When a Siddi met a sax! 'Day to Day' will make you look at music differently

Updated: Dec 11, 2016, 15:14 IST | Aastha Atray Banan

Percussionist Sarathy Korwar's music is breaking genre in a unique way

The Siddis fascinated me because of their history and who they represent," says percussionist/composer Sarathy Korwar of his recent muses. His album, Day to Day, uses the music of the Siddis of Rajasthan (based in Ratanpur), who are descendents of the Bantus from Southeast Africa, who travelled to India in 628 AD. "Some of their lyrics are in Swahili, and they use instruments like the Malunga, which is a single string bow instrument, much like the instruments from Africa," says Korwar, who is in Mumbai working with the rappers of Dharavi on his next album.

Day to Day is an album that will force you to think differently about what "music" is. For example, the track Bismillah, has a Siddi musician in his brash yet melodic voice singing, as a saxophone plays in the background. "I think people are very open-minded these days, and are not dismissive of new genres. The fact that this album has crossed genre actually helps it. A classical lover will listen to it, and so will a jazz lover," says Korwar. "The Siddis blew me away with how they surrender to the music."

Though born in Maryland, Washington, Korwar was brought up in India in a family that loved listening to classical music. "I didn't like the music then, but at 19, I discovered people like Ashwani Bhede Deshpande. I was also into rock 'n' roll, so music was the obvious choice."

He studied music in London before graduating as a Master of Music in Performance from SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies). "There were discussions on race and identity and why people listen to the music that they listen to," says Korwar, whose album aims to address multiculturalism. "So I was asked about my opinion on Brexit or Trump in an interview and the interviewer said if my album showed a more 'hopeful' future, and I said yes!" he laughs, adding, "What I meant was that if there is a place for the kind of music I am making, then anything is possible. This is unfamiliar but people are reacting to it, and that's always good, right?"

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