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Pulse south asian music and dance

Spring 2013 - Issue 120

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INSIDE In the Frame Kaavish Region Revealed North East England Reviews >Epic Women Conference >Attakkalari Biennial >Porkpie Dance Theatre >DESH

SAMYO is 10

Tabla Tarang Kamalesh Maitra Akram Khan on DESH Shobana Jeyasingh Part 2


sound in print


connecting asian dance and music communities

Pulse Spring 2013 — Issue 120 ISSN 1476-6019 Published by Kadam Asian Dance and Music c/o The Hat Factory, 65-67 Bute Street, Luton LU1 2EY +44 (0) 1582 876 038 Editorial Team Commissioning Editor Sanjeevini Dutta


120/Contents 6

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Editorial News Listings


SAMYO – 10th Anniversary Bouquets and Brickbats Sanjeevini Dutta assesses the achievements of the South Asian Music Youth Orchestra during the ten years since its foundation.


Akram Khan – Creativity from Chaos The Olympics choreographer and winner of award for Best Male Dancer shares with Donald Hutera the challenges of devising choreography for actors and of finding dance within the dancer.


In The Frame: Kaavish Images of Sonia Sabri’s work of celebration, captured by Simon Richardson.


Shobana Jeyasingh – Choreographic ‘New Worlds’ In the second of a three-part series charting her work, Jeyasingh talks to Sanjoy Roy about some of the landmarks in her artistic journey and about motivation and imagination in the transition from dancer to choreographer.


The Instrument and the Musician – Kamalesh Maitra and the Tabla Tarang Ken Hunt traces the route taken by Maitra and the tabla tarang from East Bengal to Berlin via Calcutta and North America.


Region Revealed – North East England Gopa Roy looks at dance and music within the region.

Assistant Editor Lucinda Al-Zoghbi Assistants Jahnavi Harrison, Katie Ryan Design Art Director Pritpal Ajimal Photography Director Simon Richardson Subscriptions & Advertising



Contacts Disclaimer Pulse is published by Kadam Asian Dance and Music. Kadam are a part of SADA (South Asian Dance Alliance). No part of the magazine may be reproduced in any form without the written permission of the publisher. Copyright of the text is shared with its authors. Copyright of the photographs/images reside with contributing photographers/ artists. All other rights reserved. The views/opinions expressed in Pulse are the authors’ and not necessarily those of the editor or publisher. While reasonable effort has been made to avoid errors, no liability will be accepted for any that may have inadvertently occurred.

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Annual subscription £32 with free delivery Cheques payable to Kadam, c/o The Hat Factory, 65-67 Bute Street, Luton LU1 2EY. For online subscriptions and payments please visit Published by

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Dance Festival Attakkalari India Biennial 2013 Dance Performance ‘Mum … what’s my gam?’ (Porkpie Dance Theatre)


connecting asian dance and music communities

Reviews Dance Conference Epic Women Conference

CD DESH (Jocelyn Pook)

Pulse serves the arts sector by recording, critiquing, profiling and archiving South Asian dance and music in the UK through Pulse magazine and the website: The magazine relies solely on income from subscriptions, advertising and donations. All donations welcome through our website Kadam forms part of the SADA Alliance

Contents Page Photo Credits

FC SAMYO / Photo: Courtesy Milapfest 6 10 12 14 18 21 22

SAMYO | Photo: Courtesy Milapfest Akram Khan Dance Company - DESH | Photo: Richard Haughton SoniaSabri Company - Kaavish | Photo: Simon Richardson SJDC - Configurations | Photo: Chris Nash Kamalesh Maitra | Photo: Jürgen Dietrich Devika Rao and Vidya Sarangapani | Photo: Peter Atkinson Kalpana Raghuraman | Photo: Sanjeevini Dutta WINTER 2012 PULSE 1



10th Anniversary Bouquets and Brickbats




his is going to sound really cheesy, but in many ways being a member of SAMYO has been life-changing. At an age where I possibly could have wavered away from Indian classical music … the sitar could have easily been replaced with a guitar, SAMYO appeared, almost miraculously.’ This tribute from Raaheel Husain, a former SAMYO member, best sums up the foremost success of the Orchestra. The South Asian Music Youth Orchestra, SAMYO, is groundbreaking in too many ways to count: just to have Indian classical music composed for an ensemble is unusual, but not only does the orchestra blend both Hindustani and Carnatic genres, it also encourages Indian classical musicians born and trained in the UK to explore traditional raga music in a dynamic way. A generously-funded project, it has been able to secure the services of top musicians like Shashank Subramanyam, Rakesh Chaurasia and Bombay Jayashri, whose inspirational example and personal contact give the young musicians the catalyst they need to see the value and relevance of keeping the genre alive. All great endeavours begin with a small seed: in this case it was the realisation of Milapfest that the excellent young musicians whom they helped to

support and promote across the UK were confined to presenting their music in local communities and private settings, without the opportunity to progress beyond annual school performances at most. SAMYO’s Administrative Director, Alok Nayak says: “Although young people were receiving excellent training locally, beyond a point, we felt that they could not fully develop their talent or fulfil their potential. If a student were to complete their Arangetram, or play a starring role in a concert locally, that was a great achievement, but what next? How would they grow, widen their horizons, challenge their skills and improve?” SAMYO sprouted in 2002, in partnership with national charity Youth Music; performances at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London and The Lowry in Greater Manchester were followed by the first Summer School programme - now an annual, eagerly-anticipated event. At first, musicians were recruited from local Milapfest teaching partners in London and Leeds. One of those was young sitarist Jasdeep Singh Degun, who recently appeared on BBC 2’s Goldie’s Band: By Royal Appointment series, which headhunted twelve young musicians nationwide to be mentored by top musicians and perform at Buckingham Palace. He credits his SAMYO experience with giving breadth to


On the eve of their tenth Anniversary concert, SAMYO Director Alok Nayak confides that ‘we expect admiration and criticism in equal measure’. Pulse examines the achievements of the UK’s first orchestra devoted to the classical music of India North and South WORDS BY JAHNAVI HARRISON PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF MILAPFEST


his musical training: “SAMYO has had a massive influence on my musical development. I not only sat and learnt from some of the world’s best musicians, but also gained skills in playing within an ensemble/ orchestra - something which is not taught in the standard Indian classical music training. I also had the opportunity to work with other western orchestras (such as the National Youth Orchestra and Aldeburgh Young Musicians), which helped broaden my awareness of Western music.” Jasdeep is just one of many whose musical lives have been transformed through the SAMYO experience. Today, SAMYO conducts national auditions and places in the orchestra are open to people of all backgrounds trained in either Hindustani or Carnatic music. Promising members often graduate to join TARANG, the UK’s National Ensemble for Indian Music which boasts alumni such as Soumik Datta, Bhupinder Singh Chaggar and Jesse Bannister. Nayak says: “It is proven in SAMYO that the experience gives our members better social skills, confidence and improved ability to be creative. At the very least, SAMYO musicians will become future audience members for Indian classical music; at best, they are our future ambassadors of Indian arts!” Ten successful years prove the sustainability


and demand for this type of project. The sound of SAMYO is unique. classical Indian music is characterised by its almost exclusive dedication to solo performance. Raga music plays with the manipulation of the spectrum of individual notes, whereas orchestral music calls for new structures, exploration of harmony, compositional devices such as counterpoint, and interlocking themes. And while the melding of Indian and Western musical influences has gone on for decades, it can often be heard in short-lived one-off concert presentations; brief collaborative flares that fade as quickly as they were put together. SAMYO represents a dedicated commitment to nurturing the unique sound of Indian classical music made in Britain. But despite the noble aspirations of SAMYO’s leaders, the musical path has not been smooth. As much as praise is due for their inspiring of hundreds of young musicians, the artistic success of their attempts to transfer Indian classical music into the orchestral genre is questionable. A Pulse reviewer, a student of Indian classical music and dance, heard SAMYO at Alchemy last year and was disappointed to find that, “though the raga may have been different, the compositional structure did not vary much and nearly always had all the musicians playing at once.” Our SPRING 2013 PULSE 7


Pulse caught up with Akram Khan after his Olympic opening ceremony success. In a reflective mood, Khan muses upon the creation of his semiautobiograpical solo DESH and what it taught him about himself

Creativity From Chaos Akram Khan



ommandingly grounded as he is in performance, Akram Khan also moves like quicksilver on stage. To no little extent this parallels what happens in the acclaimed British-Bangladeshi dancer-choreographer’s offstage life, at least when it comes to his accessibility. So in demand is Khan that trying to pin down a time to meet and talk or, barring that, contact him via email can prove daunting to arrange and actually achieve. Still, once he’s with you he really is with you – enquiring and engaged, quick of mind and articulate of speech especially when considering the content and implications of his art. And of course there’s always plenty to say, especially given that the past couple of years have seen Khan in flurries of creativity and even crisis. The former is a state that seems set to continue at least for the next fair while. Khan has in truth been consistently busy since the mid-noughties. Alongside a trio of high-



profile but, to my mind, diminishingly artistically successful duets (the superbly-realised zero degrees with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui in 2005, the intriguing glorified workshop Sacred Monsters with Sylvie Guillem the following year and, most problematically, In-I with Juliette Binoche in 2008) Khan crafted the ensemble dances bahok (also 2008) and Vertical Road (2010). Then, in 2011, came DESH, an epic autobiographical solo that many greeted as one of Khan’s finest works to date. Featuring stunning designs by Tim ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ Yip and an enormously evocative score from Jocelyn Pook, the piece was anchored by its chief creator’s consummate dancing and presence – a combination that helped Khan bag a well-deserved gong as male dancer of the year from the UK Dance Critics’ Circle in January 2013. Trouble was literally afoot, however, when Khan tore his Achilles’ tendon in rehearsal only a few months after the premiere. “My ego is attached

Pulse issue 120  

Pulse issue 120

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