Simon Thacker and The Nava Rasa Ensemble is a nine piece virtuoso ensemble innovating on the meeting of Asian and Western cultures. Nada Ananda features the world première recordings of major guitar led works by Shirish Korde, an Indian composer who has forged a compelling and distinctive voice in the West with his native music as a basis, and Nigel Osborne, a great Western composer profoundly influenced by Indian music, for an all star nine piece instrumental ensemble made up of leading performers from both cultures.
Acclaimed as "a mesmerising melding of old and new, Indian and Western" (The Classical Review) and "a bold and highly successful project that fuses imaginative improvisation and virtuosity within a compelling sequence" (The List), The Nava Rasa Ensemble's Nada-Ananda album release has been acclaimed across the world and features nine musicians of the highest calibre representing three continents: Simon Thacker on guitar, Carnatic (South Indian) violinist Jyotsna Srikanth, Hindustani (North Indian) tabla master Sarvar Sabri, Scotland’s leading string quartet the Edinburgh Quartet, Brazilian bass dynamo Mario Caribé and renowned multi-percussionist Iain Sandilands.
Shirish's Nada Ananda ["the joy of sound"] concerto for guitar and chamber ensemble, is in three movements. The first movement is in the style of a North Indian Alap and the guitar writing the explores the expressive possibilities and colours of the instrument, combining the ornamentations and figurations of the sitar with the timbre of the classical guitar. The first and the second movement are based on the raga Lalit which, according to Indian music theory, is generally played at daybreak. The third movement, Joy, sees extended cadenzas for the guitar, Indian violin and tabla lead to an explosive climax for the whole ensemble.
Nigel's The Birth of Naciketas for guitar concertante is based on an episode in the Upanishads where Naciketa’s mother dies in childbirth and his father makes a bargain with Death to save his son’s life. The work is based on the ten thaats, or scale patterns, which are considered by many to have been the forerunners of the raags of Indian classical music. The piece's ten sections correspond to the tenthaats in a 24-hour cycle related to the times of day associated with the scale patterns. These ten sections fall into five main movements. The Birth of Naciketas continues Nigel's search for an Indian classical modernism.
What the critics said:
Classical Music Sentinel
"The musicianship on this recording is quite remarkable. Guitarist Simon Thacker transcends the instrument and persuades it to produce music loaded with subtle nuances and character... A veritable melting pot of styles and influences that have truly merged into one."
"Shirish Korde’s Nada-Ananda concerto allows classical guitarist Simon Thacker ...to show just how invigorating music can be when it draws its sensibilities from a host of styles, releasing it from the inhibitions of genre pigeon-holing."
Music Web International
"I was deeply impressed by this disc – not just by the undeniably high standard of musicianship throughout, but also by the fascinating, accessible and interesting compositions, which demonstrate that successful collaboration between Eastern and Western music is, indeed, possible."
The Classical Review
"What particularly impresses is the sheer cohesion of the playing, with Thacker proving an acutely stylish and sensitive fulcrum for an often mesmerising melding of old and new, Indian and Western."
Classical Music Magazine
"Here's an east-west inversion: gentle spirituality from Nigel Osborne's work for 'guitar concertante'; and jazz with real swing in Shirish Korde's concerto, where the virtuosity of Thacker is matched by sizzling sounds from Jyotsna Srikanth's Indian violin and Sarvar Sabri's tabla playing".
"The third movement, in particular, is an exuberant virtuoso display of rhythmic complexity. Nada Ananda means joy of sound, an idea Korde captured in his music."
"The extraordinary range of cultural influences, musical forms and emotional states in the selected works were beautifully fluid and seamlessly communicated by Thacker and his fellow musicians."
Gendai Guitar Japan
"An ambitious project which has proven very successful because of the musicianship and devotion of Simon Thacker....Just looking at all these musicians on stage with their instruments one experienced a heightened sense of anticipation, which was fulfilled in performance."
"Take one eclectically minded classical guitarist from East Lothian, grant him charge of an ensemble comprising two Indian virtuosi on violin and tabla drums, one of Scotland's leading string quartets, a Scottish-based Brazilian jazz bassist and a cross-genre percussionist and... the result is music of sinuous beauty."
"This is captivating and highly recommended to our readers.
Simon Thacker is a fine guitarist who has been devoting himself to exploring meetings of Indian and Western cultures with an outstanding intercultural ensemble."
Inside World Music
"Simon Thacker, is a stunning, Scottish performer of Western, European, and South Asian musical styles.....The mix of classical and Indian music is brilliant, moving, and creative."
"Simon Thacker is a musician who has always seen his instrument as international and his classical training as the portal to expressing a whole world of music. His Camerata Ritmata group explores jazz, Spanish and Brazilian influences, among others, and with the Nava Rasa Ensemble - featuring string quartet alongside Indian masters, bass and percussion - he goes right to the heart of Indian music"
"The virtuosity of the musicians on display here is not in question, and their ability to play as an ensemble is most impressive."