My Mixtape: Sarathy Korwar

Sarathy Korwar was born in the United States and grew up in India. He began playing tabla aged 10 but was also drawn to the American music that he heard on the radio and that leaked through the doorway of his local jazz music shop.

At 17, Sarathy moved to Pune to study for a degree in environmental science, but he was still drawn to music, practising tabla and translating his skills to the Western drumkit and playing as a session musician. Finishing his studies, Sarathy began to think about pursuing a career in music and moved to London, where he trained as a classical tabla player under the guidance of Sanju Sahai, graduating with an MMus in Performance from SOAS.

Sarathy became involved in London’s jazz scene, connecting with  Shabaka Hutchings (Sons of Kemet, The Comet is Coming), Cara Stacey (Kit Records) and performing with clarinettist Arun Ghosh. He was, however, itching to create under his own name and he started developing the concept for Day To Day and planning a trip to India to record the Sidis. It was late in 2014 when Sarathy heard about the Steve Reid Foundation and was accepted to be mentored by the foundation’s patrons: Four Tet, Floating Points, Gilles Peterson, Koreless and Nick Woodmansey (Emanative).

Ninja Tunes released Day To Day in 2016 and last year Sarathy collaborated with Hieroglyphic Being and Shabaka Hutchings to release A.R.E. Project 12”, of which The Quietus said: “the three musicians integrate elements of spiritual jazz, Indian classical and acid into a blissed out cosmic flow”.

As he prepares to perform new songs here later this month, Sarathy shared some of the artists he is listening to right now.

Sarathy Korwar on his playlist

This is a selection of music that I’ve been listening to recently. Inspiring me to create differently and challenge my own subconscious assumptions of what works in a musical context. A lot of the music is from peers of mine, making music primarily based out of London. I’m in love with how creative and diverse the city feels, especially when making playlist like this one (!) putting together an eclectic mix of sounds.

Don Cherry and Charles Lloyd are two of my favourite jazz musicians. I think this is because they understand the power of communal music making. Their music always reminds me to keep things fluid and focus on creating an atmosphere in which my fellow musicians on stage feel comfortable taking risks while playing.

I’m currently adding finished touched to an album that features a range of South Asian rappers, poets, spoken word artists and is about the reality and non-singularity of having a South Asian identity/background today. Bandish Projekt is a producer working with a very talented group called the Swadesi crew based in Mumbai. They combine the vocabulary and cadence of Indian classical percussion with fiery lyrics in Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati.

I’m incredibly lucky to be joined on stage by Idris Rahman (Wildflower/Soothsayers/ Ill Considered), Dan Leaver (The Comet Is Coming/Soccer 96) and Huw Marc Bennett (Susso/Minyata) whose individual music projects I deeply admire.


 

Sarathy Korwar performs live in the Purcell Room on Saturday 29 September, and tickets are on sale now.

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Who was Muriel Spark and why is her centenary being celebrated with a classical concert?

If you hear the name Muriel Spark, you’d be forgiven for thinking immediately of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and perhaps wondering why an event we’re hosting called Muriel Spark Centenary is a classical concert.

But the Scottish writer, born in 1918, is so much more than this slim (utterly brilliant) novel. She was also a critic, a literary biographer – and a poet.

In fact Spark (née Camburg) was just 12 years old when she won her first poetry prize. She grew up in Edinburgh, working as a secretary after leaving school. Aged 19, she married and moved with her husband to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), where her son Robin was born. But the marriage was unhappy and Spark returned to England in 1944, taking a wartime post with MI6.

She started working as a journalist in 1945 and in 1947 became editor of the Poetry Review. In 1951, she won the Observer’s short story competition and a year later her first poetry collection, The Fanfarlo and Other Verse, was published.

Between 1957 and 1962 she published six novels, including The Ballad of Peckham Rye and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Spark went on to write 22 novels in total, living in New York and Italy, and being made a dame in 1993. She died in Florence in 2006.

It is her poetry that is being celebrated at Southbank Centre in her centenary year, with the world premiere of White Flame, a setting of five of her poems.

The music is by the revered British composer David Matthews, and the work is performed here on Saturday 13 October by the Nash Ensemble with mezzo soprano Victoria Simmonds.

One sonnet, ‘The Victoria Falls’, describes the Zambezi’s path from ‘the hush/Become a sibilance that hints a sigh’ to ‘A murmur, mounting as the currents rush/Faster, and while the murmur is a cry’.

Matthews has also set Spark’s love poem ‘Like Africa’ in which she returns to the image of the mighty Zambezi, this time as a metaphor for her lover’s ardour:

       And like a river his Zambesi
       Gathers the swell of seasons’ rains,
       The islands rocking on his breast,
       The orchid opens in his loins.

The other three poems in the cycle are Spark’s translations of Roman poets Horace and Catullus.

Matthews says: “Muriel Spark always thought of herself primarily as a poet. The five poems I have chosen for the song cycle were all written between 1948 and 1949, eight years before the publication of the first of her 22 novels, for which she is now best remembered.”

The Nash Ensemble - ICMS 18/19

The Nash Ensemble programme also features works by Mozart and Brahms, ending with Dvořák’s Piano Quintet No.2.

Before the concert there is a free talk with Matthews, along with sculptor Penelope Jardine, actress Hannah Gordon and Alan Taylor, author of Appointment in Arezzo – a friendship with Muriel Spark.

So if you love Spark, this is a great chance to enjoy some of her lesser known work. If you’re unfamiliar with her writing, come along and get involved – it could spark a love affair with one of Scotland’s greatest ever writers.


 

The Muriel Spark Centenary Concert takes place on Saturday 13 October and tickets are now on sale.

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Think Aloud podcast: Ask a Curator Day

Ask the curators: the stresses and secrets of programming by Southbank Centre: Think Aloud

In the fourth edition of Think Aloud, we join the #AskACuratorDay celebrations to find out about some of the most surprising, challenging and moving things that go on behind the scenes for the people pulling together our artistic programme.

Our regular host, arts and culture journalist Harriet Fitch-Little, is joined by: Bengi Unsal,  Senior Contemporary Music Programmer; Debo Amon, Literature Programmer; Rupert Thomson, Senior Programmer Performance & Dance and Jessica Cerasi, art curator and author of Who's Afraid of Contempoprary Art?

Tune in now to find out what career moments have moved them to tears and why a contemporary art curator would need to be an expert in the life cylcle of the silk worm, amongst other things.

You do get some hilarious tech riders - we've got a show coming up with a full sized stuffed horse and also one with a live dog that will be brought in from New York via Paris
Rupert Thomson, Senior Programmer Performance & Dance

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How Catalan musician Jordi Savall reveals early music’s relevance in the 21st century

Jordi Savall is a Catalan musician, conductor, composer and one of the foremost champions of early music – roughly defined as music written in the medieval and Renaissance periods, or from the 1300s to the 1600s.

It is a genre of classical music that used to have a bit of a fusty reputation, but Savall – a thoroughly contemporary character in spite of his interest in history and its music – is doing everything he can to change that.

He has a reputation not just as a passionate fan of early music, but as an intelligent programmer of repertoire and a man whose politics are at the heart of both his life and career. For example, he has tackled the immense and very difficult subject of the European slave trade in a recording and concert series called The Routes of Slavery, covering musical traditions from medieval Europe, Mali and the Americas through to negro spirituals.

Routes de l'esclavage (Teaser) - Jordi Savall

Another recent work has been inspired by the life of Joan of Arc, whom Savall describes as ‘an early example of a political prisoner’.

Jeanne d''Arc : Les Voix c. 1425. L'appel des Voix - 1428, Juillet. Domrémy est pillé (EXTRAIT)

And in his personal life he has spoken out in support of Catalan independence, saying: ‘I love Spain… but we need people from the Spanish government to respect Catalans’, and that it was a matter of ‘having control of our culture, of our dignity’. There was also his decision in 2014 to refuse Spain’s National Music Award, which comes with a €30,000 prize, in protest at the government’s ‘dramatic indifference and gross incompetence in the defense and promotion of art and its creators’.

His views on arts funding don’t come from some ivory tower – at the age of 14 Savall had left school and was working in a factory. It wasn’t until he was 16 that he started cello lessons and he didn’t start playing the instrument he is famous for – viola da gamba – until he was in his 20s.

This September you can hear him and his ensemble Hespèrion XXI in a concert called Wars of the Three Kingdoms – the name given to a series of conflicts which took place between 1639 and 1651 including the Bishops’ Wars between Scotland and England, the Irish Confederate Wars and the English Civil War.

All the composers whose music is featured lived in the run-up to, during or immediately after the Wars – a period incorporating the religious tumult of Elizabeth I’s reign and the end of the Tudor era, the Stuart succession to the English throne, the arrival of Charles I and subsequent Civil War; and the Restoration.

What’s fascinating about the programme is just how central the composers were to contemporary politics.

Alfonso Ferrabosco, for example, is a composer born in Greenwich around 1575 and noted for writing music for the viol, a small string instrument that is played upright rather than under the chin. But he also collaborated extensively with the politically controversial playwright Ben Jonson and Ferrabosco’s father, also a musician, is rumoured to have been a spy for Queen Elizabeth.

Another featured composer, Anthony Holborne, had close connections with the court of Queen Elizabeth, including the immensely powerful political figure Sir Robert Cecil. Cecil was spymaster for Elizabeth I and is famous as the exposer (or possibly agitator) of the Gunpowder Plot. He helped negotiate the transition of the monarchy from the Tudors to the Stuarts after Elizabeth’s death.

Also in the programme are pieces by William Lawes, a composer for Charles I who was shot dead during the English Civil War by a Parliamentarian. Another of Charles I’s court composers, John Jenkins, wrote the piece Newark Siege, about the Civil War battle which dragged on from November 1645 until May 1646.

The Newark Siege

The concert concludes with music by Henry Purcell, born the year before King Charles II was restored to the English throne. Historians have argued that although his famous English anthems, like Hear my Prayer, O Lord, used sacred texts from Psalms they could also be considered as royalist propaganda – an important tool in securing the monarchy’s future after it came so close to being destroyed forever.

If you’ve never given early music a try, this is going to be a terrific place to start. Savall is, not to be too hyperbolic, a truly inspirational figure and it will give you the chance to see this music through new eyes – passionate, relevant music written by composers who lived through some of England’s most tumultuous times.


 

Wars of the Three Kingdoms takes place on Tuesday 25 September. Tickets are now on sale.

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Discover other concerts in our International Chamber Music Season – and how you can save when you book tickets to more than two events in one transaction.

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Southbank Centre’s Book Podcast: Matt Haig & Jordan Stephens on mental health and creativity

Mental health and creativity featuring Matt Haig and Jordan Stephens by Southbank Centre's Book Podcast

In this episode we bring you highlights from author Matt Haig’s recent interview at Southbank Centre about his new book Notes on a Nervous Planet and musician and campaigner Jordan Stephens talks to Ted Hodgkinson about the relationship between mental health and creativity.


Following on from the mould-breaking memoir Reasons to Stay Alive, Matt Haig’s new book is a personal look at living with anxiety in the age of social media. We bring you key moments from his conversation last month with Bryony Gordon, offering insights on the why staying happy is difficult in our comparative culture and the relationship between the internet and his writing process.

 

There’s a lot of ‘I’ and ‘self’ wrapped up in the consumerist world we live in
Jordan Stephens

Jordan Stephens is best known as one half of the hip-hop duo Rizzle Kicks and has since led a range of campaigns challenging stigma about mental health for the likes of the YMCA and the NHS. He talks candidly to Ted Hodgkinson, Southbank Centre’s Head of Literature and Spoken Word, about the expectations of fame, masculinity and anxiety have shaped his life and fuelled his music.


 

Southbank Centre is the home of literature and spoken word events in the UK. See what’s coming up in our literature and poetry programme.

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Kazuo Ishiguro and Michael Ondaatje in conversation

Kazuo Ishiguro & Michael Ondaatje by Southbank Centre: Think Aloud

For the first time ever, Kazuo Ishiguro and Michael Ondaatje appeared together on stage in an unchaired conversation about their creative processes, their inspirations growing up and how that shaped their fiction.

Drawing on the wide range of influences that have informed their work, especially cinema and music, Ishiguro and Ondaatje’s discussion was divided into three sections – ‘Envy of the Other Arts’, ‘Boyhood Thrillers’ and ‘Notebooks’.

The pair were appearing together at Southbank Centre as part of Man Booker 50, our weekend-long festival celebrating 50 years of the Man Booker Prize, which featured a host of top novelists discussing their works and the literary process.

  

There came a point where I started to ask, if the dreaming mind was a novelist, what would be the characteristic, stylistic traits and innovations that this author used, and so the only place I could go to research that was to write down what I could remember, the fragments of dreams
Kazuo Ishiguro on researching dreams and dreaming

Kazuo Ishiguro, was born in Nagasaki, Japan, in 1954, but moved to Britain at the age of five. He won the Booker Prize in 1989 for Remains of the Day, and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2017.

Although best known as a novelist, Michael Ondaatje’s work also encompasses poetry, memoir, and film. Born in Sri Lanka, but a resident of Canada since the early 1960s. He won the Man Booker Prize in 1992 for The English Patient, and, at Man Booker 50, was awarded the Golden Man Booker for the same novel, as the best work of fiction to have won the prize across its 50 year history.


 

Southbank Centre is the home of literature and spoken word events in the UK. See what’s coming up this month in our literature and poetry programme.

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Anne Enright and Penelope Lively: Sex, Love & Families

Anne Enright & Penelope Lively: Sex, Love & Families by Southbank Centre: Think Aloud

As part of our celebration of fifty years of the Man Booker Prize, two of the award’s previous winners joined us at Southbank Centre for a special discussion about family dynamics, memory and desire.

As well as three collections of stories Anne Enright has published six novels, which include the 2007 winner of the Man Booker Prize, The Gathering, and The Green Road, which was long-listed for the Prize in 2016. Penelope Lively has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize three times; in 1977 for her first novel The Road to Lichfield, in 1984 for According to Mark and in 1987, when she won the Prize for Moon Tiger.

In this podcast, recorded at Man Booker 50, and chaired by BBC broadcaster Martha Kearney, the pair discuss how the past impacts on the present and how memory affects perception.

Writers mutate through life, just like anybody else
Penelope Lively

This talk was just a small part of a weekend-long festival of talks, readings and masterclasses featuring leading authors, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Man Booker Prize, here at Southbank Centre.


 

Southbank Centre is the home of literature and spoken word events in the UK. See what’s coming up this month in our literature and poetry programme.

find out more

Hilary Mantel & Pat Barker: Rewriting the Past

Hilary Mantel & Pat Barker: Rewriting the Past by Southbank Centre: Think Aloud

We recently welcomed not one, but two Booker Prize-winning writers to join us for a conversation about historical fiction. Hilary Mantel, who has twice won the prize for Wolf Hall (2009) and Bring Up the Bodies (2012); and the 1997 winner Pat Barker, who received the accolade for The Ghost Road.

In a special talk, chaired by the radio and news presenter James Naughtie, the two masters of the genre discussed how historical fiction can shed a light on our present. Mantel and Barker’s conversation moved from the practical challenge of writing trilogies to asking if historical fiction is able to reveal a greater truth than history itself?

We all have these moments in our lives, and the historian can’t do anything about them because it’s not recorded. It’s only a novelist that can do full justice to these memories.
Hilary Mantel

This talk was just a small part of Man Booker 50, a weekend-long festival of talks, readings and masterclasses at Southbank Centre to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Man Booker Prize, featuring leading authors from the Prize’s rich history. 


Southbank Centre is the home of literature and spoken word events in the UK. See what’s coming up this month in our literature and poetry programme.

find out more

Alan Hollinghurst & Marlon James: Hidden Histories

Alan Hollinghurst & Marlon James: Hidden Histories by Southbank Centre: Think Aloud

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Man Booker Prize, Southbank Centre hosted Man Booker 50, a weekend-long festival of talks, readings and events featuring leading authors from the history of the Prize. 

This podcast is taken from one of those events; Hidden Histories, in which the writers Alan Hollinghurst and Marlon James came together to discuss how fiction can capture lives on the margins of history, chaired by BBC Arts Correspondent, Rebecca Jones.

Someone called me ‘Booker Bruiser Marlon James'
Marlon James on the reception to his 2015 Man Booker Prize triumph

In this fascinating podcast the pair discuss the similarities and differences between their methods of writing; whether they would call themselves ‘writers of gay novels’; who can and who can’t use adverbs; how sometimes they can’t finish a book, and the relief when they do, and, how they both appear to be wearing the same socks.


 

Southbank Centre is the home of literature and spoken word events in the UK. See what’s coming up this month in our literature and poetry programme.

find out more

Who is Ana Silvera?

Ana Silvera is a London-born composer and musician. She became known for her folk and bluegrass-tinged tunes on the release of her first album The Aviary in 2012. But her latest LP, Oracles, is a recording of her acclaimed choral song cycle, which was nominated for a British Academy of Songwriters, Composers, and Authors Award after its first performances in The Roundhouse in London and Sage Gateshead.

Find out more about her interesting approach to music and details of her upcoming performance below.

Ana has lived in numerous countries

Ana studied voice at Guildhall School of Music and then literature at University College London. She moved to Ibiza and began to write and record her own music. Since then she has lived in Berlin, where she got into electronic music; New York, where she recorded part of her first album; and Copenhagen, where she collaborated with Danish musicians.

She is a very versatile composer

Ana describes herself as a folk singer and composer – but this doesn’t really give you a clue as to the variety of her output to date. For example, along with solo recordings, she was commissioned by the Royal Ballet to write and sing the full-length work Cassandra. She has collaborated with early music ensemble Concerto Caledonia on a project relating to Henry Purcell, and with the much-admired Estonian Television Girls’ Choir, for whom she wrote this beautiful choral work.

Ana Silvera - "Death" from Step Onto the Ground, Dear Brother! with Estonian TV Girls Choir

 

And she is a very hard worker

The release of Oracles and subsequent tour come just seven months after Ana’s recording Arcana – A Winter EP came out. Plus she is ready to debut new solo material (more of which later) and on July 8 her collaboration with the theatre company Ice&Fire, What Do I Know? gets its premiere at the Liverpool Arab Arts Festival before travelling to Europe.

She’s a supporter of numerous social causes

Ana’s work Lost and Found was performed during Refugee Week at the V&A earlier in June. In it, four members of Freedom from Torture’s creative writing group Write to Life share their moving, surprising and darkly humorous stories. And her Ice&Fire collaboration What Do I Know? explores the effects of the current war in Yemen, taking inspiration from the poetry of Amina Atiq and the reflections and realities of Khaled Ahmed, a young, self-taught English teacher living in Yemen, played by Waleed Akhtar.

Oracles was inspired by the deaths of two close family members in quick succession, including her brother Daniel

In a recent interview with LaLaLa Records, Ana said of her losses: ‘I was shell-shocked but also life had a different kind of intensity to it. I think it’s often said that when someone very close passes away, especially a sibling as it was in my case, it can feel like you need to live for the both of you.’

She describes the process of writing the work as translating grief into music – find out more in this ‘making of’ video.

Oracles - A Short Film (2018)

It is connected to stories and fairytales, narrating an emotional arc from grief to acceptance and all the stages in between
Ana Silvera on her choral song cycle Oracles

The launch of Oracles is not going to be a typical album launch

Yes, Ana is going to play Oracles. But it will also feature the premiere of a specially commissioned dance film to accompany a track from the song cycle, created by director and dancer Kate Church (Royal Ballet) and art director Alice Williamson.

The first half of the show features new solo music, especially arranged for this event. Ana has gathered together some very distinguished musicians for the performance, including multi-instrumentalist Josephine Stephenson, who has worked with Nils Frahm and Nico Muhly, double bassist Jasper Høiby (Phronesis and Fellow Creatures), vocalist and violinist Alice Zawadzki, cellist and vocalist Alice Purton, pianist Will Barry (Fellow Creatures) and drummer Marc Michel.


 

Ana Silvera’s album launch event in the Purcell Room has now passed.

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