Talvin Singh to revisit Ok album at Alchemy festival

by LAUREN CODLING

LEADING British-Asian musician Talvin Singh OBE is set to perform his Mercury prize winning album 20 years after its release at a top London festival next month.

The composer is set to perform tracks from his 1998 album Ok, as well as debuting material from his new album, which is due out later this year.

The concert takes place at London’s Royal Festival Hall in early May, as part of the Southbank Centre’s Alchemy festival.

“It feels amazing to revisit the Ok album,” Singh told Eastern Eye. “There are a lot of memories attached to the record and it’s been quite a few years now [since it’s release].”

The album, which won Singh the prestigious Mercury Prize award in 1999, is a combination of electronica and Indian classical music. In putting the “innovative” album together, he travelled across London, Okinawa, Mumbai and New York to work with various artists.

“There are a lot of memories attached to the travel log of the record,” he revealed.

Admitting it was difficult to translate the record in a live environment as the album featured such a variety of instruments and artists, Singh said he has had to push his imagination to make sure the live performance worked well.

“I thought we should revisit this particular piece of music and not necessarily have it performed exactly the same as it was on the record, but give it a slightly different perspective,” the tabla player said.

Alchemy festival goers will also hear new material from the 47-year-old’s upcoming EP and album, expected to be released later in the year.

The Royal Festival Hall concert is an exciting one for Singh, who has not performed there since 2013. He recalled the “great” memories of performing at the venue from the early days of his career. “I love the Royal Festival Hall,” he said.

Having not released an album since 2011, Singh also acknowledged the importance of performing live.

“I haven’t put out a record for so many years and so [performing live] is what I’ve been doing and surviving on and enjoying,” he said. “It’s very important, but the studio is also important – they are equally enjoyable, so I am passionate about both of them.”

As well as his own successful solo career, in which he became known as the pioneer of Asian Underground music, the composer has collaborated with several established artists including Madonna, Björk and Massive Attack. Talking about working with other artists, Singh explained it was important to work with musicians who can influence you.

“Music is a reactive art form, so you can influence what they do. It’s all about that interplay and that harmonic major of creating a wavelength because you don’t really talk when you’re with a musician,” Singh said. “You just play music and you usually talk afterwards, so it is more of a telepathic communication which happens between one musician and another.”

Suffolk-based Singh cites nature as an influential marker on his work. In the last five years that he has been living in the east coast county, the natural environment and habitat of the area has been a major inspiration, especially for his new work.

“I think every time you’re inspired, it is by different aspects of what you experience,” he said.

An established tabla player, Singh has been praised for making Indian classical music available to a wider, more contemporary audience. He admitted that as an artist, he is still exploring the percussion instrument and its authenticity.

“That is why it is called classical music or a classical instrument because you always go back to what was left off and slightly deeper into the anthology of the instrument and its repertoire,” Singh said.

Talvin Singh’s performance at the Royal Festival Hall is on Monday, May 7. See www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whats-on/festivalsseries/alchemy for details.