Art without boundaries Nitin Sawhney


The UK composer will perform live score to Indian silent film A Throw of Dice at Parramasala.

You can call him a latter-day Renaissance man in the worlds of music, film, videogames, dance and theatre.

Firmly established as a world-class producer, songwriter, DJ, multi-instrumentalist, orchestral composer, and cultural pioneer, British-Indian Nitin Sawhney is one of the most influential musicians and composers in contemporary music today.

Having recently signed a lucrative deal with Universal Publishing, he has made 8 studio albums, for which he has been nominated for a Mercury Music prize, won a MOBO, 2 BBC Radio 3 awards and a Southbank show award, amongst 15 others. He has scored over 40 films for cinema and television, with an Ivor Novello nomination for best score leading to his forthcoming Orchestral music to the BBC series The Human Planet, Salman Rushdie’s new screenplay Midnight’s Children, Mira Nair’s film The Namesake, two recent film scores for live performance by the London Symphony Orchestra and two biopics respectively about Brian Epstein and Jean Charles De Menezes.

At the Australian Festival of South Asian Arts Parramasala, to be held in Parramatta from November 4-8, Nitin and his exceptional band, accompanied by a 39-piece orchestra, will perform a live score to a rediscovered masterpiece of Indian silent cinema, A Throw of Dice.

The fascinating 1929 Indian silent film will be screened while the legendary UK composer and musician performs a new score with full orchestra and guest UK and Indian singers and musicians.

Excited about the performance at Parramasala, Nitin told Indian Link, “It’s a very special thing. I just want to say that it will be a very different experience watching an old silent Indian film with a live orchestra playing with it. A Throw of Dice represents India in a very good way. It’s a very peaceful film and this is the first time that music will be played with it. The score is not Indian but is full of feelings to go with the movie.”

Nitin says festivals like Parramasala are a “very healthy thing” particularly in the currents state of affairs in the world. “These festivals are needed for people to recognise the diveristy, culture and traditions of other countries and be open to them”.

Born to Indian parents, Nitin started his music lessons early in life. He had piano lessons from five years old and then moved on to flamenco guitar, then jazz piano, with some tabla at a local temple.

Nitin says the music that was played in the house during his childhood had a big impact on him. “My brothers used to play a lot of music, and I think that had an influence on me. My dad used to play a lot of Cuban, Brazilian and flamenco records. My mom, who was a Bharatanatyam dancer, played a lot of classical Indian music and my brothers played a lot of jazz, funk, soul and also a lot of rock like Led Zeppelin, The Doors and stuff like that. It was a really varied mix of influences that I had from everyone. Also my grandmother used to play the harmonium”.

Nitin avoids the labelling of his music under a particular category because on one hand he does not believe in attaching himself to a fashion and on the other he does not accept the concept of nationality. “I do think of India as my heritage but nationality is not a barrier for me. I don’t focus on a particular aspect and play all types of music be it jazz or hip-hop. At the same time I cherish the cultural heritage. I love watching Satyajit Ray films and at the same time read Shakespeare. It’s just about being open. Artists should be grounded and have an open mindset”.

That he refutes nationality is evident in his work: his music flows effortlessly from flamenco guitar to brazilian house, hip hop, funked up with Asian flavours. Recently he has also scored for videogames, including Sony Playstation’s number one game, “Heavenly Sword” and “Enslaved”.

Nitin regards music as art without boundaries and has the same message for those who wish to take up music as a career. “Be open to possibilities. It’s not just about taking out an album .. there are lots of opportunities in films, video games, orchestra and the like…Have an open mindset, and be original and true to your identity,” he says.


Sat 6 Nov A Throw of Dice A free outdoor screening of the fascinating 1929 Indian silent film masterpiece, with a new score composed and performed live by world renowned UK composer, DJ and music producer Nitin Sawhney, with full orchestra at the Crescent Amphitheatre in Parramatta Park. Gates open at 5.30pm and the film screens at 7.30pm. The best way to experience the event is to advance purchase a Box and Dice Ticket which includes access to the best-view reserved section with beach-chair and gourmet picnic box, for just $70 ($50 concession). These tickets can be booked now through au or 1300 438 849.

Sun 7 Nov Nitin Sawhney Soundsystem To end the weekend on a high, come along to the Roxy from 9.30pm as Nitin Sawhney Soundsystem delivers a club night of cutting edge Asian break-beat, flamenco, Brazlian samba and hip hop featuring the legendary UK DJ with guest musicians and singers.