Future Classics

Future Classic: Sarathy Korwar & Upaj Collective ‘Night Dreamer Direct​-​to​-​Disc Sessions’

The prolific drummer, percussionist and musical artist Sarathy Korwar, alongside his allstar “UPAJ Collective”, has already broken considerable ground, rebalancing spiritual jazz with authentic Indian classical music. However, “UPAJ” means “to improvise” in Hindi, and here, whilst making a formidable debut contribution to Night Dreamer’s direct-to-disc series, recording at Artone Studios with almost no preconceived directions, they truly capture the “spirit of spontaneous improvisation”, as Sarathy puts it, like never before. 

Fluent on both tabla & drums, Korwar has firmly established himself on the UK jazz scene & far beyond, playing with the likes of Shabaka Hutchings & Hieroglyphic Being. His remarkable debut, “Day to Day”, released on Ninja Tune in 2016, blending the forgotten music of the marginalised Sidi community with jazz and electronics. His second studio album, “More Arriving” for Leaf last year, addressed Indian identity in Britain and incorporated spoken word. Meanwhile, Sarathy established a residency at the Jazz Cafe with the UPAJ Collective, leading to an acclaimed show at Church of Sound.

The Night Dreamer session begins with “So said Said”. Dedicated to Edward Said, Palestinan author of “Orientalism”, arguably the most influential book to address the West’s contemptuous depiction of “The East”. It builds slowly, as the saxophone of Collocutor’s Tamar Osborn growls and echoes over the soft bedrock of Korwar’s percussion. Guitar, keys and violin slowly join the conversation before a tense groove follows Korwar’s galloping drums.The Indian-centric drum’n’bass of State of Bengal’s “Flight IC 408” is recast as a rousing acoustic piece. A short tabla intro builds into a pounding groove, before the piece breaks into a beautiful violin solo from renowned violinist Achuthan Sripadmanathan. An earthy solo from Osborn follows before the whole piece lifts off in the wake of Kefaya guitarist Giuliano Modarelli’s riffing. 

As we float back to the ground, Alistair MacSween, also from Kefaya, introduces “Elephant’s Hangover” with a flurry of cosmic keys, leading to a gripping collective improvisation. The epic “Intimate Enemy”, named after Ashis Nandy’s influential essay on the sense of loss of belonging, begins slowly at first, around Korwar’s delicate percussion. As group improvisation increases around the mode, the piece builds & builds before a magnificent solo from Osborn. The album is rounded off with the magnificent bonus of a Yoruba Soul remix by Osunlade himself. “So Said Siad” is transformed into a foor-to-the-floor grover with almost psychedelic undertones. A worthy inclusion and suprisingly good fit.

On this special recording for Night Dreamer, Korwar and co have brought the UPAJ fully to bear with its mission to collaborate and improvise.The nature of recording straight-to-acetate, with just a pause between each record side, was a challenge they fully embraced, entering the recording with minimal instructions. Korwar relates that they initiated the session by sitting together in a circle to perform a set of breathing exercises, now a regular part of their gig prep. This set a collective tone, slowing heart rates, it centered the players and they felt more present, more aware of the space and each other. As such, trust, communication and ability to relate, came before the instrumentation.

This new release for Night Dreamer marks an exciting chapter for Sarathy Korwar & The UPAJ Collective, “stepping into the unknown”, only to discover a more true and honest reflection of their art. 

Oliver Brunetti

Oliver Brunetti