The Scotsman Sessions #287: Simon Thacker

Welcome to the award-winning Scotsman Sessions. With the performing arts sector still impacted by the pandemic, we are commissioning a series of short video performances from artists all around the country and releasing them on scotsman.com, with introductions from our critics. Here, guitarist Simon Thacker performs a semi-improvised piece called Tandava

For guitarist Simon Thacker, performing live with his show Pashyanti on Guitar as part of the Made in Scotland events at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe was an exhilarating but bittersweet experience. It was just before lockdown at the same venue, Summerhall, that he last played live in the final concerts of his March 2020 Scottish tour.

Initially thinking lockdown would last a few months, Thacker quickly set up a large international video collaboration involving 19 musicians from nine different countries to perform We Shall Overcome. Then when lockdown continued, he started composing new material for Pashyanti on Guitar.

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“In the end it was quite a productive time as I also created a visual recording of the show with the Rambert dancer, Aishwarya Raut,” he says. “She’s a superhuman dancer who embodies my music beautifully and we put together a team to produce a spectacular cinematic video. We filmed at various places in my local area including a castle, a quarry where 40,000 tons of rock blows up behind me in a special effect and a forest in my road which we turned into an enchanted supernatural world. It certainly set a new standard for me in representing my work on screen.”

Simon Thacker

Pashyanti means the junction point between the waking state and pure consciousness – a state similar to the one Thacker enters into for the semi-improvised piece Tandava (the cosmic dance of Shiva). Every performance is different as the improvisation can take many emotional colours or forms. The guitarist says the it’s more an exploration of a feeling; a very pure form of expression which can be both exposing and liberating.

"You have total freedom to connect to your creative muse and once you have that depth of emotion in the moment, certain things happen. It’s a bit like driving a very fast car, the more you risk the greater the rewards but also the greater the potential for disaster. I like those high stakes scenarios as you have to draw on your very being in that point in time.”

However, Thacker does usually set off knowing where his end point is, and this is the least improvised part. "I have a vision of the trajectory of experience I want people to have, the emotional journey. If you’re deeply immersed in what you’re doing, that’s when the most profound music happens.”

As yet, Thacker’s performing and touring schedule hasn’t quite settled down, despite lockdown ending, especially as travel to India isn’t possible at the moment. However, he does have several albums ready to go and is finishing the final pieces for his next CD, Songs of the Roma, which he’s recording in Budapest and Scotland.

Thacker adds that being inspired by and exploring different types of music over the years has led to him developing his own personal and emotive style of playing. “If there is one musical world that really needs shaking up it’s solo guitar. And Pashyanti on Guitar is my vision of where it can and should go.”

For tour dates and more information about Songs of the Roma, see www.simonthacker.com

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