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Festival of Music, Stories & Dance curated by Soumik Datta at the Horniman

  • Soumik Datta, Soumik Datta, Rehmat Rayat
    Soumik Datta, Rehmat Rayat

Composer and virtuoso sarod player Soumik Datta curates a festival of music, stories and dance from across South Asia as part of the Horniman Museum and Gardens’ vibrant Indian Summer season.

On Sunday 23 July the Horniman’s award-winning Gardens in Forest Hill, south east London will be the stage for the Summer Baaja as Soumik brings together an array of musicians, storytellers and dancers whose contemporary practice is deep rooted in the influential musical traditions of South Asia.

World Music best-selling artist Shammi Pithia, celebrated percussionist Bernhard Schimpelsberger, tabla maestro Gurdain Singh Rayatt, violinist Preetha Narayanan and progressive British-Bangladeshi six-piece Khiyo are among the artists coming together for this day of dazzling outdoor performances.

With the London skyline as a spectacular sunset backdrop, the Summer Baaja closes with a dynamic two-hour tour de force gala of voices, drummers and strings led by Soumik on his signature instrument, the sarod.

Soumik Datta says:

The Horniman with its sprawling gardens is a curator's dream. Celebrating its magnificent outdoor spaces, I wanted to recreate the atmosphere of vibrant Indian festivals complete with nomad bands and folk musicians playing on street corners and city gardens. Tim Corum, the Horniman’s visionary curatorial director gave me the opportunity to tear down the fourth wall and install musicians at close proximity to the audience. I wanted the crowd to feel immersed in joyous rhythms and melodies being played by some of the UK's top South Asian bands.

The word 'baaja' in Hindi roughly translates as 'instrument' or group of instruments. For me an instrument carries with it the DNA of where it has come from. In its sound, it carries the identity of its region. In its resonance lives its many stories. Responding to the incredible collection of instruments at the Horniman, I wanted to celebrate ancient South Asian instruments such as the sarod, veena, bansuri and kanjira that are now being played by young, dynamic second generation maestros in the UK with an urgency that keeps this music relevant and alive.

Tim Corum, Director Curatorial and Public Engagement says:

Soumik has created a stunning programme for the Horniman. The festival is inspired by our world musical instrument collections and brings together the rich traditions of South Asian music with some of the most exciting UK based artists. Our summer festivals are always a great day out, the Summer Baaja will be a great spectacle for all to enjoy, a wonderful introduction to Indian music and a chance to see some of the UK’s most exciting performers in the unique and beautiful setting of the Horniman.

The day’s line up is:

1-1.45pm: The Rose and Bulbul: a promenade performance telling the story of love and acceptance through the symbols of the rose and bulbul (nightingale). Storytellers, dancers, musicians and community members create an experience bringing the spaces of the Gardens alive.

2-2.45pm: Rhythm Battle: a participatory musical battle in the Horniman’s Sunken Garden featuring four exceptional artists from the UK in the field of Indian contemporary music. Led by percussionist Bernhard Schimpelsberger, tabla maestro Gurdain Singh Rayatt, Carnatic percussionist RR Pratap and saxophonist Jesse Bannister play off each other’s patterns to celebrate the collective rhythms of India.

3-3.45pm: Carnatic Blues: striking performances of ragas and improvisation by young British-Carnatic musicians led by Mithila Sarma performing on the veena, one of the oldest instruments within the South Indian classical tradition, and showcasing the intricacies of Carnatic music.

4-4.45pm: Anant: Sangeeta Datta leads a vivid array of dancers and singers in new representations of songs by polymath, poet, composer, artist, playwright and freedom fighter Rabindranath Tagore.

5-5.45pm: Khiyo: Progressive six-piece band Khiyo bring a London sound to Bengali music with a radical and fresh interpretation of songs from the Bengali tradition drawing from rock, folk, Indian and Western classical music in a set fronted by lead vocalist Sohini Alam.

6-6.45pm: Shammi: Shammi Pithia performs celebrated songs from his albums as well as new material alongside his band of musicians. Expect to hear an Indian tinted sound of London with soaring melodies and big beats.

7-9pm: Soumik Datta and Guests: Soumik Datta, on his signature instrument the sarod, invites artists including Shahbaz Hussain, Bernhard Schimpelsberger, Shammi Pithia, Giuliano Modorelli, Preetha Narayanan, Shivani Sethia and Kesha Raithatha to join him on stage for a dynamic two-hour set to close the Summer Baaja.

Throughout the day, there will also be stalls, street food and family activities.

The Horniman’s Indian Summer season of events and performances explores the diversity of South Asian music and arts and their influence on contemporary culture in the UK. Full information on the Horniman’s Indian Summer season can be found at horniman.ac.uk/IndianSummer.

Indian Summer Baaja: Music, Stories & Dance curated by Soumik Datta was developed by Soumik Datta Arts and takes place on Sunday 23 July 2017, 12noon-9pm. Entry to the Summer Baaja is free. Performances start at 1pm.