South Asian beat rolls out on Thames

Experimental, genre-splicing music that straddles the UK and South Asia is at the heart of Alchemy, a festival on the banks of the Thames. It also encompasses dance, theatre, comedy, food, film, literature, design and debate.

Some of Bollywood’s biggest singers will be performing alongside British-Asian rappers, Tamil-descended rock heroes and sitar superstars, while authors will debate the effect of colonial rule, aerial dancers will swoop from the rafters and spicy snacks will be dished out from a chaat shack. Here’s a guide to the highlights.

 Rock ‘n’ roll meets Sufi mysticism

Susheela Raman had a sell-out concert, a standing ovation and five-star reviews when she performed at Alchemy last year. It’s no wonder the magnetic musician is back, performing today backed by an all-star band of qawwali singers (including the nephews of the legendary Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan), Rajasthani musicians and virtuoso tabla and guitar players.Kaavish_MAC-255

Raman has made her name playing everything from Ethiopian-influenced covers of Jimi Hendrix jams to trance-inducing devotional music.

 Sitar-playing royalty

Trained by her father, Ravi, since she was a child, Anoushka Shankar is a brilliant sitar player. (She’s also part of an extended family of super-celebrities: her half-sister is Norah Jones, her husband is the Atonement director Joe Wright and she’s performed live with everyone from Madonna to Nina Simone.)

Besides all that, she’s a thoughtful, boundary-pushing musician in her own right: her last album, Traveller, traced the roots of flamenco back to north-west Indian gypsies. She’ll play the entire record live on Saturday, accompanied by Rajasthani dancers.

 British-Asian street sounds

It’s not always easy being what the Pakistani-British rapper Shizzio called in a recent TED talk “a brown kid doing black music in a predominantly white country”.

Shizzio has been credited with coining the term burban – “brown urban” – to describe the hip-hop and dance music being made by South Asian Britons, and although the word has ruffled some feathers, it has also helped shine a light on a group of diverse artists with links to the subcontinent.

The best of a new crop of “burban” talent will be showcased at The Burban Mela, an all-day event hosted by BBC Radio 1’s DJ Nihal on Sunday.

 Bollywood superstars

Playback singers, the vocalists who record songs for actors to lip-synch to, are an institution of Bollywood cinema, much as they used to be in Hollywood golden age musicals. The Kerala-born musician Hariharan is one of the world’s most celebrated; he’s won two “Indian Oscars” for his work. He will play a show in London on April 19.

The following day, the two-time reality show winner and major playback singer Harshdeep Kaur will perform some of her hits opposite Ash King, who has also remixed tracks for Lady Gaga. It’s a rare chance for Londoners to hear Bollywood classics – as well as brand new collaborations – live.

The Alchemy Festival is on until April 21 at the Southbank Centre in the UK. For more information, visit and


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Posted by on April 11, 2013. Filed under Breaking News,Music,What's on. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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