Interview: Nitin Sawhney

Besides the obvious Mahabharata influence in Franz Orsten’s Throw of Dice, what else attracted you to provide a live score for the film?
Well, firstly it is a stunning epic film which features a German director’s otherworldly take on an Indian narrative. Unlike a typical Indian film, this allows me to approach the score with more creative license.
Genre mish-mashing and the cross-pollination of different cultures has always been your trademark; have you ever felt that your ideas have been exhausted?
Since I was a kid, I have always been influenced by various musical influences running in my household— from the classical Indian music played by my mum to the punk—rock that my brother was into. That’s why I probably ended up playing in youth orchestras, jazz quartets and punk—rock bands. It’s still a fertile ground for me, I tend to take my musical ideas from various sources like books, mythology, religion, current affairs and politics.
What are some of the challenges of providing a live score compared to composing a soundtrack for a film?
It’s tricky; not only do I need to convey the mood to the musicians involved, I must also make sure that everybody is in time, even if one of the musicians isn’t in sync, we would be in trouble because the audience is sensitive to such thing. Whereas if I am in a studio composing a film soundtrack, I can toy around with the programming and effects.
We loved your last concert in Singapore, what’s in store for us this time round?
Unlike my club set in last year’s festival where the crowd was bouncing around, my club gig for Last Days of Meaning in this year’s fest will be a more somber and contemplative affair. That comes naturally as I am dealing with themes like xenophobia in modern day Britain, which I am quite sure are universal themes which will engage as well as entertain the audience.
Catch Nitin Sawhney and the Singapore Festival Orchestra in A Throw of Dice, May 20, 7:30pm. Esplanade Concert Hall, 1 Esplanade Dr., 6828-8377. $20-100 from Sistic.