Jasdeep Singh Degun announces Anomaly tour

Having spent much of 2022 breaking new ground as composer, co-music director and soloist on Opera North and South Asian Arts-uk’s acclaimed opera Orpheus, sitarist Jasdeep Singh Degun returns to the concert platform for a series of live performances of his celebrated album Anomaly in the UK and Europe this May and June.

Written and recorded under the mentorship of Nitin Sawhney and released on Real World Records, the album’s twelve tracks range from shimmering high-wire sitar solos to lush, string-laden cinematic excursions. It places the sitar – the Indian stringed instrument made from gourd and wood, dating from the Mughal Empire – in innovative and thrillingly contemporary settings. Yet its roots remain in ancient raags, the melodic frameworks used in the improvised performance of Indian classical music, and in Jasdeep’s lifelong training in the gayaki ang style, an especially lyrical, expressive way of playing that mimics the human voice.

Like Orpheus, which brought baroque opera together with South Asian classical music, Anomaly is built on the Leeds-born virtuoso’s unique command of both Western and Indian classical traditions. Tasked with combining the richness and scale of chamber music with the spontaneity of Indian improvisation, the formidable eight-piece band assembled for the tour includes Kaviraj Singh (santoor) and Kirpal Panesar (esraj) from the Orpheus ensemble; Jasdeep’s regular duo partner Harkiret Singh Bahra on tabla; Dutch/Irish film composer Aisling Brouwer on piano; Glenn Sharp, a specialist in flamenco and Arabic music, on guitar; versatile cellist Liz Hanks and jazz bassist John Pope.

“For me it’s really not a matter of different worlds meeting”, Jasdeep reflects. “It’s just me: as much as I’m steeped in Indian classical music, I’m a product of this country; I’m a British composer”. Whether completing Arya, his concerto for sitar and orchestra, during a residency at Benjamin Britten’s home in Aldeburgh, or working simultaneously in Indian taal and European time signatures with musicians from both spheres in the Orpheus rehearsal room, his approach to crossing musical cultures is always instinctive, organic, unprejudiced.

Jasdeep Singh Degun - Ulterior Motives (Official Video)

The past year has seen his artistry rewarded with waves of acclaim for Anomaly and Orpheus, which packed theatres across the north and topped several critics’ end-of-year lists. There was also an unexpected viral TikTok hit in the shape of Aapki Khushi, a highlight of the opera performed by the British Tamil singer Ashnaa Sasikaran.

He’s passionate about bringing younger artists like Ashnaa up with him, and improving the infrastructure for traditional Asian music in Britain, which he feels is not yet equal to the talents of a generation of brilliant performers nurtured here by teachers like his own, Ustad Dharambir Singh MBE: “Anomaly was my way of shining a light on Indian classical musicians in this country, and Orpheus has continued that”.

The situation is improving, he says, with growing recognition from UK institutions. South Asian Arts-uk, founded by Dharambir in Leeds in 1997 and a significant incubator of the latest crop of talent in traditional music, recently announced substantial support from Arts Council England over the next three years. Its current director, Keranjeet Kaur Virdee, was made an MBE in the 2023 New Year Honours List. As Opera North’s current Artist in Residence, Jasdeep is bringing new perspectives to the full range of the Leeds-based company’s work.  And his ‘Anomaly Associates’ initiative, which began as a WhatsApp group during lockdown, has evolved into a talent development scheme and a forum for mutual aid for his fellow musicians.

A consummate artist in a solo tradition, he is clearly also a committed and generous collaborator, an anomaly indeed. He is looking forward to spending more time with his band around the dates – six in the UK and a seventh in Rotterdam: “It’s my first tour with a run of consecutive performances – and a proper tour bus!”, he says.

Before that, he’s heading to Pune, western India, for six weeks off-grid, returning to the intense study of his instrument without distractions. Anticipating “nine-hour days of practice, really immersing myself in the music again”, he is clear that “first and foremost I am an Indian classical musician: that’s who I am.

“In our culture, you’re always a student: we have the teacher-disciple tradition. My teacher is incredibly knowledgeable, but he also shows me how big the music is, how much we still have to explore. It’s humbling, because it’s so vast. There are always new, intricate creative paths that you can take and the more you drill down into it, the better the musician you become: you can just go on and on, it’s limitless”.

Presented by South Asian Arts-uk in association with Concerted Artists and Real World Records, the Anomaly tour opens with a long-awaited hometown show for Jasdeep at the Howard Assembly Room, Leeds on 17 May.

Tour Dates

17 MAY LEEDS Howard Assembly Room
18 MAY NORWICH St. Peter Mancroft
19 MAY NOTTINGHAM Djanogly Theatre (Lakeside Arts)
20 MAY SOUTHAMPTON Turner Sims Concert Hall
21 MAY ROTTERDAM Willemburgerzaal, De Doelen
08 JUN MANCHESTER The Stoller Hall
09 JUN LIVERPOOL The Tung Auditorium

Featured release

  • Anomaly

    Jasdeep Singh Degun

    Released 06 May 2022

    Submit to the beauty and sorrow, the poetry and power, of the sitar – that plucked string instrument with the long neck, pear-shaped gourd and origins in the courts of the Maharajahs of medieval India. Marvel at the astonishing prowess of Jasdeep Singh Degun, a sitarist steeped in the Indian classical tradition and proudly born, raised and based in Leeds, north of England.

By Online Editor

Main image: Jasdeep Singh Degun. Photo credit: Robert Leslie.

Published on Tue, 31 January 23

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