Nitin Sawhney – Britten Sinfonia

A week ago I went to a concert at Birmingham’s shiny bright Symphony Hall featuring Nitin Sawhney and the Britten Sinfonia.

Nitin began by applauding the audience for about 5 minutes but not just your mere ‘well done mate I enjoyed that’ applause but a fully rehearsed duet of an applause which he and his fellow applauder had learned from a score by a bloke who had first applauded it back in the sixties. After our applause for his applause had died down he followed it up with a session of ‘digga-digga-diggi, dum-dagge-dum, dagge-digga-digga-dim, dagge-dim …’ — tremendous stuff I’m sure you’ll agree though something may have got lost in the transliteration.

Of course by this time I was wondering where the Britten Sinfonia people were. Perhaps, (I thought), they’d stopped by one of the canal-side pubs and just lost track of the time and poor Nitin was improvising frantically until they got back. I’ll never know because at that moment they walked onto stage (I suppose it’s just possible that that’s the way it was organised), anyway it was worth the wait.

Nitin is as comfortable on the guitar as he is at the keyboards and it was on these instruments that he accompanied the Britten Sinfonia during the rest of the concert. Apart from when they (the Sinfonia) played A. R Rahman’s hauntingly beautiful theme song from Mani Ratnam’s ‘Dil Se’ and a world premiere of Nitin’s own composition ‘The Classroom’. The latter was accompanied by a multimedia projection behind the performers of appropriate classroomy images superimposed with close-ups of the live performance.

When this heady mixture of Indian, European and Brazillian rhythms, beats and melodies had finished I wish I could say that the diverse Brummie audience gave Nitin and the Britten Sinfonia a standing ovation but sadly they didn’t. They applauded furiously though! I may be wrong but I don’t think a lot of the audience had been to many concerts before. Or it could have been a no-nonsense intrinsically Brummie understanding of the patently obvious because at the end of the performance, after Nitin had taken several bows and walked off stage, the audience stopped their applause and just sat in their seats. After an awkward wait of several seconds Nitin came back onto stage and performed the traditional encore … but did mutter something about doing so despite not actually being asked!

Hey Nitin mate, don’t be like that we knew you were coming out again and after all we’re just amateurs when it comes to applauding.

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