Across six tracks, (each named after 6 of the 7 main musical notes in the Indian solfege system), Shruti Dances draws on a celestial mix of traditional percussion and processed digital effects. On opening track Dha, Korwar’s sparse tabla rhythms hop across D’Souza’s scattered, arpeggiated synths, whereas on Pa, a Balearic shuffle channels Moroccan Gnawa music and Senegalese sabar meets Mark Ernestus’s Ndagga Rhythm Force. Harmonic speed tabla and roaming drones provide a sense of the ethereal and fourth-worldly on Ma, a track that’s resplendent, curious atmosphere would fit snug into the deep listening-focused programming of Auntie Flo’s Ambient Flo online radio station, a curatorial platform and avenue exploring his interest/promotion of mental health, launched over the UK’s first lockdown. Ni sees Korwar pick up the sticks, thrashing toms in a spirited frenzy, whilst downtempo album closer Sa offers some room for reflection, its slow, swirling chords cloud our focus, leaving us with all but the distant sound of birdsong.
In 2021, the project was given its live debut at Dialled In – a new festival celebrating South Asian creativity, co-organised by trailblazing dance/art collective, Daytimers, raising questions around the nature of their collaboration, and definitions surrounding South Asian music.
“Part of the reason why we wanted to work together was that ‘South Asian’ meant very different things to us personally. South Asian as a construct can be both powerful and reductive. Ultimately, it should broaden people's opinion on what South Asianess can be and hopefully, this record (along with all our other work!) does that.” says Korwar. D’Souza adds ”I haven’t spent a lot of time exploring my Mum’s South Asian roots. Half my family comes from Goa, but most of them were brought up in Kenya before coming to the UK in the 70’s. Identity is something that can be difficult to talk about, but working with Sarathy in this project gave me a space to do so, which I’m grateful for.”
Korwar’s start on the bandstand and D’Souza’s on the sticky club floor might hint at an unlikely union on paper, the duo’s understanding of tempo, lineage and rhythm, results in a pulsing reinvention of traditional forms, unique to much that has come before. Press play and hear the shrutis dance.
The cover art for Shruti Dances was created by Sijya, a digital artist, graphic designer and music producer from New Delhi, India.
This stunning artwork embodies a deeper meaning as Sijya explains: "the approach to the artwork was to do a contemporary take (in my own jagged digital line style) on a traditional Indian folk art style (Worli). It was important to depict the confluence of the ancient and the current, that can be heard in the music, and also perhaps in discovering a south asian identity, with many years of artistic development lost in the middle thanks to the overbearing effect of colonialism.”
Sarathy Korwar and Auntie Flo both have monthly shows on Worldwide FM - don't forget to check their archives on our website. Auntie Flo has premiered songs from Shruti Dances on his latest Ambient Flo shows.