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Midnight's musician

After his first India tour, composer Nitin Sawhney shares his upcoming projects.

music Updated: Mar 02, 2012 13:44 IST
Suprateek Chatterjee

Following his incredible India stint, Ntin Sawhney is now preparing for a performance in Luxembourg. Speaking over the phone, the 47-year-old composer-producer discusses a slew of ongoing projects that include a play he's writing, based on a series of conversations between poet-philosopher Rabindranath Tagore and scientist Albert Einstein in Berlin in 1926 and 1930. "I'm in talks with a well-known crossover Bollywood actor for Tagore's role," he says.


Currently, Sawhney is excited about director Deepa Mehta's film adaptation of Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, for which he is composing the score. "About a month ago, he [Rushdie] tweeted that he thinks the score is the best Indian film score he's heard since Pandit Ravi Shankar's work in Satyajit Ray's Pather Panchali," he says.

Sawhney's score for this potential magnum opus, much like Shankar's, is essentially raga-based, with Western orchestral arrangements.

On February 3, the British-born Sawhney performed at Blue Frog in Delhi. Though he had DJed in India, this was his first live performance in the country.

During his India tour, Sawhney also performed at the Sula Fest 2012 in Nashik and at Blue Frog, Mumbai in February, which included songs from his latest album, Last Days of Meaning. This latest album is the musings of a protagonist named Donald Meaning (monologues performed by British actor John Hurt), an embittered old man fearful of immigrants and terrorists, as he listens to songs sent to him by his ex-wife.

"Meaning is an allegorical character. He represents the way of thinking in Britain, where immigrants are the first to be blamed each time the country falls on hard times," says Sawhney.

Sawhney's music often explores themes of multiculturalism, politics and spirituality. "Two of my biggest idols are Einstein and Tagore who both called nationality a smokescreen. People are equal no matter where they come from," he says.

Sawhney's music is a blend of electronica, jazz and Western orchestration. "In my last few albums, I've strayed from electronic arrangements in favour of live and organic sounds," he says. His lyrics are often incendiary, inspired by current events ranging from the Indo-Pak nuclear standoff, which led to 'Broken Skin' (1999) to the wrongful shooting of Brazilian student Jean Charles de Menezes in the London Underground, which inspired his 2008 album, London Undersound.

Of India, Sawhney says he has wonderful memories. "I've been to India about 15 times, but this was my first visit in many years." "My cousin Lara [actor Lara Dutta] had a baby recently, so I stayed back to spend some time with her as well as the rest of my extended family."