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Simon Thacker: Svara-Kanti, Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh

Simon Thacker certainly can't be accused of showing a lack of ambition in sourcing repertoire for his Eastern-traditions-meets-Western-classical-discipline quartet, Svara-Kanti.

For the extensive UK tour the guitarist has been leading the group on lately, he commissioned works from the American-based Indian composer Shirish Korde and even one of the great heroes of contemporary composition, Terry Riley, as well as a new piece from closer to home, Edinburgh-based Nigel Osborne's The Five Elements.

On first exposure to these extensive works, however, the overall impression was that Thacker might have a little more faith in his own compositions and arrangements for guitar, violin, table and voice. He knows the capabilities and strengths of the group intimately and his own pieces, including the opening Dhumaketu, where his often oud-like guitar playing pulled a remarkable range of tones and colours from the strings, and the Punjabi folk songs that bring out the best of Japjit Kaur's expressive singing were by some way the most satisfying.

Osborne's piece, although rather episodic, had its moments, with Kaur producing some lovely, keening sounds, violinist Jacqueline Shave playing very effective harmonics and percussionist Sarvar Sabri introducing the eerie-toned waterphone.

Riley's SwarAmant, while obviously challenging the guitar, violin and tablas trio, seemed more of an exercise in writing notes than an attempt to involve the listener. However, Thacker's Multani, for the same instrumentation, used an unusual metre and some highly technical musicianship to much more gripping effect and his setting for Kaur of the Punjabi love song Main Tenu Yaad Awanga brought forth the kind of soulful, thoroughly engaged togetherness that was sometimes lacking elsewhere.

HHH

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