Nitin Sawhney is sucking on lozenges and trying to rescue his voice when I speak to him, in time for his gig on Sunday at the Royal Albert Hall. He’s getting over a recent bout of pneumonia, but is convinced all will be well by the time he hits the stage at the weekend.
It’s testament to the can-do attitude of this proven multi-tasker, able to combine BBC radio show hosting duties, festival curations as well as his own creative efforts, combining worldwide influences with electronica and jazz, which have seen him nominated for the Mercury music prize, and the frequent recipient of other awards.
Nitin Sawhney explains why his new work is darker than previous albums - "It's my response to what's been going on around me"
Sunday’s performance will see, along with Nitin’s usual eclectic assortment of world-class guest performers, the debut of some new tracks by the London-based composer, material he describes as “much darker than anything else I’ve done, based on what I’ve experienced politically and personally in the last year”.
For Nitin, it’s been a year of deep reflection. “I’ve lost my father and two close friends. And in the wider world, I’ve been very affected by graphic images of children being killed in conflict.
“I can express my feelings on Twitter, but when it comes to the music, I feel it should be about pure feeling, that’s not the place to get political.”
Besides his ridiculously versatile skill-set (he co-created ‘Goodness Gracious Me' with old university friend Sanjeev Bhasker), one of the most distinctive aspects of Nitin’s career has been his tireless enthusiasm to collaborate with other artists, including Norah Jones, Sir Paul McCartney and David Arnold. How does this help the creative process?
“Catharsis needn’t be selfish,” he explains. “I’m fortunate, through my radio show and other ventures, I have the chance to work with quality musicians.
“I find people I have an empathy with, and that helps me to be cathartic.
“It’s about trying to find a common voice, and the music comes from that.”
I ask Nitin for the musical performance he’d like me to put with this piece, and he opts for ‘Homelands’ – “It’s pretty diverse, but it sums up pretty well who I am. I think it’s the most personal and powerful.”
Nitin Sawhney will be performing at the Royal Albert Hall on Sunday, showcasing new material as well as performing favourites from the back catalogue. Click here for ticket info.