July 16, 2024

Third Culture Collective – Live in Leeds 2024 – “musical paths that we don’t normally get to walk”

The Wardrobe, Leeds 20th June 2024

In an interesting mash-up of styles and influences, this offering from promoter through the noise is a fusion of Indian classical, Western classical and pop from both. Musical director, keyboardist and singer, Kavi Pau, explains that all the members grew up in two cultures and here they try to create a third. For me, the evening was a selection of different styles, rather than a true fusion but there were moments in individual numbers where that cross-over happened and it all clicked. So the set ranged from Eurovision-style balladeering to frantic percussion to ragas to Indian tales told in song.

Unusually for these events, the audience is seated and, as usual, are rapt and focused. The band’s choice of opener is long and involving, showcasing each of the band one by one in an Indian / jazz mixture. The keys of Kavi are just right and he adds some harmonium for texture. Sadly, Ashnaa’s own composition is a little too much “Bulgaria, cinq points” but that’s forgivable in a new set they are trying out tonight and in a portfolio style presentation where the next piece might be perfect.

And the next piece IS excellent. An Indian classical piece is followed by part of Robert Schumann’s ‘Dichterliebe”. Kavi Pau plays it in a strange sarangi-style setting on his Nord keyboard and does a passable low tenor. As an effort in melding sounds, this is a great example and it draws in takatakataka percussion, violin and harmonium to transform the piece from its usual piano setting.

One of the highlights of the set is the percussionist making good use of one of those ubiquitous Hang drums, alongside some more traditional sounds on tabla, giving the set a thoroughly energetic workout that is full of good humour, bringing smiles and laughs from his fellow performers. An original from Ashnaa switches mood to something like that Kate Bush album track you always skip, but before long we are on with a Gujerati song making good use of Ashnaa’s voice, singing in English and otherwise.

We are introduced to the double bass player, a Chennai native, who plays in A.R.Rahman’s orchestra, whose fame in Indian cinema makes this the equivalent of touching the hem of Lord Ram’s frock. He plays a section of gorgeous bowed bass in a band instrumental before switching to plucked bass for a vocal version of the same piece, replete with jazz piano, which goes on to jazz up the subsequent raga.

With an extempore encore, the set does seem to have gone past much faster than my watch says and, quibbles about flow aside, the whole thing has been an interesting journey down musical paths that we don’t normally get to walk.

Previous events in this theme that we’ve covered include:

https://www.vanguard-online.co.uk/lisa-de-la-salle-live-in-leeds-2024-enthralling/

https://www.vanguard-online.co.uk/suba-trio-live-in-leeds-2024-frantic-three-way-rhythm/

https://www.vanguard-online.co.uk/james-newby-joseph-middleton-live-in-leeds-2024-powerfully-controlled-singing/

https://www.vanguard-online.co.uk/sidiki-dembele-live-in-leeds-2024-the-delicate-to-the-gentle-to-the-explosive/

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