LJ: Last year, you released your debut album Anomaly. What were your inspirations behind this album?
Jasdeep: I got a scholarship from Sky Arts in 2016, and they gave me a big chunk of money to work on any project that I wanted to do. So I could have just done a solo Indian classical album and just left it at it, but I thought, because I’d been given such a big opportunity, I wanted to feature and highlight as many young Indian classical musicians as I could. And of course, my inspirations, when it comes to contemporary music, are not just limited to Indian classical music. I enjoy cinematic music, I enjoy working with different musicians, and Anomaly was a way of bringing all that together.
LJ: So, you could have just made a solo classical album, but you decided to bring all these different musicians into this? How does performing solo work compare to collaborating with a huge range of artists with differing musical influences?
Jasdeep: Yeah, I really, really enjoy working with a range of different artists, I think it brings out a different dimension of my playing when I’m inspired by different artists in the room. So when I’m doing solo practice, I’m just in the room by myself and trying to find inspiration from anywhere, you know. Whereas when I collaborate with different artists, I think we inspire each other to look for new ways of playing and new dimensions and things. So that’s why I really enjoy playing and collaborating with other artists.
LJ: You’ve just been nominated for an award with Songlines music for your first solo album. Congratulations! How does it feel being nominated less than a year since your debut album release?
Jasdeep: Yeah, it’s pretty crazy, to be honest. Anomaly took me a long time to kind of get together and do, and you don’t normally see any recognition for any Indian classical musicians. In the UK, when it comes to award ceremonies and things, there aren’t any categories that focus on Indian classical musicians – it’s either jazz or opera or classical. But there’s never any category. So that’s why Indian classical musicians always kind of slipped the net. So it’s really, really nice to be recognised and nominated for Songlines.
LJ: Although you’re a signed musician, record labels still seem reluctant to support Indian classical music in the UK. What changes would you like to see implemented in the industry? And how do you think we can raise the profile of lesser known genres of music?
Jasdeep: Well, I don’t think that Indian classical music is a lesser known genre of music in the UK. There is precedent for Indian classical music here, that dates back almost 50, 60, 70 years. And, right from Ravi Shankar and The Beatles and many musicians that followed afterwards. In fact, Darbar festival is one of the biggest Indian classical music festivals happening outside of India, and that constantly sells out every single year at the Barbican, or Southbank. So, there is massive precedence for Indian classical music in this country.
Unfortunately, the Indian classical industry in this country exists in a bubble. It hasn’t quite fed into the wider UK music industry. And that’s due to booking agents, managers, composer rosters and labels, they just don’t pick up Indian classical artists. And I’m not sure why. And I think the way that we could probably have more precedents within the industry is, is that, and requesting labels, composer rosters and booking agents’ management to really start featuring and taking Indian classical musicians onto their rosters because that’s the only way that we’re going to start to be highlighted in Indian classical music, it needs to be programmed more across venues. Programmers need to look beyond if they’re going to booking agents asking for musicians on their rosters and there’s no Indian classical music on their rosters. How are they going to get booked into venues, so I think changes like this in the industry will be really really positive too, for any classical musicians in the UK.
LJ: What piece of advice would you give an aspiring musician who may not feel represented in the current music industry?
Jasdeep: The advice I would give to the musician would be to first of all, hone your craft, make sure your music is good, practice as much as you can, and get your music sounding as good as it can be. I would also tell them to invest in some recordings of their music. And I think that that’s always on the back-step of a classical musician, you’re always geared towards live performance, but I would say that having some good recordings of your work up and self released and put them on Spotify. Get them out there and try to build some numbers around that, that’s what record labels look for, unfortunately. I would encourage them to be active on social media and your web presence to be pretty good. And then I would also recommend them to try and get in touch and network with as many organisations of music – get out there and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
LJ: We are really looking forward to welcoming you to Southampton. And what are you looking forward to most about performing at Turner Sims?
Jasdeep: Well, I think it’s probably my first headline show in Southampton. I don’t think I’ve performed there before. And I’m really really looking forward to bringing Anomaly to audiences in Southampton. I’m not sure what precedent there is of Indian classical music there. But Anomaly is a contemporary album, which mixes Indian classical music with contemporary classical music. So I’m sure that listeners will find something enjoyable in the concert, if not everything. We have a great team of fantastic musicians from across the country. It will be a special night.
Book your ticket to see Jasdeep Singh Degun on Saturday 20 May here