Squaring the sarod circle with Soumik
Soumik Datta is Britain’s most exciting sarod player, both in Indian classical and new experimental music. This disc, with Austrian-born drummer and percussionist Bernhard Schimpelsberger, is an example of the latter. The opening track, ‘Orion’, is full of energy, with tight incisive percussion, muscular sarod playing and Talvin Singh on tabla. It’s a homage to Shakti, one of the groundbreaking Indian fusion groups. Datta’s sarod sounds like John McLaughlin’s guitar and they borrow the idea of a morsing (Jew’s harp) buzzing across the soundscape from Shakti’s ‘Mind Ecology’. But it’s the 19-minute second track, ‘Footprints’, that shows off the duo in action, with formidable sarod playing starting slowly, but speeding up to a thrashing percussion solo and a powerful finish.
‘Vinyl Chapter’ starts with an announcement in stilted old-fashioned English from All India Radio. It’s another homage, this time to the old classical masters of the vinyl era, with Datta’s sarod emerging from the crackles of an archive recording. ‘Calcutta Triangle’, suggesting Datta’s Bengali roots, is delicate and lyrical with gong-like sounds from Manu Delago on hang; and there’s a moment of calm on ‘Sea Breeze’. The nine tracks here show Datta to be a talented composer and a sensitive, virtuoso performer who can bring the sarod to a new and wider audience.
Listen to a choice track from Circle of Sound on the Top of the World CD included with the current issue (#84 June 2012).