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Soumik Datta: new sounds for the soul

Soumik Datta: new sounds for the soul

April 2 2014

Musician begins new 2014 residency and looks at bringing new talent to the stage with added attractions of food, workshops and forums…

RISING star sarod player Soumik Datta kicked off his new 2014 East India Club residency nights with a rousing set watched by two stars he will be playing with this summer – Anoushka Shankar and Nitin Sawhney.

Datta, who is curating the monthly nights, played alongside Austrian hang maestro Manu Delago and Matt Robertson on keyboards on Friday (March 28).

Hang is an instrument that is only 14 years old and Delago is one of its leading exponents, performing on the swiss instrument, with pop icon Bjork and sitar wonder Shankar. The sarod and keyboards are older, with the lineage of the Indian instrument stretching back to the 18th century.

The trio held the audience at Rich Mix in Shoreditch, London, spellbound with a variety of tracks that were haunting, seductive and unforgettably melodic.

It formed the first night of the new season of Datta’s East India club residency and comes as the start of an exciting period for the sarod artist.

He will be releasing his new Circle of Sound band album, putting on a musical type drama at the Royal Court Theatre, and playing his own specially composed film track to one of Satyajit Ray’s best loved films with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra later this summer.

He told what it is that excites him most about the East India Club nights at Rich Mix.

“It’s a concert platform for music that doesn’t get a chance to be programmed at big venues at like the South Bank,” said Datta.

R-L Soumik Datta (sarod), Manu Delago (hang), Matt Robertson (keyboard), East India Club night, March 28 2014

Fretless Nomad” is a musical type drama that charts the history of the sarod, the 19-stringed fretless lute of which Datta is a leading exponent. It is said that the sarod originated from an Afghan instrument called the rubab.

“There’s going to be a rubab player and it will tell the story of how the sarod emerged in India and there will be tabla players and singers. It’s got element of both a concert and a play. It’s a production by own company (Soumik Datta Arts, SDA, a charity) which is going to specialise in these types of cross-Indian ventures.”

Before that, Datta will be playing some low-key concerts in the UK ahead of the official launch of the album, ‘Anti-Hero’ with his band, Circle of Sound, on May 20. It will form part of the events at the Alchemy Festival taking place on the South Bank that month.

Concertgoers will be able to hear Circle of Sound performing alongside Shankar and Sawhney, both of whom attended Friday’s performance.

In August, Datta will head to Scotland to collaborate with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and he has been working on a live composition to accompany the Ray film, “Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne” (1969).

This is one of Ray’s best loved movies but is little known outside of India itself.

“They (Scottish Chamber Orchestra) are going to play music that I have written for it. It’s a film about two musicians who get blessed by the King of Ghosts to become fantastic musicians.”

Part supernatural fantasy, part superhero tale, it will tour Scotland as a part of the cultural extravaganza mounted for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this summer.


Datta has also composed film scores, working on his director mother’s “Life Goes On” starring Om Puri, Sharmila Tagore and Soha Ali Khan, and the independent British Tamil film, “Tooting Broadway”.

While he enjoyed the experience and has gained a lot from collaborating with top artists, he appears to be entering different phase of his musical career as he told

“It’s a great process (to work on films) but my joy is definitely playing live.

“I am happy to play with artists I respect, but at the end of the day, it is about the music. If I can be playing my own music then there’s a statement happening.

“I am mainly into composing and playing my own pieces and bringing people into play for collaborations.”

Look out for the East India Club nights, they’re free remember and your soul is bound to be more than a little stirred if Friday was anything to go by.

  • Next week, Wednesday, April 9, East India Club Night with Leafcutter John, 7.30pm, Rich Mix, London E1 6LA. Details here.
  • Manu Delago plays April 16, 2014 – MD Collaborations Festival – Brunel Museum / Rotherhithe Tunnel Shaft – London (UK) Start: 7.30pm. Tickets
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Written by Asian Culture Vulture