Music review: Svara-Kanti, Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh


Contemporary classical sensibility, heated flurries of flamenco, cosmic deliberations from ancient Vedic texts and a hastily admitted youthful infatuation with heavy metal… you get it all with the powerful East-West fusion ensemble led by eclectically-minded Scots classical guitarist Simon Thacker, which played Surgeon’s Hall in the penultimate concert of a lengthy tour of Scotland and beyond.

Svara-Kanti comprises Thacker with violinist Jacqueline Shave, tabla player Sarvar Sabri and singer Japjit Kaur, between them generating often beguiling tonal textures and shifting moods. They opened with the quick-fire Indo-Flamenco exchanges between guitar and percussion in Thacker’s own composition, Dhumaketu, before the full quartet played a new work by Nigel Osborne, The Five Element. This was an often restrained but vividly toned sequence, shifting from drifting violin harmonics and gently crooning vocals to more muscular developments – not least when Sabri’s waterphone seemed to unleash a cavern full of spectral voices, while Shave’s violin smouldered beautifully in the Fire movement.

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This ambitiously ranging programme also included SwarAmant , a commission from Terry Riley, which featured intense conversations between guitar and violin and frenetically complex tabla work. Elsewhere, Multani combined brisk riffing with shadowy Indian Ragi modes.

Leavening the more intense material were some winsomely melismatic Punjabi songs from Kaur who also shone in, Anusvara 6th Prism.

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