NITIN SAWHNEY (UK/INDIA)
'Philtre', the title of Nitin Sawhney's latest highly-praised masterpiece, is intriguing. The man himself says that it means 'healing' or 'magic potion'. It's the way he feels about music, and its potential effect on the individual in these fearful times of political manipulation and wearying cynicism. Having been born and raised in the National Front stronghold of Rochester in Kent, Sawhney has always fought his own war of attrition against racism and petty-minded paranoia, proclaiming a proud respect for his south Asian roots whilst avoiding a retreat into the mental safety and comfort of the ghetto.
But recently, it's as if the overheated political climate has simply become too much to bear, and Sawhney has felt an overwhelming need to bypass conflict and polemic by plugging into the emotional heart of his music, and his simple love for the perennial ingredients of his art, from soul and funk, through classical Indian sounds to jazz and electronica. Music is the ultimate filter, that separates all that is noble, essential and therapeutic from the crap of modern existence.
But there's more to it than that. Sawhney has produced such a staggering array of work and his interests seem so broad and deep, that you can only wonder at the filtering system that operates in his restlessly creative mind. There are the seven solo albums, which have reaped a bumper crop of awards and nominations including a MOBO for 'Prochesy' and a Mercury Music Prize nomination for 'Beyond Skin'. There are his acclaimed remix projects 'All Mixed Up' and 'FabricLive' on which he reworked tracks by MJ Cole, Joe Claussell, Fink and Ojos de Brujo, to name but a few. There are Film and TV scores too numerous to mention concocted in Sawhney's south London Spirit Dance Studios, including the theme music for Channel 4's 'Second Generation' series which netted an Ivor Novello Award. There are his theatrical scores, and incidental music composed to accompany the work of choreographer Akram Khan and artist Anish Kapoor. There are the orchestral works commissioned by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Britten Sinfonia, The Royal National Theatre and The Proms. There's the ad music for Nike and Sephora. There were his early experiences on the comedy circuit alongside Sanjeev Bhaskar, whom Sawhney befriended whilst studying law at Liverpool University, and who then went on to create the award winning TV show 'Goodness Gracious Me'. There are his production, song-writing and remixing credits on releases by Sir Paul McCartney, Sting, Sinead O'Connor, AR Rahman, Jeff Beck and Will Young. There are the highly praised world tours and DJ outings. There are his appearances on TV talk shows and current affairs programmes. There are the numerous eloquent articles written for The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent and the Observer.
Whilst it may be almost too exhausting to contemplate, this list is by no means exhaustive. And to top it all, Sawhney manages to find time to keep his virtuoso mastery of the guitar, the tablas and a host of other instruments well oiled and gleaming. Rumour has it that he's a competent Thai kick-boxer too, and enjoys a drink down the pub with his mates. How does he do it? One can only imagine that a staggering ability to focus and work like a freight engine have something to do with it. But at the core of it all must be a boundless curiosity and an unquenchable lust for life. Nitin Sawhney's filtering system is generously porous. Only the crap doesn't get through.
BBC Collective review
A4WM 2002 profile
BBC Music profile
I have been a big fan of Nitin Sawheny for years yet I didn't even know half of what he has achieved until I read this today! He's truly amazing and inspiring. Absolutely outstanding live. Saw him in Manchester a year or so ago and it was mesmerizing. By far my most favourite gig ever!! Go see for yourselves :)
Geoffrey Spurgeon - Liverpool
Since 1999's wonderfully titled "Beyond Skin" I have followed Nitin Sawhney's music with constant interest, which he has not failed to reward manyfold. I believe him to be a supreme craftsman, and is that not the definition of a true artist. This comment cannot be permitted to pass without observing that Reena Bhardwaj's voice is.........heavenly!!!
So special feel
Ray - Liverpool
I heard Mausam for the first time summer 06 and could not stop playing it. I recently heard it in a tv drama on British tv called "Loosing Jemma", This is a fanatastic track and I shall be seeking out the album.
The singer is Reena Bhardwaj. This song is beautiful, one of my favourites on the album, but by no means covers the breadth of what Mr Sawhney can do.
Laura Caun, Birmingham
Sublime, absolutely sublime!
Steve, Kent, UK
Absolutely brilliant, great soundtrack for travelling via air across the Sahara (or anywhere for that matter!)
I would like to be notified about the awards each year.
Grabem - Harrow, UK
I don't have any of his stuff - although it sounds familiar. On the basis of this track I'm off down HMV in the morning to but Philtre.
paula berry, london
takes me away from London’s grey skies.... and the kaiser cheifs!
Sanjay, Shepherds Bush, London
I have been following his music for the past 6-7 years and i an truly amazed by the vast variety of his sound, each album has been a delight to experience and eacdh time it has become more and more personal it seems to Nitin. If you havent seen him live, it is highly recommended, gobsmacking!
Listener, San Diego, CA - USA
nitin's music is incredible.....and in the mean time Hillary Duff tops the charts in America.
Suzanne Steendijk, Utrecht, The Netherlands
I have many of his records and am longing for more! Love his music.
Nimisha - Forest Gate
I've just produced an EP for uni based on Nitin Sawhneys style, With which Im currently writing a report and realised that his style is so broad that by the time I finish the report I'm going to have a an entire Encyclopedia set! Love his music!!!
What I hear most in this piece is an amazing lady's song. I wonder who this amazing lady singer is
Hayley - Nottingham
Nitin Sawhney is amazing.
Charla Manohar, The Netherlands
The one guy who dares to be different and keeps suprising everybody.