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CD Review

Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti

  • Simon Thacker:
  • Dhumaketu
  • Svaranjali
  • Multani
  • Three Punjabi folksongs reimagined
  • Rakshasa
  • Nigel Osborne: The Five Elements
  • Terry Riley: SwarAmant
  • Shirish Korde: Anusvara - 6th Prism
Simon Thacker, classical guitar
Japjit Kaur, vocals
Jacqueline Shave, violin
Sarvar Sabri, tabla
Find it at AmazonFind it at Amazon UKFind it at Amazon GermanyFind it at Amazon CanadaFind it at Amazon FranceFind it at Amazon Japan

Billed as "a new benchmark for intercultural collaboration", this CD is unlike any I've reviewed. Seeking to explore the limits and similarities of Eastern and Western music, the combination of traditional and classical instruments, allied with some of the greatest musical minds on both sides is simply explosive. Don't pass this off as another crossover album, it isn't one of those. Exploring classical traditions from all of India and then meshing with Western sound might sound like a misstep. It's genius.

By the time this review comes out, many great musicians – from the various worlds of classical, jazz, and international music – have already had their say. I'm afraid I delayed my writing a good while. But the good feedback from all over creation is richly deserved; Thacker and his associates aren't simply playing, they are delving into a musical treasure trove. They are pouring every ounce of creative energy they have into making a culturally relevant and musically coherent project. They succeed on all counts. Each selection is played with utmost conviction and purpose. This isn't an experimental gimmick; this is a fresh look at the universality of art. Sound corny? Sample any selection, from the rumblings of the tabla played by Sarvar Sabri, to the sweet singing violin of Jacqueline Shave. I dare you to not be haunted and even enthralled by the vocals of Japjit Kaur, or amazed at the deft virtuosity (not to mention compositional powers) of Simon Thacker. Nothing bores. Nothing stalls. Each selection highlights the instruments in a different way, testing the limitations and understandings of each voice and creating something unique. It's not classical music, or world music. This is classical music for the world.

My educational background is in communications. Multicultural communication continues to challenge every communication student as they struggle to understand their role in establishing interpersonal relationships with others. Projects like this remind all of us, in whatever field we study, that art can sometimes speak the loudest in helping us to understand the world. Simon Thacker and his fellow musicians have presented us with a golden opportunity to reevaluate our conceptions of what is East, what is West, and what is music. This beautifully packaged and gorgeously engineered disc looks great on my shelf, and deserves a place on yours, too.

Copyright © 2013, Brian Wigman