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Elbphilharmonie ’Innerviews’ - Sarathy Korwar

“In music – especially in improvisation – the mind and body sometimes become one”, explains Sarathy Korwar. In this Elbphilharmonie Innerview, he talks about the intimacy of music, about cultural self-discovery and about what Indian classical music and jazz have in common.





I grew up in India, learning to play the tabla while listening to The Doors and Nina Simone.

Sarathy Korwar, Artist

Music knows no borders

‘My East is Your West’ is the title of one of Sarathy Korwar’s albums. This concept of cosmopolitan music culture has become a guiding principle for him. Through his Indo-jazz, the formally trained tabla player and percussionist has not only played his way into London’s clubs – he has also explored central questions relating to identity, culture clashes and new approaches. Born in the USA, raised in India and now based in England, the extraordinary percussionist blends political rap and traditional Indian sounds, electro and jazz, hip-hop grooves and street sounds from modern mega-metropolises like Mumbai. That is the sound of music that knows no borders.

“Indian classical music and jazz are both ever-evolving and reforming styles of music. They rely on new musicians to constantly add their influences and take the music somewhere it has not been before”, says Sarathy Korwar. “Both rely on structured improvisation to stay fresh.” And so he breathes new life into his favourite music: he endows jazz with the powerful rhythms of northern India, and spices up the musical tradition of his homeland with the energy of London’s club culture. 

“Sarathy Korwar is a leading figure in this new, exciting jazz scene in London. I went to one of his concerts in 2019 and it was one of the most thrilling shows I have ever experienced: a couple of acoustic musicians – and an entire club dancing wildly.” (Anoushka Shankar, sitarist & composer)

Improvisation is a personal statement of where I am in the present. Honest and deeply intimate.

Sarathy Korwar, Artist

In the present - On the intimacy of musical improvisation

“Improvisation is a personal statement of where I am in the present. Honest and deeply intimate”, explains Sarathy Korwar. He describes how the body and mind can become one in the process: “It doesn’t always happen, but I’m always looking.” The young musician’s Upaj Collective, which brings together classical Indian instrumentalists and jazz musicians from southern Asia, is dedicated to exploring the special power of musical improvisation. The name comes from the Hindi word ‘upaj’, which means ‘improvisation’.

Staying alive: improvisation and a cosmopolitan world

Music and identity – spontaneity and exchange. For Sarathy Korwar, the direct and free expression in improvisation is related to the unique dynamic between cultural diversity and self-definition: “Places like London and Hamburg, which are diverse cities, have people trying to figure it out every day, building new relationships and homes, staying spontaneous and always searching.” A beautiful image – the city and its inhabitants improvise together, as in the music; they develop and evolve, they go on living.

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