Nitin Sawhney - Isolation Aftershock

by Music Tech Fest | MTF Podcast

Nitin Sawhney is a composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist and many, many other things. He’s recently been named as the new chair of the PRS Foundation, the UK’s funding body for new music and talent development.

Nitin’s worked with an absolute who’s who - not just of music, but of all of culture - from theatre to games, cinema, contemporary dance, comedy, broadcasting and more. He received a lifetime achievement award at the Ivor Novellos in 2017 and has been awarded multiple honorary doctorates, prizes, accolades and even a CBE from the Queen.

He talks about his philosophy of musical creation, his interest in crossing cultural boundaries, life in lockdown, and ‘Immigrants’, his brand new album, which may or may not be his 12th - depending on how you’re counting.

Follow @thenitinsawhney on Twitter
Nitin Sawhney online

AI Transcription

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

music, people, find, honours, interesting, immigrants, album, thought, working, called, musicians, film, idea, prs, sony, listening, culture, moment, organisation, commonalities

SPEAKERS

Nitin Sawhney, Andrew Dubber

 

Andrew Dubber 

Hi, I’m Andrew Dubber. I’m the director of Music Tech Fest, and this is the MTF podcast. Now there are people in the world where you can simply say the phrase needs no introduction, then there are those where it might be more accurate to say, is inadequately described by any introduction. It’s kind of difficult to introduce someone like missing Sony without missing something hugely significant. If you scan through his bio, you’ll see sting Paul McCartney, the London Symphony Orchestra Anushka Shankar Andy Serkis Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, for hero Quantic WOMAD Sadler’s Wells Imogen Heap the Commonwealth Games fabric Norah Jones, Brian Eno Shakira Horace Andy Nike, Julian Lloyd Webber Nelson Mandela telvin Singh. You’ll see festival curator newspaper columnist, radio presenter theatre, Hollywood films, games, BBC nature documentaries, contemporary dance comedy influential DJ jazz, classical electronic choral music, he’s even been an animated children’s television character as himself. He’s a recipient of multiple honorary doctorates countless awards, a CBA, which, if you’re unfamiliar with the UK honours system is the highest of the three Order of the British Empire honours. And in 2017, he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Ivan developers. But as impressive as all of this is, it’s still not quite as impressive as the man himself. As you get to know him you find out that Nathan Soni is one of the most interesting, most thoughtful, most polymathic and erudite and most human humans you might ever hope to meet. I was lucky enough to work with him on a brilliant cultural project. Some years back, we have stayed in touch and he joined us at MTF central and local Ghana, Slovenia back in 2015. And this week, Nelson was named as the new chair of the prs Foundation, the UK is funding organisation for new music and talent development. Now, if you’re listening on Friday, 24th of April 2020, the day this episode comes out, he’s performing live streaming online as part of prs locked down at 6:30pm. UK time and his brand new album is going to be coming out very soon. So all of that seemed like a good reason to sit down and have a long overdue chat with the almost impossibly brilliant looking Sony. Enjoy. Listen, Tony, thanks so much for joining us for The MTF podcast today.

 

Nitin Sawhney 

Yeah, cool. Pleasure.

 

Andrew Dubber 

Well, it’s been 10 years I think since we first crossed paths. Can you believe that?

 

Nitin Sawhney 

Wow, what so 10 years since we did that offshore aftershock? Yeah,

 

Andrew Dubber 

so I wanted to just start by sort of setting the scene a little bit and don’t tell us what aftershock was.

 

Nitin Sawhney 

So aftershock came from an initial event at the Commonwealth Games were in Manchester, which is called culture shock with Jeremy Davis and Deborah King, who’d had organisers, and the idea was to, to get together people from quite diverse artistic backgrounds, and to put them together on the stage. Which was quite an ambitious idea in that, in that all those people may have very disparate kind of talents. And, but it was really a celebration, diversity and eclecticism. And, and genre breaking and, and, you know, so the idea was really to, to, to find a way of putting on a show, which incorporates a lot of different talents. And so you’d have rappers, you’d have Chalice you’d have, you know, singers and dramas and people who, who maybe came from different types of music as well. So, and then putting on a show with all those people, which required a lot of thinking about how you find the glue and, and how you really find them together as a band. And then we put on the performance a given venue. So this is something we originally did in Manchester, and then we, we did it in quite a few different places. And as you know, when you came with us, you know, we then went around, you know, in lots of different countries and actually performed it there.

 

Andrew Dubber 

It’s kind of weird thinking about that. Now, in retrospect, given the situation that we’re in this idea that you just bring lots of people together, go to different places, it seems so far away. Is this something that you think can happen again? Or would think about quite differently?

 

Nitin Sawhney 

Well, I mean, right now, I think it’d be an interesting idea to try and get into I mean, you know, the concept of a an isolation aftershock would be really interesting, because I think, you know, musicians really love jamming together listening to each other artistic people, creative people love to experiment and to try new things and to and to see if they can learn from each other. So I think I mean, you know, all this with your with the whole hacking thing and how people like to like to take something that is, is perceived in a certain way and then perceive it in a new way altogether. And and I think that’s something that aftershock was very much about, you know, taking people who come from certain traditions certain ways of looking at music and then, in a way kind of hacking into those and actually doing something totally different and and seeing how those skills can be utilised in a new way,

 

Andrew Dubber 

this whole idea of hybridity putting different things together that don’t ordinarily go together, that’s kind of your signature a little bit. Do you like the word fusion?

 

Nitin Sawhney 

For me, I think of it as de contextualization, because it’s kind of like, I’ll take something, and I’ll try to present it in a new context, you know, might be an end without diluting it, you know, if you, sometimes when you, when people think of fusion as well, they really kind of think in a very simple way of just sticking to things together, or sticking a few things together, which I am not really into. And I think that comes from the word fusion itself, where, you know, for me, I’m I’m much more interested in looking at first what what things have in common, and then finding the those commonalities by using emotion as a glue. So you kind of think about what theme what kind of feeling what mood you want to get across first and communicate. And then you find the language of that together

 

Andrew Dubber 

is any musical culture fair game?

 

Nitin Sawhney 

I think so. And as long as they are okay with it. I mean, you know, for example, I’ve worked with Aboriginal people in Australia, where, for example, they weren’t too happy about the idea of people outside their clan, or outside their culture, playing the darky, which is also known as the didgeridoo. They didn’t feel at times that that was appropriate. So you have to respect the people you’re working with and what their feelings are, you know, if they’ve come from a tradition, you can’t just walk in there, you know, like some African twat and just kind of, you know, try and take over their whole culture and and stamp your own authority on it. You have to be sensitive and, and thoughtful about the way in which you work with people.

 

Andrew Dubber 

It’s interesting to me because I mean, you’re you’re of Indian heritage, and you’re British, and yet one of your sort of primary instruments in fact, something you’ve been playing along with us flamenco guitar, where does that come from?

 

Nitin Sawhney 

Well, actually, funny enough it comes from India, because it because it originated in Rajasthan with the Rajasthan, Rajasthan gipsies. And I’ve many, many times mentioned there’s a great film about this by Gypsy called Tony Gatlin, and it’s called Lachie drum, which in Romany means Safe journey, and actually it traces the journey of the of the gipsies from from Rajasthan into Turkey and Spain. And it really shows how those commonalities kind of you know, are are very, still very relevant now and can be very interesting musically. You know, for example, even the origins of of flamenco dance, you can see that in the footwork of Catholic dancers from India. So Raja stanny, you know, I mean, the Raj stanny, gipsies still use a cast nets, for example, old cast net. So there are a lot of those commonalities. pacta, luthier, himself talked about them and works with people at rubbish anchor. So you know, there are those commonalities. I mean, I love looking for things like that as well, you know, sort of like finding, finding these points of connection. And it’s something actually I’m writing about at the moment, I’m writing a book on this, you know, about those common meeting points between different cultures, particularly through art and music,

 

Andrew Dubber 

right. When are we seeing that?

 

Nitin Sawhney 

When I’ve done it? I’m kind of like, I mean, it’s quite handy in a way being in isolation, because I’m getting round to kind of looking at a lot more than I probably would have done. I’m kind of thinking, you know, I’m kind of inspired by I was inspired slightly by, you know, the very well known but by Yuval Harare, sapiens, in that it’s kind of it’s anecdotal. I mean, I want to base mine more in, in, in kind of historical information. And less than less than opinion, because I think my opinions probably not worth that much. But I kind of I’m trying to find common meeting points. I mean, there’s been some great books that I’ve read in recent times as well. The great animal orchestra by Bernie Krauss is a fantastic book that looks at natural connections, you know, in the Gianni or the, you know, and Trapani, you know, there are different ways in which you can find sound in nature. That is really interesting. And I kind of think, you know, all of that history of how music originated, goes back to to, you know, to how animals listen to music and evolution itself.

 

Andrew Dubber 

I think you’ve just kind of demonstrated why your opinion is probably a value just that it’s an informed opinion. And and that you sort of have what I guess would be a like a textbook definition of an inquisitive mind. I’m sort of reminded that you did the Desert Island Discs. And of course, you took a book. Yeah. And the book was not about music. It was about something. It was it was about physics. It was yes. Yeah, so that the thing I guess that’s of interest to me is, where does that come from? Where does that sort of inquiring mind is, it’s like your parents are particularly interested in the world around them. Or you were just sort of this natural, inquisitive child growing up,

 

Nitin Sawhney 

I think, I mean, in terms in relation to music, my dad had a very eclectic record collection with lots of Cuban music, a lot of I mean, music from all over the world, really. And my mum hadn’t had a very, I mean, both of them had had very inquiring minds, they loved mathematics, they love science, they were really interested in the arts, my dad was a really good painter. My mom had been a classical Indian dancer, when she was younger, so so there was a, there was a lot of interest in science and the arts anyway. But I guess, you know, I think some of the books I used to get when I was a kid, I don’t know if you remember them, though, there were these, how and why books, I can’t remember who published them. But I love all this, you know, it’s, it’s great when kids are surrounded by stuff that can, that can, you know, satisfy the Curiosity when they’re young, because there’d be lots of books about space, and all kinds of things that I kind of find them, you know, much more exciting than reading novels, or reading, reading any kind of fiction, I’d be much more into these books that really expose the, the wonders of the universe and how how alluring that could be, you know, and and so I kind of, and, and I think music for me was my interface with all of that, you know, it was it was a way of expressing me, I remember when I was a kid listening to David Gilmore, for example, playing, playing on shine on you Crazy Diamond and, and thinking how beautiful it was in relation to reading this stuff about space, and listening to his guitar solo. And I always had those connections with visuals or imagination with music. So I never really thought of music as anything interesting to me in itself, although I loved studying the grammar of music, but I I wanted to only study the grammar of music to express an idea or a feeling. And I think really, that’s Yeah, that’s something I felt very strongly about when I was a kid.

 

Andrew Dubber 

Is it important to you to express the feeling or that other people hear that?

 

 

I think it’s more important for me to express it. So I think I talked to you before about you know, the whole difference team communication and and catharsis or expression. Yeah, and and so as an artist, I think the first obligation in a ways to find your catharsis is to find what moves you and what you feel you need to express and I talk about a need to express because for me, music is at its best when it’s when it comes from passion. So if you if you feel passionately about something, then I honestly believe something beautiful will emerge when you immerse yourself in that passion. And then you find the sounds and the feelings and the flavours within within your hands and with in you know, even your voice or however you express your music. If you find all of that within it, then something amazing will emerge. Whatever it is,

 

Andrew Dubber 

there’s this sort of no end of lists of achievements that you can sort of rack up Ivor Novello, awards Lifetime Achievement Awards, I count five honorary doctorates

 

 

six honorary doctorate.

 

Andrew Dubber 

And and now you’ve taken on the role of the prs foundation chair, I mean, apart from you know, is there anything left for you to go for? what’s what’s the, what’s the ambition in regards to let’s say, the prs foundation?

 

 

I mean, well, first of all, I’m not an ambitious person. That’s I’ve, I think I’ve told you that as well. Before I don’t, I don’t really feel strongly about wanting to achieve things, but I’m very fortunate in that lovely things happened to me. So with the prs Foundation, they are a fan. They’re a great organisation I met ages ago, I worked, I was a judge for them for their New Music Award. And they are champions of new and innovative artists. And that’s one thing I really love about them. So I was honoured that they asked me to chair and, and I think that they are doing some great work at the moment. I mean, they’re working with the prs for music organisation for to create this Emergency Relief Fund, which, in fact, we’re, we’re going to be doing a gig for on Friday. And I think, you know, that’s very important because right now, musicians are really struggling, as you know, you know, musicians now have very few sources of income. And streaming just doesn’t cut it for musicians, I mean, you know, with now gigs actually being virtually impossible. Apart from online, it’s very hard for musicians to make a decent living. So I think it’s important for organisations like Paris Foundation, or you know, prs music, to really be there to help out and to support young musicians who want to actually be heard and not not really thought of in a commercial way. I mean, for example, the old commercial models that existed Before record companies, funding young musicians with development deals, that doesn’t really exist anymore. And so, you know, I’ve often said what happens to those young musicians who really need help and support in evolving their talents? I mean, you know, you could you could have a young Mozart, and they would go unnoticed, because what are they can do if there was an equivalent of someone like that? What would they do with their talent? You know, I mean, to make a living, they may find themselves working in the commercial sector and creating music for adverts or films. But I mean, even then they have to get recognised and they got to build a body of work. And so my point is, if you find if you have organisations like this, that really look for and are platforms for young talent to emerge, that I think that’s very exciting.

 

Andrew Dubber 

Beyond how we can help musicians, how can musicians help in the current situation, or how can music help?

 

 

Well, I mean, music is a healing kind of thing for from my point of view, I was listening to Marianne Hobbs show last night and she played him actually a piece that I did with an issue Shanker for, for a rubbish anchors, Antinori, and she played some beautiful music, I mean, very, which I found really soothing. And I’d been in a difficult mood all day, because I just was getting frustrated with all of this. I mean, I’m, I’m kind of I’m not not technically in the high risk group, but I am asthmatic. And so I kind of, you know, I’m keeping myself pretty much in isolation. And so, from that point of view, it’s, it’s great when you hear music that opens up your feelings in your mind, like that. So music is, I mean, you know, there is there is a lot of you could get into the technical side of it. And, you know, there are parts of the brain that responds literally in a, in a pleasurable way to to music. And there’s a part of the brain called a solitary phase lock, which, which they find in chimpanzees as well, where they respond like we do to consonance and dissonance in different ways. So dissonant intervals and music, actually create unrest and an irritation. So, you know, but whereas with chimpanzees, they actually respond really well to consonant intervals. So Mozart, for example, would go down really well with a lot of chimpanzees, because a lot of the intervals are consonant intervals. So, so it’s kind of, you know, it’s and that’s to do with the ratios and so on, but I mean, it’s kind of, it’s very, you know, it’s it’s very soothing and very healing to listen to great music that you can empathise with. I mean, it’s not just the technical side sort of nostalgia. It’s also, you know, it evokes so much feeling in us where, whereas in animals primarily, they’re using music for survival, reproduction and communication. We’re using it in so many different nuanced ways to actually really enhance our moods. And in fact, I talked recently about and I was talking to a psychologist about the idea of EMDR, which is eye movement, desensitisation reprocessing, and that that in itself is about left, right. I suppose stimulation, so in terms of the hemispheres of the brain, and and it’s alternating, in the way it works, and, and she was, my psychologist was saying, even walking or running or playing the piano, or doing anything, where you use your hands in alternating ways, can can actually really enhance your mood and do a lot for working through problems that you have in your life. So there are so many ways in which music I think can enhance our feelings and moods during a time when we’re feeling isolated, confined and frustrated. Is

 

Andrew Dubber 

there anything in the brainwave entrainment side of that of, you know, putting your brainwaves in sync with the pulses around you?

 

 

I think I think that’s what’s going on with the MTR. I mean, it’s very difficult to know exactly, the person who actually came up with it. I can’t remember her name off the top of my head, but she sadly passed away last year, but she, she originally noticed this with lights through through foliage and trees when she was when she was taking a walk. And she noticed that the the light was actually alternating and, and this is how it works is you know, originally it was eye movement, but it also works the same way with sound. I mean, if you have a pulse alternating between, you know, left and right with the headphones, that that can be equally effective. So, so there is a lot of clinical data that actually backs this up and it has got very positive results. You know, so So I do think it’s, it’s really interesting, and I think music for me, you know, if you tap into something that musically I think it can really be quite interesting.

 

Andrew Dubber 

One of the things that’s really sort of obvious about your music apart from it being, you know, incredibly technically proficient is that you do the most Without doing the sentimental How do you distinguish those things? And how do you really kind of how do you how do you separate those things?

 

 

i? That’s a really good question, actually. I mean, like, you know, that’s something I do feel sentimentality, you know, working, for example, a lot on documentaries, I mean, your, your documentary making yourself so you’re always looking for ways in which you can, you can find tonality and feeling without being didactic. So you don’t want to go around telling people what to feel or to think you want to try to evoke feelings in people through sound, but without without necessarily imposing your own perspective on them. And I think that’s very important. I think that is the difference between sentimentality where, where you are actually being allowing your own feelings to take over the, the elegance and grace of the expression itself. And I think, I think, you know, that’s the same with personalities. I mean, I find that the people, most interesting to me, are those who are able to, who are able to, I suppose, use their emotions to support other people. And I think music can can do that. In the same way, if you become overly sentimental, for some reason, to me, it feels like selfish music, as opposed to music that is shared with others,

 

Andrew Dubber 

which is really interesting, because you’re a collaborator. Is that kind of central to what you do? Or is it just sort of a byproduct of how you work?

 

 

I mean, I love working on my own as well. I mean, I love I love playing piano and guitar and come out with, you know, write a lot of songs and music. But But yeah, I mean, I think it’s, once I’ve done that, and like I was saying, in the first place, everything comes from a personal catharsis, but then it’s about sharing. You know, and I think that is, that’s a real, pleasurable aspect of making music is that you have the opportunity to communicate with others in a nonverbal way, you know, and to find those common meeting points. I mean, quite often, I will start however, you know, if I’m working with a musician, I’ll start with a conversation when I worked with Imogen Heap. You know, that was the thing when we did London on sand. Again, I think I’ve mentioned this to you before, but you know, when we, when we did London on sand, we had we, we created ritual, where we travelled around London by going to these different parts of it, different compass points of it, and, and at different times of the day. So we created this whole ritual. And then from that, we created a piece of music that used that ritual as the basis. So in a way, it was kind of trying to create in a very short time span, almost a mini musical tradition. So it was kind of like coming from activity and feelings and thoughts. That meant that you were incorporating the day, the day into the music itself.

 

Andrew Dubber 

I sort of see you looking around in the studio, where you’re at, and there’s a lot of musical equipment, there are a lot of gear, are you a gearhead, What’s your relationship to technology,

 

 

I used to be more I mean, my my thing is everything in in music should be functional. So so I’m, I’m kind of whatever I’m using, it has to have a high level of function. So I’m not really into anything that’s kind of you know, too indulgent. I mean, everything I have here, I mean, this is my my room, my room in my house now. So my normal studio is in Brixton, we moved for lockdown, just before lockdown. We moved everything here. And so you know, I’ve kind of got the bare essentials of what I need. I mean, there’s a keyboard, there’s a computer, there’s a screen up there for if I’m doing film scoring. I’ve got my I’ve got some of my guitars here, you know, which you can see around there. And then I’ve got this is a Kemper which is a unit for giving me lots of different types of sound on the electric guitar. And then underneath that I’ve got an interface for it, which is an equivalent of a mixing desk. So it’s kind of like, but that interfaces with my main mixing desk, which is actually on the computer as well. So So all of that and then microphone and so on. It’s not it’s not very complicated setup, but it’s a setup that really works and allows me to continue to do everything I need. Have you

 

Andrew Dubber 

gotten the gadgets that you’re particularly fond of that you know, apart from anything you’d quite like to hang on to this one?

 

 

Yeah, this iPhone I’m using

 

 

I think that’s my main gadget like most, I think apart from that. Yeah, I mean, I I guess I’ve got my Rolly at the at the studio at the moment. I haven’t brought that over. I don’t know if you know about those, but those are the keyboard. Yeah, so I love those. Those are really interesting. And I find that quite a quite cool thing. And I use that with the with the iPad to kind of, you know, through Bluetooth to kind of find interesting ways of playing. So I think of it more as a keyboard, not me. It’s not even normal keyboard is it? I mean, because you can be very expressive with it. And it’s very tactile instrument.

 

Andrew Dubber 

You know, somebody described it to me once as a piano made out of a wetsuit

 

 

like that. That’s actually a very good description. Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense.

 

Andrew Dubber 

Yeah. Yeah. So obviously, you’ve been using this to make new music and you’ve got an album number 11. Or at least you know, you’ve got your licence as well.

 

 

Yeah, exactly. And also, I think this is Yeah, I think this is, it might be actually album number 12. If you take dystopian dream, yeah. If you include one, zero. So one zero was done as a director vinyl. Yeah, it was done. Yeah. directive under which was a really interesting thing in itself. I mean, direct vinyl means we recorded directly to vinyl as opposed to going through a desk and well, we get went through a desk but not a tape, we didn’t or any, or a computer, we just went

 

Andrew Dubber 

mastered and then pressed it was actually recorded onto

 

 

it was recorded onto the vinyl, so directly onto lat, so the lacquer itself, you know, you’re actually using that as the recording medium. And that’s actually how people used to do it back in the day. But everything then needed to be pretty much one take. So one zero is an album of live takes. And, you know, it was the first album that had been done that way in about 35 years. So we did that back in 2013. And that was a really a really enjoyable and interesting experience. So doing something which actually meant that you get into the mechanics of, of, of the recording medium itself was was and that that would dictate how you played. I think it’s really interesting.

 

Andrew Dubber 

So not counting that one. I was counting that one. Yeah. You’re on number 12 studio albums not counting compilations, and, and remixes and so forth.

 

 

Yeah, that’s right. So I mean, this one This album is called, is going to be called immigrants. It’s the first time I’ve actually released an album or we’ll be releasing an album with a major. So I made a record company. So before that, I was, I was the biggest company I’ve been signed to with v two, which was the biggest independent company of that time. But, but since then, I’ve been we’re cooking vinyl and a couple of others, but then independent labels. But this one is the first time I was very honoured that they, I mean, I really like Sony Masterworks because they call themselves a genre fluid label, which I think is great. You know. So that’s, that’s very cool. And that totally ties up with the way I think so. And they’re very, very open and very interested in why do and I think that they’re an amazing team and very intelligent team. I was signed out in New York, but I obviously interact a lot more with the people in London, but the guys in New York are amazing as well. So it’s a it’s a very cool label and a label that I’m really proud to be with.

 

Andrew Dubber 

And so tell us a little bit about immigrants.

 

 

So yeah, I mean, I wanted to make an album that. I mean, after all of the

 

 

incredible

 

 

it’s been it’s been so depressing to hear how, how immigrants have been constantly attacked and scapegoated not just in the UK, but across the world, for so long. And, you know, and I think it’s important to really celebrate the history of immigrants and how much they have contributed to societies. I mean, the net, you know, in economic terms alone, you know, the net benefit of immigrants is phenomenal to this country and to most countries. But, you know, if you if you remove that, just how much they enrich the culture and how much immigrants have, you know, it’s weird that we think in terms of immigrants being separate to everything else, because really, you know, every culture is dynamic, we can’t think of, of any culture as being static, when people do that cultures die anyway. But, you know, if you’re, if you’re looking, I mean, you know, any great, I mean, if you think of the Italian Renaissance, it benefited massively from the influx of, of different cultures and different ways of thinking, you know, Nick came on the back end of the Golden Age of Islam. So you kind of look at how people benefit each other. And, you know, I mean, even Alexander great when you went over to India, there was a there was a great exchange that happened there. So you kind of there’s there’s always been these kind of historic moments, pivotal moments where cultures have really benefited from each other. And I think immigration is very much part of that. I mean, look at what’s going on right now with Coronavirus. I mean, you know, the people in the front line 75% of the ones who would be dying off from, you know, Bain backgrounds. So, you’re actually looking at a lot of a lot of people. I mean, it’s always been that way, I guess. I mean, you know, if you think about, if you think about the Indian soldiers, the Sikh soldiers who died fighting for the British in, in World War One, you know, the poppy fields and so on in the trenches. You know, it’s always been there’s always been immigrants on the front line and yet we’re so you know, countries are so lacking in gratitude. I mean the best thing they’ve said to the people who are the immigrants who’ve stayed back in a fighting for you know against Coronavirus and all the rest of it. The best thing that they said so far, the kindest thing they said is, oh, well, we’ll let you stay for another year, you know, we’ll extend your visa for, I mean, what kind of mentality is that? So for me, I wanted to make this album and with this album, I’ve incorporated a lot of brilliant musicians and singers and traditions and ways of looking at music. So, you know, I’ve brought in some of the people I work with regularly. I mean, obviously Nicky wells and Ashwin Srinivasan after Vish brought in a brilliant singer, who’s from the Cavalli tradition, troops in Gari, and I’m working with Nina Miranda, who worked on beyond skin, who’s a Portuguese singer, why she thinks in Portuguese, she’s Brazilian, working with a river read who’s who’s actually from a German descent. So she’s, she’s singing in German, I’ve got lots of different languages on this album, and Tash Atlas is going to appear again, you know, but it’s really, really even the music and the words themselves are very much a celebration. I mean, the first single was called down the road, which is, which is not to mystic take on, on immigration. And, and, you know, the idea of togetherness, but I kind of it’s interesting, because somebody pointed out to me that the words are quite salient to what’s going on now with COVID. And, and I think, in the same way, this next track that we’re going to be releasing, as the next single you are, is coming out on the first of May, and I first played it on a radio show that I take to code for Tom Robinson last week. But it’s coming out on the first of May in term. And the lyrics, I think, for that. Weirdly prescient, you know, I didn’t intend it to be that way. But it kind of, it’s very odd, because the lyrics actually really are, they’d sound like what’s going on now. And I think there is some, there’s something of a Zeitgeist, you know, about how you sometimes work as an artist, you know, where you don’t even realise you’re tapping into something that’s happening or is about to happen. I tend to understand that, but it can’t, you know, it’s happened to me a great deal as I’ve, as we’ve talked about in the past, and I do find that I do find as a musician, when you have these coincidences and, and moments that kind of that surprise you with your own work, you know, in terms of how they can, how they can be representative of changes in society? It can it can be quite, quite surprising, you know, later on down the line.

 

Andrew Dubber 

We working on an album like this, do you compartmentalise or sort of focus just on that? Or do you multitask? Because you do so many different things? Is it right now is my time for working on this album, or that’s just between these hours, I’m doing that between those hours, I’m doing something else.

 

 

I don’t, I’m not so well organised as you I know, you’re very well organised. But I am I don’t, I don’t think that way. Very often, I just tend to go with the flow. So you know, I am working on some film scores. I’m working on one which is, which is a brilliant environmental film, actually, or it’s a film made by an environmentalist, which is setting the biosphere on Mars in the future. But the writer was an environmental advisor to Barack Obama back in the day. And I think it’s a really interesting, it reminds me a bit of Winter’s Bone that which was a brilliant film that I loved ages ago. And it’s got a really great feel to it. And it’s kind of bad isolation. Interestingly, the other the other thing I’m working on mainly at the moment is about the Italian or the Sicilian Mafia, which is, which is documentary series that I’m doing for Amazon. Amazon Prime, I think, and, and then there’s, there’s a few other projects that I’m about to start, but but right now, yeah, I mean, my priority, I guess, is the album. I mean, you know, I find myself working that more than anything else right now.

 

Andrew Dubber 

Is there a project that you’re hoping will fall in your lap someday? Is there a kind of a dream, and so any project that would would just kind of tie all the threads together nicely,

 

 

I think I’d love to work collaboratively with the with the director, maybe where I actually kind of get to direct as well. Some aspects of a film where I can really kind of, you know, maybe find a way of representing the historical journey of immigrants around the world. Something like that would be incredible. I mean, recently I had the fortune to meet The great director Asif Kapadia, who is a hero of mine. I mean, he’s, if people don’t know him, he, he started with a short film I remember well, I think he probably did loads of projects, but Amy Cena, yeah, well, well, the first the first one I saw was was the sheep thief. And then after that I saw, I saw the warrior, which was with fn Khan, which is a beautiful, beautiful film and very moving film. And then he went into documentaries. I mean, obviously, yeah, there was centre, Amy, Madonna, you know. And so he’s made these great films that, you know, I’d love to work on his next project, whatever that might be, or work with him on something, because he’s someone I really admire.

 

Andrew Dubber 

Right? Fantastic. I wanted to talk to you a little bit about this complexity of dealing with things and a really good example of this, you turned down an OBE, but you accepted a CBE. And I thought your reasons for doing it were really, really interesting because you you took a stand and you said no, I’ll be as connected with the colonial past. But it disappointed my father. And so in his honour, I accepted the CBE when that which is a higher honour, but when that was offered to him, so this sort of it’s not a hard and fast rule. It was a sort of a Wade, the world is a complicated place kind of response to that, which I really thought was really impressive. How did you think about that? And does that relate to how you think about other things? Yeah, I

 

 

don’t like being absolutist about things or, you know, intransigent about anything, I like to think that I’m fluid, thinking enough that I can adjust my, you know, my approach to stuff in different ways. But having said that, you know, it was my dad passed away in 2013, in 2013. So, you know, that left a big impression on me. I was there by his bedside for five days, holding his hand, you know, and and swapping his mouth, you know, during those five days, and it was a very powerful experience to watch some someone close up passed away. And I think, the very fact that he had said that he really wanted me to take to you know, he said you’d be it’d be a sign of how far we’ve come. You know, if you took that, and, or it’d be a measure of how far we’ve come. And, and so the very fact that the CB was offered to me in the letter on my dad’s birthday, you know, in 2017, was it 2017? Yeah. And then 2018 I took it was that or no, it was not. It was last year. I’m going crazy. Yeah. So 2018. He, he had, he’d said, I mean, so I got Sorry, I got the letter. I’m going crazy. I’m thinking about my dad right now. So he’d said when when, you know, when I did turn down the OB said, Would you not take it for my birthday? So the very fact that it came on his birthday? For me, actually, you know, was a was a big thing. And yeah, it’s hard for me to talk about in some ways, but I think I think it’s, you know, I think the whole idea I don’t, it’s not something I wear on my sleeve. The whole CB thing. The word Empire still bothers me. Like I said at the time I associated with more with Darth Vader than anything. Particularly prestigious, or socialised. I value in that way. But I think I like I also kind of had thought that somebody somewhere had put me up for this. And people had sat and considered whether I was worthy of getting something like that or not. And I think there is a certain arrogance and just saying, Oh, I don’t want that or whatever. You know, so I, you know, I also had thought about that since I’d turned down the OB. But yes, I do have a problem with the word Empire. I don’t understand the idea that literally a CB stands for, which I find hilarious, actually. Because it also reminds me of Bill and Ted. It’s commander of the most excellent Order of the British Empire. Which I find hilarious, because it’s Yeah, I just combination bill and Ted and Darth Vader. But yeah, I mean, I yeah, it’s it’s a weird thing. And I guess, you know, it’s, I mean, the at the moment, the people who really deserve honours, the doctors and the nurses who were fighting for their lives as well as ours, you know, and I pay

 

Andrew Dubber 

first and maybe then honours?

 

 

Yeah, well, absolutely. Right. Yeah. I mean, I’m MPP. You know, I mean, they need that stuff. So it’s kind of like, you know, I kind of take everything with a pinch of salt in terms of me getting any kind of anon or anything like that. It’s nice. And I really, I acknowledge it and I respect that people felt that they want to do that which is which is lovely. But at the same time, there are a lot of people who I know For sure definitely deserve a lot more than I do.

 

Andrew Dubber 

It does open up a really interesting thread here, though, because you’re very scientific thinker, but it does sort of admit the possibility of you being quite a spiritual person as well.

 

 

What does

 

Andrew Dubber 

the the idea that that as sort of as a commemorative thing for your father that sort of some some significance that it fell on his birthday?

 

 

Yeah, yeah, I know what you mean. Yeah. So the signs thing? Well, I mean, also coincidences and stuff that I mean, yeah, it’s not like I’m superstitious or anything like that. But at the same time, I kind of I suppose there, there are ties with other ways of thinking that I, I mean, there’s so much we don’t understand in science. I mean, at the moment, if you take the Was it the Franco Renner experiment, or, you know, if you know about shredding his cat is an extension of that thought, thought experiment? Or if you take him, you know, now, we realise that quantum entanglement isn’t, as Einstein said, it’s not actually the idea that there is pre programmed kind of like information within, within the bones that you know, or photons or anything that is entangled. And you have literally got, I mean, it’s not communication, but you’ve literally got a situation where there is a system that can operate any distance, what’s what Einstein called spooky action at a distance. So you have all kinds of stuff that happens in this universe, that is way beyond our understanding, and science just can’t even touch it right now. I mean, you know, that that quantum entanglement itself disproves the speed of light, is the is the speed limit of the universe. I mean, so which is, which is a principle the so much science is based on. So it’s kind of like, you know, if you if you just look at these basic things, it’s very difficult for us to understand a lot. So sometimes, I just go with my intuition and think, well, this company’s birthday, I don’t understand why I don’t really try to fathom it. But for me, it feels appropriate to respond in this way.

 

Andrew Dubber 

Nice. subatomic empathy.

 

Nitin Sawhney 

There you go.

 

Andrew Dubber 

We had you at MTF in Slovenia, and I just realised that was five years ago. So it’s about you getting you back again. But one of the things that was really great about having you there was that there wasn’t any boundary between the things that you got involved in. I mean, I remember, in the hackathon, you were sitting there sort of cross legged on the floor with a guitar people with jamming. And so the I guess the this idea about compartmentalization, and and how do you think about what you do? I mean, because you’re you’re, I mean, you’ve done comedy, you’ve done academia, you’ve done, you know, music, you’ve written games you’ve done, you know, also he acted in Hollywood films, you know, you

 

Nitin Sawhney 

my parents, yeah.

 

Andrew Dubber 

Yeah. But But I mean, so the Beingness and Sony must be a kind of an interesting endeavour.

 

 

It’s very difficult for me to be objective about that one.

 

Andrew Dubber 

I guess that’s probably right. But But if there was somebody who is looking to you, as somebody, as you sort of look at other people and go, this is somebody I admire, somebody was looking at you admiring? What would you say is sort of key to being more net and Sonic?

 

 

Well, being yourself is probably the biggest thing. So ironically, to be more me is actually to try as hard as you can to not let other people tell you who you should be. So I think I think always trying to find, follow the work follow your passion and not your ego. I think that’s very important. I mean, I’m, I always try to look for interesting work that stimulates me as a human being, but not, not really, I’m not really interested in, you know, pushing myself in any way as the centre of anything. I’m much more interested in finding work that I can really empathise with, and find common commonality with and, and get excited about and feel passionate about. And, and I think that’s what you know, that’s what I’m always doing. And I think, and don’t look back, you know, don’t don’t kind of, well, you can’t look back. But but but always tried to be in the present with what you do as an artist. And creatively try to find where you are right now, rather than what you did then and try to reproduce it or what you might do what you might be doing or anticipate what you might be doing in the future. I mean, ambition isn’t interesting to me. being present minded and, and excited about the moment is one thing.

 

Andrew Dubber 

Nothing. Thanks so much for your time today. Thank

 

 

you really appreciate it. Cheers. Good. See,

 

Andrew Dubber 

that’s Nitin Sawhney. And that’s the MTF podcast. You can find them online. He’s @thenitinswawhney on Twitter, and his website is nitinsawney.com. I’m Dubber at Dubber on Twitter. And you can find Music Tech Fest or one word on pretty much everything. The podcast comes out each week on a Friday. So you You might want to subscribe. But what do you do share, like rate review. Have a good week, and I’ll catch you next time. Stay safe. Cheers.