Sounds of Bengal – Soumik Datta & Arif Khan

I could feel the audience was restless with excitement for Soumik Datta. For this performance her created new music and collaborated with the Tabla performer, Arif Khan.

When they came on, they didn’t say anything, just an acknowledging smile to the audience. Whilst they tuned their instruments for the performance, a video came on the screen. It was a video consisting of random but colourful clips of Bengal.

As soon as Soumik started to play his sarod and Arif with his tabla, the audience were absolutely mesmerised. People were tapping their fingers, shaking their legs, nodding their heads or just listening in awe. Not only did their talents blend into a beautiful piece, but the chemistry between the two on stage was prominent too. The audience could really see the enjoyment and kick they get when playing together.

With Arif being an upcoming artist, the audience could see that Soumik did have to subtly push him to show his insane talent. But, I’m not saying this negatively because, if Soumik didn’t give Arif that little encouragement then people wouldn’t have seen Arif’s outstanding tabla skills. So I would like to thank him for enlightening us on Arif Khan so we can watch his journey to fame, just like we did with Soumik.

To sum it up, ‘Sounds of Bengal’ were two artists, who have big passions for their instruments, coming together to produce a night of beautifully composed/played music. The fact they even admitted that they accidentally produced ‘Sounds of Bengal’ by just filming daily life in Bengal on their phones made it even more amazing. It made it even more clear, not that it wasn’t clear enough, that Soumik Datta and Arif Khan truly are naturally talented people in this world.

by Shivani, Alchemist


Charity Shop DJ

The Charity Shop DJ is in the Royal Festival Hall. It’s a space where you can choose vintage Indian records and have them dedicated to you by the DJ. A patchwork of  classic hand painted sheets which show characters from various Bollywood movies cover the walls. We had a chance to work with Owen from charity shop DJ who showed us how it’s done. It was a fun, enjoyable experience.

Bollywood Bitesized

Yesterday was our first day at Alchemy. We met Sadaf Ahmed, the founder of Bollywood Bitsized, which allows people to explore film, music and performance in Indian Culture.

Hanna & Asiya, Alchemists

A Very Humble Show

As someone who has never seen or heard any of Humble The Poet’s work, I extremely enjoyed the night. My first thoughts about the show was that it would be someone standing on stage reciting some poems but, no! It was a completely different take on poetry.

First on was Jasmine Cooray. From someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy reading or listening to poetry, she had my full concentration. The imagery that she described with the poetic language really helped the mind paint a picture of her poems. Not only were her poems beautifully written, but the way she expressed her emotions with her face was also lovely. Jasmine made the audience feel relaxed in the auditorium, as if they were just hanging out at a cafe, listening to a friend reciting her poems.

Next was Naga MC. He was a contrast to Jasmine as he added the element of hip hop to poetry. His lyrics were very fascinating to listen to and really made the audience bounce in their seats.

Finally came on the star of the show, Humble the Poet. He made the atmosphere very informal and casual, which was nice. All of the acts spoke to the audience in a friendly manner, breaking that fourth wall. Humble was a cheery, smiley man who has incredible talent. To be completely honest, one of the reasons I enjoyed the show was because of his accent. The Canadian accent is just too cool! So when he started talking and cracking some jokes, I was drawn into the performance even more.

When he started to sing/rap/recite his poems, I could really see that they were coming from his heart. He explained to us how hip-hop is about telling people about your community which, when I thought about it, is very true. If you really listen to someone like 50 Cent’s lyrics, you’ll see paragraphs of verses because he’s describing what life in his community or culture is like. So, when I listened to his poems, I kinda got an insight into his life. Being Indian myself, some of the things he described I could relate to, making him more interesting to watch. From the way he portrayed himself, I could see that he is genuine guy. I feel like the person you see on stage is the person you would get if you meet him. So, I think Humble the Poet is definitely suited to his name as he is very ‘humble’.

By Shivani, Alchemist

Urban Vani

I’m still buzzing after watching Urban Vani, the amazing collaboration between Shlomo and Gauri Sharma-Tripathi. The event brought two completely different styles together; beat boxing and Kathak, an Indian classical dance form. Every single participant was incredible. The colourful kurta’s that the Kathak dancers wore emphasised the vibrant energy created in the piece. There was no instrumental accompaniment, just the ghungaroos worn on the arm of the dancers. The music created was purely from the beatboxers and the ‘bols’ said by the dancers, meaning just vocals. The urban beat fused with the traditional bols of the dance really made the audience bounce to the beat, making them want to get up and dance. Looking around me, I could see all the little kids in front with big, toothy smiles on their faces. The adults were nodding their heads to the beat, really enjoying the performance.

It was a completely different take on the two art forms. With small Kathak dance movements dotted around the piece and the sick beat happening throughout, it really showed how any two styles or cultures can be brought together to produce an incredible piece. It creates a bridge for the gap between traditional cultures and urban cultures. From the applause and screams from the audience, I’m very sure that there will be some upcoming performances from Urban Vani to see. They’ll come back with an even better, fresher and wicked show for us to see.

by Shivani, Alchemist

Southbank Centre Goes Bollywood

We filmed the Bollywood dancers this afternoon. They had choreography for approximately two hours, composing the whole dance step by step. The public were invited to take part in the Bollywood Blockbuster, a film being created in one week during the Alchemy Festival, which will be screened on Sunday the 22nd April at The Clore Ballroom at Royal Festival Hall

We also interviewed Khathija from the SHE project. Girls from SHE have been helping the film crew, learning new skills, how to use them and even getting to film a few bits too!

Listening to the Youth Orchestera

While sitting here and listening to the Youth Orchestra play classical Indian melodies, I’m reminded of my heritage and for some reason I started thinking solely in Punjabi. Then to hear it being infused with Jazz, it instantly reminds me of my uncle and jazz being played on an old record player, and my grandmother shouting to turn it down.

I found myself speaking to the Director of Development for Milapfest, Alok Nayak and he briefed me a little on Milapfest and what they offer. By holding national auditions, the Youth Orchestra is devised of a group of 10-18 year olds, whose talents include the table, the sitar, drums, strings and vocals. It was refreshing to hear that not only do they seek talent, but they do also develop talent and try to find them platforms to showcase their talents on. I was pointed out a particular individual, a tabla player who was also acting as second conductor and leading some of the the musicians, as this was something he wanted to do.

While listening to some play brief solos, but especially as a collaborative, it was clear to see why these young individuals had been chosen. The pulse of the tabla working alongside a drum-set, the Indian flute being played alongside trombones,saxophones, all complimented by vocals, set an atmosphere of serenity an calmness.

ImageIt’s as clear as crystal that here we have a youth orchestra that will be around for quite some time. Their hard work and determination throughout the very long tech-run/sound run, shows the spirits of these musicians and their drive to better themselves and mark their spot, on the face of the music industry.

The explosive beats, the mighty crescendos and the presence of of calm and dulcet tones, allows a juxtaposition to be present and comfortable here. It’s nice to see young British Asians, all being trained by their respected Guru’s, and the want to carry on their Asiatic traditions, with music and tradition, all in all taking command of the Orchestral environment. I will certainly be at the future rehearsals and maybe even sit in on a show. Although, this has driven me to train myself up… So who knows, maybe I’ll be part of something along with them? Right, I better get on the phone to someone who can help to organise this… This is Raheem Punjabi saying Sayanara!

By Alchemist, Raheem Punjabi