Nitin Sawhney Fulfills His Self-Expression On 'Prophesy'
For his fifth album, "Prophesy," producer/musician Nitin Sawhney traveled the world in search of emotional connections. "What I've been searching for over the years is balance," Sawhney says. "I don'tFor his fifth album, "Prophesy," producer/musician Nitin Sawhney traveled the world in search of emotional connections. "What I've been searching for over the years is balance," Sawhney says. "I don't get this from secondhand information, but from firsthand experiences."
Due Jan. 22, 2002, via V2, "Prophesy" is the divine result of Sawhney's inspirational four-month journey, which found the Anglo-Asian artist recording with musicians, singers, politicians, tribal leaders, teachers, and shamans in numerous locales, including Rio de Janiero; Chicago; Madrid; Soweto, South Africa; and the Australian outback.
The disc's credits list contributions from Nelson Mandela, Algerian rai master Cheb Mami, Chicago taxi driver Jeff Jacobs, Anglo-Yemeni singer Natacha Atlas, Yothu Yindi founder Mandawuy Yunupingu, the English Chamber Orchestra, and the London Community Gospel Choir. According to Sawhney, 230 artists are featured on the album.
Infused with elements of drum'n'bass, samba, hip-hop, flamenco, funk, gospel, jazz, and classical Indian, "Prophesy" effortlessly melds the East and West, the classical and contemporary, the club experience and rhythms of the world.
"This album was my way of getting back to my own reality," offers Sawhney. "It was also a way to engage with reality and emotions."
David Shebiro, owner of specialty store Rebel Rebel in New York, calls "Prophesy" one of the most enchanting albums of the year. "I've already sold several copies," he says, referring to the import version. (V2 issued the album worldwide June 18; it has since won the U.K. Music of Black Origin award for best world album.) Shebiro also confirms healthy sales of the album's first single, "Sunset" (with remixes by MJ Cole, J. Walk, and KV5), which was released in July.
In October, V2 mailed the single to specialty radio and club DJs. Early next year, "Prophesy" will be mailed to college, world, noncommercial, and triple-A formats. V2 product manager Rachel Mintz says, "Nitin is the kind of artist you may not hear on radio tomorrow, but you'll surely hear his music in places like restaurants, boutiques, and hair salons." Musical streams are available at Nitinsawhney.com and V2music.com.
Unlike his last album (1999's Technics Mercury Music Prize-nominated "Beyond Skin"), which Sawhney says focused on "people's prejudices against me and the way I could express myself, ["Prophesy" is] me challenging my own perceptions of myself. It's me questioning why development is based on materialism, power, and wealth-and not based on spirituality and understanding others."
Recalling the recording process, Sawhney acknowledges many humbling moments, including his interview with Mandela for the track "Breathing Light." "He completely respects people for who they are," Sawhney says of Mandela. "Unlike most of us -- who perceive others based on things like the media -- he sees people as human beings. Finding the reality we actually live in and not the one created by others is at the heart of Nelson Mandela."
Sawhney says he asked Mandela if he feels free. He replied, "'We are free to be free,' " recounts Sawhney, who adds that such an answer "implies we must all take responsibility."
Since embarking on a career in music, Sawhney has collaborated with tabla player Talvin Singh (under the moniker Tihai Trio), written for Sinead O'Connor, remixed tracks for Sting and Paul McCartney, produced songs for Mami and Indian songstress Amar, and scored films ("The Dance of Shiva") and TV documentaries (BBC2's "The Sikhs"). He's currently working on a film score for "The Ground Beneath Her Feet" and writing an orchestral score for the English Chamber Orchestra.
On Dec. 4, Sawhney played to a sold-out crowd at London's Royal Albert Hall; a U.S. tour is scheduled for March 2002.