Simon Thacker’s Svara-Kanti, Anatomy Lecture Theatre, Summerhall, Edinburgh. A similar review appeared in Songlines magazine, May issue.

Phone snap & concert review by Fiona Mactaggart.

Simon Thacker’s Svara-Kanti
Anatomy Lecture Theatre, Summerhall, Edinburgh, Scotland
March 15, 2020

Svara-Kanti’s splendidly colourful attire resonated with the luxuriant Indian folk music, all the more striking for being set against the drab backdrop of one of Edinburgh’s most austere venues.

This was the final concert of a Scotland/north England tour by Simon Thacker’s Svara-Kanti, a group brought together to expand on mystical Bengali Baul folk music as viewed through Thacker’s own Western Classical ‘lens’. Tonight’s concert was by the Baul, rather than the Hindustani/Carnatic iteration of this group, the former having existed in tonight’s format since 2016 when they played the Dhaka International Folk Festival to an audience of 60,000.

Completing Scottish guitarist-composer Thacker’s quartet were: virtuoso Bangladeshi Baul singer Farida Yasmin; from Santiniketan, West Bengal the charismatic singer and accomplished khomok musician Raju Das Baul; and Kolkatan tabla maestro Sunayana Ghosh. All arrangements were by Thacker, with one tune, the more Western Classical-influenced ‘Prabhava’, composed by him.

Thacker introduced each song with an English translation of the strikingly beautiful lyrics, most notable being those of Baul saint Lalon Fakir (such as ‘Dil Doriyar Majhe’) and Bengali polymath Rabindranath Tagore (‘Ekla Chalo Re’).

The music was exquisite. My Bengali-speaking companion attested to Yasmin’s superb diction whilst I was struck by her purity of tone and dramatic poise. Meanwhile Baul’s khomok seemed intuitively aligned with Thacker’s guitar, his diction marginally less clear as he danced irrepressibly to his own ankle bells. Team player Ghosh generated a spider-web of tabla rhythms, whilst Thacker’s formidable guitar evidenced his many world music influences.

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