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Year Review: Music/Dance 2014

Year Review: Music/Dance 2014

January 14 2014

Shaking it – in more ways than one that describes our year in music and dance…

YOU MAY HAVE seen the recent ads on Sky TV, if you have it – featuring Aakash Odedra as one of those participating in its academy.

It’s a shame in some ways that Odedra is not better known because he’s one of the best around.

More recently, in October he won a prestigious Bessie Award in America, for his ‘outstanding performance’ in “James Brown: Get up on the good foot – a celebration in Dance”. He hasn’t performed this much in the UK. We spoke to him as he danced in “Murmur” a personal piece based on his own experience of dyslexia.

Aakash Odedra benefitted from the Sky Academy

One of the biggest stars of Asian music, AR Rahman was in the UK in February, to receive an honorary directorate from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) and play as part of the Celtic Connections initiative, itself part of the cultural programme ahead of that summer’s Commonwealth Games.

Ashanti Omkar, BBC Asian Network broadcaster who has her own Sunday 2pm show on South Indian and Sri Lankan music and entertainment, was there and wrote a super inside piece for us about Rahman’s action packed and fleeting trip to Britain. It notched up a cool 96 FB likes in a short space of time.

There’s a lot of innovation within Indian classical music in Britain and at the forefront of that is Northern-based company, Manasmitra. Earlier last year it performed, “Shivoham” a work that mixed Carnatic vocals with classical instrumental sounds and was composed by well-known musician, Shri – of Badmarsh and Shri.

Shri himself spoke to us about the evolution of his own musical journey from the dance club tracks with Badmarsh to a different sound blending electronica and Indian classical music.

Shri devised music for Manasmitra's 'Shivoham'

Khakan Qureshi reported on Flux, a band traversing the east-west divide and having some success.

April Fool’s Day and well a silly, if believable story – we like to think…the threat of naked Morris Dancers and the designs of Morris Dancers touring India for the first time

Up and coming and very much following in the footsteps of fellow collaborator Nitin Sawhney is Soumik Datta.

The sarod player had a curating residency at Rich Mix multi-arts venue in Shoreditch in East London. Called East India Club, it also had a dining component and attracted a dedicated crowd.

Soumik Datta was behind the innovative 'Fretless Nomad' and invited indie star Fiona Bevan

On the night visited, Datta was playing himself alongside Manu Delago on Hang and Matt Robertson on keyboards. Hang is a dome like instrument that has only been in existence in 14 years. Delago is one of its foremost exponents and has played with Bjork and Anushka Shankar
Datta also spoke to us about the excitement of creating a new drama musical around the fretless sarod he plays in “Fretless Nomad”. It featured at the Royal Court in London in June as a one-off and saw Indie star and old college friend Fiona Bevan add another dimension to it.

In April, Prince Ravi Varma, descended from the royal Varma family of Travencore State (now part of Kerala), sang a range of Carnatic compositions at the South Bank. Despite being professional and well acquainted with the more severe of Carnatic traditions, his concert was filled with a lightness, a serenity of sound and an easy-going, entertaining manner. The audience loved it.

In May, come two multi-arts extravaganzas, Alchemy covers many of art forms and give a platform to some of the very latest acts from South Asia or inspired by its traditions.

Chitra Mogul found Aditi Mangaldas in superlative expression performing “Knotted” and then “Unwrapped

Every year at Dartington a house dedicated to the memory and spirit of Rabindranath Tagore (Tagore 2014: A Celebration of Peace) reverberates to music made in the great polymaths’ vision. This year, Amjad Ali Khan and Talvin Singh descended upon Devon with that almost unworldly air of those seemingly able to play music with the gods, and not just music devoted to them. Chitra Mogul previewed a wonderful weekend

A six-day multi-arts festival known as “Indian Summer” in Leicester culminated in a special performance of tabla and rap with spoken word artist Shane Solanki and a couple of Kathak dancers seeing the festivities out to a packed cinema theatre in the city’s cultural quarter.

The maestro that is Amjad Ali Khan was back in August, this time in London, where Seetal Kaur saw him at the Wigmore Hall play a tribute concert to his late great father Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan.

One of the strongest draws in the South Asian music scene played out his own album and in a promotional Q&A answered questions about “Back to Love2”.The artist was of course Rahat Fateh Ali Khan.

They started out as a small community group but their passion for Indian classical music and poetry and that too not just from the subcontinent, but around the world saw them grow in strength and reputation. Saudha, society of poetry and Indian music is carving a unique space for themselves. Their one-off “Sound of Soul” at the Nehru Centre in August saw an eclectic crowd drawn to both disciplines.

Saudha, society of poetry and Indian music continued to gather momentum

You know the summer is drawing to a close when the Mayor’s London Mela rocks onto Gunnersbury Park in Ealing. This year Pakistani pop sensation Azim Azhar, known as that country’s Justin Bieber, Punjabi favourite, Miss Pooja and that ol’ crooner, Raghav kept the main stage buzzing. As always, a range of DJs from the BBC Asian Network marshalled proceedings with verve and panache on several different music stages spread through the park. Here’s the picture gallery from the main stage

In September, a huge array of Indian classical music talent headed to the South Bank to perform in what is Britain’s largest festival dedicated to the classical form. It plays host to both the Hindustani and Carnatic traditions. UK based Carnatic vocalist Manorama Prasad, who played at Darbar, looked back on a long and varied career that continues to evolve and surprise

Nahid Siddiqui, from Pakistan, showed that Kathak has reached unfamiliar territories and in a performance and special Q&A session gave generously to the audience. Khakan Qureshi was there both to review the dance and hear of the dancer’s heartbreak in having to leave the country of her birth to continue what she saw as her calling and art.

Nahid Siddiqui, a Pakistani star of Kathak
He might be blind but he’s not one to rest on his laurels and expect others to come to his aid. He is one of a kind and as a musician something of a phenomena. Baluji Sristav is musician of rare temperament and standing and his band/orchestra embarked on a nationwide tour. He certainly rocked Rich Mix with Inner Vision, whose 10 members are all blind or partially sighted.
Susheela Rahman was among the headliners this year at the London International Arts Festival, which played across the capital for over a month between October and November. Rahman’s concert took place at the iconic Jazz café in Camden and among the other bands to feature were Indie folk-Carnatic band, Sunday Driver and renowned South Indian Carnatic saxophonist Kadri Gopalnath from South India.

Seeta Patel reminded us that Bharatanatyam continues to exert an influence much more than the sum of its British parts as it took to Sadler’s Wells, the heart of British dancing, and showcased its versatility and depth. Suman Bhuchar was among those to be stimulated and moved.

Perhaps Britain’s most famous Indian classical dancer, Akram Khan, continues to push boundaries and set new standards. Bhuchar was there again to see Khan and Flamenco specialist, Israel Galvan collaborate in “Torobaka” at Sadler’s Wells.

Known in many circles, as the Buena Vista Social Club equivalent in Pakistan, Sachal Music, played in London a couple of times. The first was with celebrated jazz musican Wyton Marsalis at the Barbican in the summer and we were able to catch up with the troupe at a special private concert at King’s Hall close to King’s Cross Station. Founder Izzat Majeed explained how it all came about and looked ahead to their forthcoming India tour.

The year ended with one of the biggest pop stars returning to Britain for a promotion ahead of a new free downloaded album release. Yes, the silky vocals and bulging biceps of Jay Sean were back on these shores. We split a long-ranging interview covering his new release, “The Mistress II” as he went into overdrive about lust, morality and marriage. Read them both

Thanks to our contributors in this section: Suman Bhuchar, Khakan Qureshi, Chitra Mogul, Seetal Kaur Gahir.

Happy New Year! Keep those feet moving…

Sailesh Ram, editor of

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture