mask), she looked like an exotic, musical superhero!

The highlight of the fifty minutes or so was the last song “Let My Country Awake” the lyrics of which were written by Rabindranath Tagore (who according to Bishi is India’s Bob Dylan) and set to music by Bishi which ended the evening on a high.

The only downside was that the front row of deckchairs was occupied by seemingly unaccompanied children (I think their parents were at the back – I hope they were!) aged 8 and 9 who weren’t there for the music but a welcome respite after playing in the fountains in Granary Square. But Bishi was very gracious and thanked them for being there even though I’m sure they were a distraction!

Tête a Tête bills itself as “the future of opera” and with an interesting schedule of events between now and August 18 th , it could well be right.

4 stars

Review by Alan Fitter

Musician/Artist/Vocalist/Performer Bishi has composed & a Song Cycle of 6 new songs, ‘BISHI: The Good Immigrant’ for Voice Looper, Sitar & Electronics, co-produced with composer & sound designer, Jeff Cook. The music is inspired by ‘The Good Immigrant’, edited by Nikesh Shukla is a collection of essays by 21 BAME writers, ruminating on race & identity in contemporary Britain. Each song is a response to a particular essay in the book, ending with a choral setting of Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Where The Mind is Without Fear.’

Produced by Gryphon Records
Thursday 26th July
https://www.tete-a-tete.org.uk/

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