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Mantra - Musical Conversations Across the Indian Ocean

09 March 2009

Indian and Portuguese music of the 16th century has been fused in an exciting new initiative launched by The Orlando Consort in collaboration with the National Centre for Early Music (NCEM) this week.

The music can be heard as part of an extensive National Tour throughout the country between May 2009 and March 2010 (See Editor's Notes for tour details).

The award-winning Orlando Consort - Matthew Venner alto, Mark Dobell, Angus Smith tenors and Donald Greig baritone - are joined by outstanding Asian musicians Kuljit Bhamra tabla, Jonathan Mayer sitar and Shahid Khan voice in re-creating this historic cross-cultural encounter and applying their collective experiences to devise a radical and challenging new dialogue for the 21st century.

The project, which is supported by Arts Council England, NCEM and the PRS Foundation, will receive its première at the NCEM on Thursday 7 May 2009, before embarking on an 11-concert national tour.

The inspiration for this new collaboration is sublime Iberian and Indian music from the early 1500s. On arriving in Goa, Portuguese missionaries set out to win the hearts, minds and souls of the local Goan population through the power of music. The newly built churches of the 'Pearl of the Orient' were filled with singing and playing, as western and eastern voices and instruments rang out together, creating an extraordinary blend of exotic and exuberant sounds.

Angus Smith from The Orlando Consort, who is co-ordinating the Tour, elaborates: "We are already committed believers in the brilliance and accessibility of medieval and renaissance music, but finding this wonderful story of different cultures coming together and identifying a common passion in music has been truly liberating and inspiring.

"Our aims with 'Mantra' are to get a taste of the sound-world of India some 500 years ago and devise a new musical fusion for our modern times. Working with a trio of outstanding British Asian musicians has truly been our own voyage of discovery. From our explorations together over the last six months we have already experienced amazement, revelation and respect as we learn about each other's music and we can't wait to share the exciting sounds of our new fusion in concert."

Running alongside the Tour is an education programme supported by the NCEM and Alchemy, which has helped provide the wider cultural and historical context for the project. An on-line education resource has been designed to help secondary school music teachers which focuses on the arrival of missionaries in Goa in the early 16th century and explores aspects of Hindustani music, Western Music and the historic and contemporary fusion of both styles. This teaching resource will be available to download from the NCEM website at after Easter.

Musicians will visit each tour venue in advance of the concert to introduce young people to the fascinating and diverse traditions that form the basis of the project and will help them devise their own compositions and improvisations inspired by the music they explore. Participants will have the chance to perform their work and to sing and play with the full ensemble during the Mantra concert.

Delma Tomlin, Director of the NCEM is delighted to be working on this project. She adds: "The NCEM is committed to supporting early music performers and particularly welcomes fusion projects which bring a whole new dimension of musical content.

"The resource we have produced is unique and includes audio samples, fact sheets and activity ideas inspired by Western and Asian traditional and fusion music. Recordings of the music created by participants in the education programme will be added to the website as the project progresses. This will be an indispensable resource for all those interested in musical crossover in education for many years to come."

For further information about the Tour and the education resource, visit or Alternatively contact the NCEM on 01904 632220 or email to arrange interviews with the musicians and request high res j pegs.


Press Contact:
Shona Galletly, on behalf of National Centre for Early Music
t: 0113 255 1308
m: 07813 796 733

Notes to Editors:

1. National Mantra Tour Dates - 2009/10

7 May National Centre for Early Music Box Office: 01904 658338

15 May Bury St Edmunds Festival Box Office: 01284 769505

31 May Salisbury International Arts Festival Box Office: 0845 241 9651

4 July Cheltenham Music Festival Box Office: 0844 576 7979

12 July Lichfield Festival Box Office: 01543 412121

2 August The Lake District Summer Music Festival Box Office: 0845 644 2144

23 October St George's Bristol Box Office: 0845 402 4001

4 November Turner Sims, University of Southampton Box Office: 023 8059 5151

6 November Brighton Early Music Festival Box Office: 01273 709709

9 November RNCM, Manchester Box Office: 0161 907 5555

20 February 2010 Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham Box Office: 0115 846 7777

11 March 2010 The Sage Gateshead Box Office: 0191 4434661

2. Biographies

The Orlando Consort

Formed in 1988, The Orlando Consort rapidly achieved a reputation as one of Europe's most expert and consistently challenging groups performing medieval and renaissance repertoire. Their work successfully combines captivating entertainment and fresh scholarly insight: the unique imagination and originality of their programming, together with their superb vocal skills, has marked the Consort out as outstanding leaders in their field. They have performed at all of Britain's top festivals and made numerous visits to France, Holland, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Poland, the Czech Republic, Estonia, the USA and Canada, South America, Japan, Greece, Russia, Austria, Portugal and Spain.

Their impressive discography for Saydisc, Metronome, Linn, Deutsche Grammophon and Harmonia Mundi USA includes a collection of music by John Dunstaple and 'The Call of the Phoenix', which were selected as Early Music CDs of the Year by Gramophone Magazine in 1996 and 2003 respectively. Their recent recording of Machaut's 'Messe de Notre Dame' and 'Scattered Rhymes', an outstanding new work by the young British composer Tarik O'Regan and featuring the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, has been short-listed for a BBC Music Magazine Award.

The Consort's performances increasingly embrace the spheres of contemporary music and improvisation. Their crossover project 'Extempore' with the jazz quartet Perfect Houseplants has received widespread critical acclaim and since 2000 they have given 31 world premières.

'The Orlando Consort's performances are staggeringly beautiful' The Times

Kuljit Bhamra

Kuljit Bhamra is one of the most inspiring and influential musicians, composers and record producers on the British Asian music scene. A pioneer of the worldwide Bhangra phenomenon, he combined traditional Indian rhythms with western instruments and has a repertoire of over 2000 tracks.

A virtuoso instrumentalist and skilled improviser and composer, Kuljit has worked on film scores including Bhaji on the Beach and Charlie & The Chocolate Factory and in London's west-end he is known for his work in Bombay Dreams and The Far Pavilions. He also works as a composer and instrumentalist for his own projects and collaborates with many internationally acclaimed musicians from a variety of genres including saxophonist Andy Sheppard and pianist Joanna MacGregor.

As Artistic Director for the Society for the Promotion of New Music, Kuljit is creating exciting new projects including a universal Tabla Notation System, a Bhangra Latina band and new Raga compositions for western orchestras.

Jonathan Mayer

Son of the late composer and co-founder of Indo-Jazz Fusions John Mayer, Jonathan studied composition from his father and later with Andrew Downes at the Birmingham Conservatoire where he gained a B.Mus (Hons) studying both sitar and composition.

His career so far has seen him play with artists such as Dave Stewart, The Smith String Quartet, The Bingham String Quartet, Kathryn Tickell, Kumar Bose, Shiv Shankar Ray, Kuljit Bhamra, Erich Gruenburg, Rohan De Sarem, The Dub Pistols, John Wilson, Bombay Dub Orchestra, Swati Natekar, Sarah Brightman, I Musici Fiamminghi Orchestra and Sir Paul McCartney. Jonathan is also a member of The Teak Project, an exciting new trio with a debut album out on First Hand Records.

Shahid Khan

Shahid Khan comes from a family of renowned tabla players and classical singers from the 'Patiala Gharana' based in Pakistan. At a young age he received singing lessons from Pandit Vishwa Prakash and later from Rauf Mehndi; Shahid's guru from the age of 16 was and remains Ustad Hussain Baksh Gulu, who he credits with taking him to new heights, and his biggest influence has been Ustad Nusret Fateh Ali Khan. He is a former winner of the Asian Starsearch competition and has recently featured on a debut CD, Yaaro.