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Friday, 7 December, 2001, 13:34 GMT
Sawhney speaks universal language
Nitin Sawhney was part of the Goodness Gracious Me team
Sawhney is proud to be British Asian
Musician Nitin Sawhney speaks to Chandrika Kaviraj about his music and upcoming projects.

Nominated for a Mercury Music Prize in 2000, Nitin Sawhney was further recognised when he won the South Bank Show Award for his Beyond Skin album the same year.

He won a Mobo Award this year for his contribution to world music, along with many accolades from fellow musicians and music lovers.


Music is a universal language without prejudice

Yothu Yindi
Sawhney has worked with artists ranging from Sir Paul McCartney and Sting through to Sinead O'Connor and Terry Callier.

His upbringing in Kent, where ethnic families were few, left him feeling isolated and in response to this he found solace in music learning to play guitar and piano at an early age.

"My early albums Spirit Dance and Migration expressed my feelings of identity," he told BBC News Online.

"I wanted to feel proud to be British Asian when some thought I should feel ashamed to say so.

"The following albums came out of me wanting to express a spiritual identity."

"Music is a universal language without prejudice," he says, quoting Mandawuy Yunupingu, spokesman and founder of the Aborigine group Yothu Yindi.

He met actor Sanjeev Bhaskar whilst studying at University.

Sawhney (second left) wanted to concentrate on his musical career
Sawhney left comedy show
They performed as the Secret Asians and went on to form part of BBC2's Goodness Gracious Me team, but Sawhney left after one series to concentrate on his musical career.

Sawhney's search for new sounds and expression is reflected in his five albums to date: Spirit Dance (1993), Migration (1995), Displacing The Priest (1996), Beyond Skin (1999) and Prophesy (2001).

His current album, Prohesy, embraces different sounds from diverse artists and countries, and features artists such as Terry Callier as well as Nelson Mandela and a Soweto children's choir.

The versatility of his work is demonstrated in his classical piece for the BBC Proms and his film score for The Dance of Shiva.

Sawhney will launch his new album Prophesy next year
Sawhney admires Lauryn Hill

Sawhney feels there is prejudice and ignorance when people try to categorise his music.

"With my work, record stores would place my albums in the World Music sections of their stores as they were not considered to fit into the 'Mainstream' sections".

He will be launching the Prophesy album and accompanying DVD in the US early next year and hopes to play a set of tour dates there too - working with Moby's manager.

He recently composed a music piece for the Britten Sinfonia called Neural Circuits, using samples of the US coverage of events of 11 September, after watching the TV coverage.

"The samples were used to reflect the strange feelings I felt whilst watching the tragic events in the media. "

He was concerned the media were provoking vengeful and violent emotions in the audience.

"I wanted to feel the tragedy and loss of the people who died and not be over-saturated with the images."

See also:

14 Jul 00 | Entertainment
Proms close the musical divide
17 Jul 00 | Entertainment
Nitin's subversive sounds
05 Aug 01 | Reviews
Later ... with the Proms
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