London-based percussionist and composer Sarathy Korwar opened ears all over the globe with his 2016 Ninja Tune debut, Day to Day. The album created an inexhaustible knot of field-recorded sacred songs by chanting Sidis, wide-ranging ambient sonics, beats, and modal jazz. It offered a wide-angle aural hearing of what was transpiring on the explosively creative South London scene. Korwar followed it two years later with the live My East Is Your West on Gearbox that paired a jazz quintet with five Indian classical and jazz musicians. They revisited classic, transcultural music fusions of the last 50 years by composers ranging from Alice Coltrane and Ravi Shankar to Don Cherry and Goa-born guitarist Amancio D'Silva.
More Arriving, his second studio album, appears on the Leaf Label and takes it all many steps down the road. Korwar introduced this album on his website with: "This record aims to feature a diverse range of South Asian voices...reinforcing the fact that there is no single, all encompassing brown story or narrative...." The title refers to the white fear and paranoia surrounding immigration as England undergoes the turmoil of Brexit. Where Day to Day was profound in its unhurried, exploratory subtlety, More Arriving is the aesthetic opposite. Korwar uses his trap kit, but he uses the tabla more. As usual, he is accompanied by a host of jazz players, electronicists, and Indian classical players. But here, the music melds with both seamless and jagged transitions involving modal and funky jazz, snarling hip-hop, Hindi traditional song, sacred Sufi Qawwali, and modern poetry. Opener "Mumbay" finds South Asian-born MC Mawali going head-to-head in alternating, rapid-fire puns on the colonial term "Bombay," and the great city's Indian name, "Mumbai," as Korwar's overdriven percussion guides sultry saxophone and careening sonics and beats behind him. "Coolie" crisscrosses funky trap set breaks, dubwise riddims, B-3, and crunchy, skronky, tenor and baritone saxes, all framing a poignant rap (in Indo-Caribbean patois). Its lyrics are about Indian slaves who brought the cannabis seed to Jamaica, which has been largely subsumed by the CIA-run drug trade. The nine-plus-minute "Bol," is a set highlight that weds an ominous bass line, a wailing ceremonial harmonium, ceremonial handclaps, and London playwright Zia Ahmed reciting a militant poem featuring skittering irony, rage, and plays on racism in postcolonial culture above a call-and-response Qawwali chorus. The long, mostly improvised out-jazz tune "City of Words" is largely free of them, though classical vocalist Mirande Shah soars above the fray with improvised vocalizations, which she reprises on the next cut, the wryly titled "Good Ol' Vilayati." The uninitiated will have no idea what she's singing about, but the song's power and beauty are unmistakable as she flits, swoops, and hovers above bansuri flutes, tablas, synths, and oud. More Arriving is a giant step for Korwar, who pushes musical boundaries to the breaking point as his tunes articulate righteous anger, passion, pain, and pride with a militancy that emerges from the plight of human decency itself. Brilliant.