‘Borderlands’: Soumik Datta tunes into themes of migration for London concert

‘Borderlands’: Soumik Datta tunes into themes of migration for London concert

Time zones, migrant memories and displaced rhythms will collide in an original score for sarod and chamber orchestra at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, in London on May 11.

Sarod player and composer Soumik Datta says of his ‘Borderlands’ concert: “I started my term with Philharmonia Orchestra with a pit in my stomach: a strange cocktail of gratitude and guilt. Gratitude for being chosen, for the opportunity. Guilt because I’m not an orchestral composer, because I don’t think of music from left to right, because I see music as time moving through cycles of day and night, seasons and nature. But mostly because I don’t believe Indian and Western music are meant to come together. To ‘fuse’.

“They are two unique ways of rejoicing in sound, of storytelling through melody – sophisticated and moving because of all the things that make them distinct. My year long journey as artist in residence with the orchestra has been emotional, challenging and uplifting. But I’ve had the opportunity to reaffirm these beliefs while finding ways of moving past them too, arriving at a process of music-making that feels collaborative and authentic. Where both musical genres serve a single story.”

On May 11, the musician says the audience will witness a tightly knit group of exceptional performers weave through a series of syncopated sarod movements exploring the theme of migration. Cello lines will shred alongside tabla solos. The stage will sometimes be an airport concourse where immigration officers bark at new arrivals. Cinematic strings will soar. Vibraphone and Marimba patterns will criss-cross over a myriad ragas, political commentary and electronic samples.


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“This is the culmination of my residency. This is ‘Borderlands’,” he adds.

The concert brings together Datta with players from the Philharmonia Orchestra, where he was Artist in Residence for 2023-24. Multifaceted and evocative, the performance promises to weave through a series of syncopated, polyphonic movements to offer a compelling perspective on migration, inviting audiences to reflect on the human experience of displacement, tolerance and home.

It is co-produced by Philharmonia and Soumik Datta Arts, with support from Arts Council England, Hawkwood Centre for Future Thinking, Southbank Centre Studio and Cockayne – Grants for the Arts: a donor advised fund held at The London Community Foundation.

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