November 14, 2019
During a nippy late September evening, I made my way to see Sarathy Korwar headline at Hackney’s MOTH Club, an eclectic and intimate venue nestled in East London. An ample spread of melanin litters the crowd — even a smattering of exuberant uncles. Word is that Aziz Ansari is supposed to drop in. This isn’t surprising — Korwar is, by all accounts, a genius waiting to be discovered.
Korwar, percussionist, composer, and producer, is arguably one of today’s most compelling South Asian artists in contemporary jazz. Having mastered Indian classical and jazz, Korwar’s nuanced approach towards both styles frames his distinct genre-bending sound. Yet Korwar, as I would later find out, is muted in person — it’s almost as if he injects his entire personality into his music.
Korwar joins a cohort of talented South Asian jazz musicians (clarinetist Arun Ghosh, pianist Vijay Iyer, and saxophonist Idris Rahman spring to mind) but defies categorization. He confronts the exoticization of Indian music while charting out original sonic territory — a vision that broadens perceptions of what jazz fused with South Asian textures can sound like. Perhaps, most importantly, Korwar isn’t afraid to talk about politics.