Presented by Nitin Sawhney
Reviewed 17th October 2019
In 1999, English-Indian composter Nitin Sawhney put together an album which he mostly recorded in his bedroom. It was a highly personal piece of work, including such elements as vocal clips from his mother and father. He didn’t expect it to make any great waves on the music scene. But make waves it did, and in 2010 it was included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Listen to Before You Die.
For its 20th anniversary, Sawhney is performing the album live, and presented it as the opening night show for this year’s OzAsia Festival, two weeks after a sell-out concert at Royal Albert Hall.
Exploring aspects of identity, the migratory experience, and the atomic bomb, Beyond Skin blends jazz, electronica, hip-hop, Indian and Western classical and flamenco. The authenticity and passion at the heart of the work holds it together, ensuring each element is placed just perfectly in both musical and thematic terms. This is a work of rare grace and near-perfection.
Joining Sawhney on stage are Aref Durvash on tabla, Anna Phoebe McElligott on violin, and Nicki Wells and Eva Stone (YVA) on vocals. Durvash makes the tabla sing in a way which takes it beyond percussion. McElligott shreds her violin frenziedly one minute, and gently strokes it the next, crossing genres without a blink. Wells and Stone are both extraordinary vocalists, working in a variety of styles, genres, ranges and languages. They are singers’ singers.
From the opening number Broken Skin, through exquisite compositions such as The Pilgrim, Immigrant and Anthem Without Nation, to the final, eponymous number, Sawhney and his band held the audience in thrall. This is the stuff that reminds us why music matters, and why we love it so much. It is a testament to the strength of the human spirit, and its ability to narrate itself through the recombination of a handful of notes.
A standing ovation brought the group back for two encore numbers. If the audience had their way, the night might have gone on till dawn.
And what a glorious, soul-filling, heart-pumping dawn it would have been…
Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Rating out of 5: 5 Perfection
Venue: Festival Theatre
Theatre, music, OzAsia, Nitin Sawhney, Adelaide Festival Centre, Aref Durvesh, Anna Phoebe McElligott, Nicki Wells, Eva Stone, Beyond Skin, YVA,