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Album release: ‘My East Is Your West’ by Sarathy Korwar
Release date: 9 November 2018
Label: Gearbox Records
More info: Artist website

Off the back of his critically acclaimed Ninja Tune debut ‘Day to Day’ and his lauded collaboration with Shabaka Hutchings and Hieroglyphic Being on A.R.E. Project in 2017, indo-jazz percussionist, producer and composer Sarathy Korwar and his newly formed UPAJ Collective are now ready to release their debut record, ‘My East Is Your West’.

Made up of estimable Indian jazz and classical musicians that share Sarathy’s passion for jazz and Indian music, UPAJ collective consists of 10 members including the likes of adroit Indian musicians such as Aravindhan Baheerathan (bansuri), Jasdeep Singh Degun (sitar), Aditya Prakash (vocals) and B C Manjunath (percussion) alongside John Ball (santoor and tabla) and respected jazz musicians including Tamar Osborn (sax and flute), Alastair MacSween (piano), Jesse Bannister (saxophonist), Giuliano Modarelli (guitar) and Domenico Angarano (bass).

Recorded live at Church Of Sound in early 2018, the new album sees Sarathy and his fellow musicians explore and challenge the concepts of ‘East’ and ‘West’ and the intersection at which western jazz meets Indian music. Led by Sarathy in a seated circle facing one another, the ensemble guides the audience through a selection of homages that explore Indian ragas and talas with smatterings of western harmony and hypnotic jazz. The result is an a truly contemplative 10 tracks traversing fervent percussion, meditative passages of ambience, raw improvisation and traditional Indian music, which is as beguiling as it is edifying.

Throughout the history of contemporary jazz many artists have had a fascination for Indian music, leading to records which are now considered to be quintessential spiritual jazz milestones. However, whilst most popular spiritual jazz from the 60s and 70s set out to explore the music, culture and religion in foreign continents, the material sometimes only incorporated certain elements of these cultures and what East meant to, or was perceived as, by those particular artists. Importantly, these musicians were also only at the start of a narrative that has become more complex as time has gone on with a greater accessibility to different music and cultures and with many more people studying Indian music and contributing to Indo-jazz.

On ‘My East Is Your West’ Sarathy balances the scales for the current and future generations, providing insight and criticising the sometimes-simplistic adoption of “Eastern styles”, whilst also building on the narrative of what ‘East’ is, and equally challenging listeners to consider where ‘East’ is. Speaking about the album Sarathy says, “For this album, the musicians play the songs of notable jazzers and Indian classical musicians who have all been interested in this cross-cultural musical exchange in the past. But this needs redefining, as the narrative has moved along considerably since these songs were initially recorded in the 1960s-70s. Although great recordings, many of which are considered classics, their nod to any non-jazz traditions of music today seem tokenistic and express a deep-rooted orientalised view of Indian music and it's music makers.

'Eastern music', much like the term "African music' are still ubiquitous and are indicative of how the UK sees, hears and consumes a lot of music that is from afar. This album (and it's title - My East Is Your West) attempts to question notions of what and where 'East' and 'West' is, in the disturbingly common and casual use of these terms whilst talking about music and bringing together both jazz and Indian classical music with a shift in the power dynamic.”

With every record Sarathy releases his music becomes more exploratory and insightful, delving into his personal influences, which also inspire much of the music in the jazz scene that surrounds him. At a time where UK jazz is being heralded for its progression, innovation and far-reaching appeal to people from varying backgrounds, ‘My East Is Your West’ is an essential record that explores cultural and musical diversity in way that will continue to be relevant for years to come.

The title ‘My East Is Your West’ is taken from artist Shilpa Gupta’s exhibition at the Venice Biennale, 2015 and is used with her permission. Featuring liner notes from jazz writer, radio presenter and editor of Straight No Chaser, Paul Bradshaw, Sarathy Korwar’s new album is available to pre-order now on 3xLP, CD and digital platforms from Gearbox Records.

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