Music

A day in the life of Sarathy Korwar and thoughts on his upcoming album

© Naman Saraiya
Written by Naman Saraiya
With Sarathy Korwar’s second album, More Arriving, set to release in July 2019, Naman Saraiya pens down his conversations with the jazz artist over two years, along with a special photo story.
I can hardly believe it’s been over two years to the day that I walked into Sarathy Korwar’s house in East London, hoping to make some pictures and chat about his new record.
Perhaps watching him perform his debut record, Day To Day, at the Richmix, London in the summer of 2016, and knowing that he was working on new music this time around, set me out on this path.
Spending time with Korwar at his home, talking about everything from home studios to football club Arsenal-after-Wenger, to the state of art and culture amidst the diaspora, was effortless and insightful.
Korwar speaks with careful, almost-meditative thought about his music. He also spoke about his approach to deeper issues that the music seeks to address and what it was like collaborating with newer artists and living life as an immigrant in London.
I revisited him in the summer of 2019, and we spoke about his upcoming album, More Arriving (which releases on 26th July via The Leaf Label and will be available on all major streaming platforms). During our conversation this year, I realised that much of what we spoke about two years ago still seemed relevant from a socio-political standpoint.
Working with newer MCs from across South Asian countries and not just from India – in the hope of representing a larger spectrum of the brown voice that is often misunderstood under generic umbrella terms – seemed to be a recurring theme in Korwar’s music, and one that More Arriving deals with well.
“My idea of playing this live is slightly different. The attempt is to bring in more people who would otherwise not have access to the music. In the UK it's more race-driven, and crowds are diverse, but in India, it’s more along class lines. In a practical sense, we've played all the shows we wanted to. I'm not so interested in that anymore. I’m interested to see how different audiences will react to it, in the UK and in India – in seeing a wider representation of the brown experience,” Korwar told me in May 2019.
We walked over to a local neighbourhood store to get a package, popped into Tesco to grab a meal for later (don’t judge us!), hiked through what felt like massive sections of Hampstead Heath, praised the Gods for giving us a whole sunny day, took the tube, walked about Dalston, visited Eldica Records, and Cafe Oto where Korwar played his first gig in the UK – all before sundown.
“My music is the bit that’s pre-written – which I’m in control of – and the common thread is me working towards jazz and Indian classical, and their voices kind of underpin the larger idea. In the end, it’s the songs that matter,” he added.
The record features MC Mawali of Swadesi on lead single 'Mumbay', New Delhi rapper Prabh Deep and Taru Dalmia aka Delhi Sultanate (of BFR Soundsystem and The Ska Vengers) on 'Coolie', as well as contributions from London-based poet Zia Ahmed and Abu Dhabi-based Deepak Unnikrishnan. Vineet Nair aka TRAP POJU makes an appearance on 'City of Words' alongside Indian classical singer Mirande, who also appears on 'Good Ol’ Vilayati'.
The album also boasts of appearances from various musicians including Danagogue (of The Comet is Coming, on synths), Indo-jazz specialist Al MacSween, Tamar Osborn on baritone sax, and a striking sax solo from Chris Williams.
“At the core of the record, I wanted to feature a bunch of MCs from across, and talk about the diasporic experience. Zia exemplifies that through his poetry, being born and bred here, though he is of Pakistani heritage. Working with Deepak Unnikrishnan – who lives in Abu Dhabi – has helped shape that as well,” said Korwar.
For all its jazz roots and off-time verbose spitting, More Arriving is a marked shift in sound from Korwar. With the record being as complex but even more layered as his debut, Korwar comes across as deeply conscious, politically-aware and a keen observer of the diaspora experience.
Below are a few snapshots of a day in the life of Korwar, captured in the summer of 2017.
Sarathy Korwar in his home
Sarathy Korwar in his home
Sarathy Korwar's new album, More Arriving, is out on 26th July via The Leaf Label.
Korwar lives in East London
Korwar lives in East London
Here we see him at his home studio. The sophomore release features South Asian poets and MCs, tying the narrative of the record together.
Around the corner from Korwar's home
Around the corner from Korwar's home
Setting out for the day with a list of errands to run, enough water to keep us hydrated through the day, and hope that a sunny day awaits us.
Stopping by a store in Korwar's neighbourhood
Stopping by a store in Korwar's neighbourhood
Collecting a package from a neighbourhood store.
At the Hampstead Heath Overground Station
At the Hampstead Heath Overground Station
Getting off at the Hampstead Heath Overground Station while the sun played hide-and-seek.
Walking through and then taking a break at Hampstead Heath
Walking through and then taking a break at Hampstead Heath
Hampstead Heath, where there was lots of walking around, sitting around, basking in the rare, glorious weather, and consuming of the meal deal we picked up at Tesco.
Korwar takes in the view of London city from Hampstead Heath
Korwar takes in the view of London city from Hampstead Heath
Overlooking London from the top of Hampstead Heath. Honestly, I thought this shot only happened in movies.
Eldica Records in Dalston is Korwar's favourite record store
Eldica Records in Dalston is Korwar's favourite record store
Korwar took me to Eldica Records in Dalston – one of his favourites. The records were fantastic, but I was happier that it made for a location for great photos.
Korwar picks out some records to listen to
Korwar picks out some records to listen to
Korwar digging through the crates and perhaps signalling the diversity of his choices in this diptych.
Taking a breather at Cafe Oto
Taking a breather at Cafe Oto
Cafe Oto, also in Dalston, is where Korwar played his first-ever gig in the UK. Great beer, too, IMO.