We interviewed jazz percussionist, composer and producer Sarathy Korwar on the day of the election results, the outcome of which makes his upcoming album More Arriving, inspired by the rise of right-wing nationalism all over the world, even more relevant. “It’s happening everywhere, isn’t it?” he says over the phone from London. Korwar, born in the US and raised in India— in Ahmedabad, Chennai and Pune—has been living in the UK for the past decade. The 31-year-old began working on More Arriving shortly after the announcement of Brexit. The title, says Korwar, is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the imagined threat of immigrants “swarming the country to steal its jobs and dilute its culture”.
He calls the album an unabashed “brown record” that brings together “multiple voices to drive home the fact that there’s no one idea of the South Asian story”. To this end, the tabla player and drummer enlisted, as contributors, rappers MC Mawali from Mumbai and Delhi Sultanate and Prabh Deep from Delhi (who rhyme in Marathi, Hindi, English and Punjabi), Londonbased British-Pakistani poet Zia Ahmed and
Deepak Unnikrishnan from Abu Dhabi.
Like Day to Day, Korwar’s 2016 debut album featuring collaborations with the African-Indian community known as the Siddis, More Arriving is a blend of jazz with Indian classical and electronic music. But it’s more uptempo and the compositions are “defiant”. “There are different ways to be angry,” says Korwar. “Anger comes from this lack of being able to control your narrative. The MCs and I are taking control and saying ‘This is who we are and what we’re going through’.”
More Arriving is Korwar’s most political piece yet. It follows up on the ideas introduced in My East Is Your West, a live recording with the UPAJ Collective, an ensemble of Indian classical and jazz musicians he formed to rebalance the tokenistic representation of Indian music in classic Indo-jazz compositions by the likes of Pharoah Sanders and John McLaughlin. “[Both albums are] about diversifying the narrative around South Asian-ness in the UK especially [and] the notion of what Indian music is,” Korwar says. “When you say Indian music to somebody here, no one’s going to think of an MC.”