Jasdeep Singh Degun: British classical music’s brilliant new sitar

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ROOTED IN TRADITION: Jasdeep Singh Degun

By: ASJAD NAZIR

NEWLY released album Anomaly is an amazing introduction to talented British Asian artist Jasdeep Singh Degun.

The award-winning sitar virtuoso’s dynamic debut combines classical compositions steeped in Indian tradition with contemporary flair, which showcases his exceptional musicianship and ability to connect effortlessly with cross-generational listeners. The release of 12 tracks featuring powerful collaborations with classical music leaders is a giant first step for a brilliant newcomer, who was connected to music from a young age and has an exciting journey. coming.

eastern eye caught up with the Leeds-based maestro to discuss his new album, future plans and the importance of keeping the classical tradition alive.

What first connected you to music?
I don’t come from a musical family, so my first interaction with music was probably hearing kirtan (religious hymns) to the local Gurdwara. My primary school in North Leeds offered classical Indian singing lessons as part of the music curriculum, so I remember enrolling there at a young age. I really enjoyed the lessons and stayed longer in the music room after the lessons were over. I have no idea what drew me to music, but when I heard it I knew it would be something I wanted to pursue.

What attracted you to the sitar?
I started learning the sitar at a relatively late age. I started out learning classical Indian singing and was very active in musical circles in Leeds. I used to play school, local Gurdwara, attended SAA-UK summer schools and used to learn Saturday and Sunday schools at Leeds College of Music. I joined the National Youth Orchestra (Samyo) around the age of 14/15 as the first singer. Seeing other young musicians there inspired me to pick up the sitar and did so with my teacher Ustad Dharambir Singh MBE.

You did a lot of things at a young age. What was the most memorable moment of your musical career?
There have been countless memorable moments, but the most significant has to be performing in the ballroom of Buckingham Palace for Prince Harry as part of a BBC documentary when I was 18. Another memorable moment recently was performing at Westminster Abbey with the entire Royal Family in attendance. and Prime Minister under Commonwealth Service.

His new album

Tell us about your debut album Anomaly?
Anomaly is a contemporary classical album featuring 33 musicians, including greats like Nitin Sawhney, Roopa Panesar and Pirashanna Thevarajah. I received a coveted Sky Academy scholarship in 2016 to work on the album and wanted to feature as many British-born Indian classical musicians as possible. It is a contemporary album but deeply rooted in Indian classical music.

Where did you draw your inspirations for the compositions?
Each track on the album is an “anomaly” in itself. I draw from all my varied influences, but mainly from Indian (both Hindustani and Carnatic) and Western classical music.

Who do you hope to connect with these classic compositions?
I wanted to write an album that my friends and family inside and outside the Indian classical tradition would enjoy and listen to. You don’t need to know anything about classical music to listen to and hopefully enjoy the album. Likewise, I wanted to ensure that Indian classical music was treated with the care and respect I have for tradition.

What’s your favorite track on the album?
Each track is part of me, so it’s hard to choose!

Do you think more people need to be made aware that there are world-class South Asian classical musicians in the UK?
Yes of course! The UK is blessed with many seasoned Indian classical musicians who have supported and taught music in this country for many years. My teacher Ustad Dharambir Singh MBE has established and participated in the establishment of many Indian classical organizations, such as SAA-UK, SAMYO and Tarang, and the Darbar Festival, which facilitate and propagate Indian classical music and its musicians in this country. We are lucky to have great British born musicians such as Roopa Panesar, Soumik Datta, Pirashanna Thevarajah, Kirpal Panesar, Kaviraj Singh, Shahbaz Hussain, Bhupinder Chaggar and many more who are all world class. And these only name a handful!

What is the upcoming music plan?
My plan is to continue practicing and making music that I enjoy, with the grace and blessing of all my teachers and the almighty.

What music dominates your own playlist?
I mainly listen to Indian classical music, but I also enjoy a lot of contemporary and western classical music.

Who is your own musical hero?
There are so many to choose from, but it’s probably Kaushiki Chakrabarty, my all-time favorite musician.

Why is it important to keep the Indian classical tradition alive?
There is so much beauty inherent in our classical music system. Although based on the strict rules of raag and taal, the interpretation of Indian classical music is 90% improvised on site. This means that every gig is different every time and the magic created by the musician’s spontaneity is something to behold.

Why should we take your new album?
I am very lucky to have been signed by such a prestigious and world-class label, Real World Records. It’s not very often this happens for a British-born classical musician of Sikh descent. The support of the British Asian community is greatly appreciated!

Jasdeep Singh Degun’s Anomaly is out now on Real World Records. Catch him live at Kings Place in London on May 14, Curve Theater in Leicester on July 17, Sage in Gateshead on July 22 and Womad Festival on July 31.

Visit www.jasdeepsinghdegun.com

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