Discovering new rhythms: working with Soumik Datta, our 2023/24 Artist in Residence

Hear from some of our musicians who have been working closely with Soumik Datta as part of his residency with the Philharmonia. We hear from violinist Adrián Varela, cellist Karen Stephenson, and percussionist Paddy Davies.

Soumik Datta in a creative session with the Philharmonia

What have been the most enjoyable aspects of this project?

Karen: It has been brilliant to hear Soumik play the sarod together with Gurdain on the tabla. They are such wonderful musicians, they completely understand each other and they are a marvel to watch and listen to.

Paddy: What I’ve enjoyed most about the last few months is the freedom every musician has had to make their voice heard through this project… learning about Indian classical music through Soumik and inputting our own ideas as Western classically-trained musicians.

Adrián: Playing the first draft of his piece, and presenting and sharing each other’s music.

How has the creative process of Borderlands been different to what you’re used to as a (Western) classical musician? What have been the biggest learning curves or challenges?

Karen: The creative process of Borderlands has been different from what I’m used to as a Western classical musician. Normally we turn up and the music is all ready for us to practise!

With Soumik, we learnt how to play Indian ragas and work out really complex rhythms. It was very challenging learning how to read the Indian rhythms in a circular motion, threes, fours, fixes, sixes, sevens and eights and more – as opposed to reading the music from left to right as we do in the West. We also composed our own music based on the Indian rhythms.

What is the main thing you’ve learnt from working with Soumik?

Adrián: Soumik is a very interesting musician who is able to channel his life experiences and outlook into a coherent narrative of the subject-matter he’s interested in, namely the exploration of how borders define and affect our lives. The work, with Soumik Datta’s team as well as with Soumik himself, has also been an in-depth dive in the practices of classical Indian music, the deepest, furthest and most serious one I’ve encountered to date.

Paddy – you’re an Instrumental Fellow with the Philharmonia this year. Can you tell us more about the other opportunities on offer as part of the Fellowship?

Paddy: The Fellowship gives you the perfect tools to help you bridge the gap between education and the profession. As part of the Fellowship, you get to learn with the Orchestra’s incredible players. You are given invaluable concert opportunities and get to be involved with the Philharmonia’s education work.

Describe Borderlands in three words.
Karen: Exhilarating, innovative and inspiring!
Paddy: Daring, hopeful, freedom.
Adrián: Mosaic, kaleidoscope, valuable.