Nitin Sawhney unites different voices in new album celebrating identity

By Marie-Louise Gumuchian

LONDON (Reuters) – Nitin Sawhney celebrates identity in his new album, bringing together different voices from singers Joss Stone and Guy Garvey to Asian women asylum seekers and television host Gary Lineker.

The award-winning British Indian musician, composer and producer, who has worked with the likes of Paul McCartney and Sting and scored numerous films and television series, releases his latest studio album “Identity” on Friday, where identity theft, judgment and fears are among themes addressed.

“Identity as a subject of discourse or debate on social media and mainstream media has become increasingly distorted so that it’s very much about a kind of pejorative judgment … of people’s identity … quite often on the basis of prejudice rather than understanding,” Sawhney told Reuters.

“So I thought it would be great to actually make an album that’s a celebration of identity effectively and it’s really … inviting a lot of people that I respect and admire as artists to participate in a collective, kind of, speaking out about how they feel about their own identities.”

The album features surprise collaborator Lineker, whom Sawhney approached after Britain’s BBC suspended the presenter for criticising state immigration policy.

The suspension brought a public backlash and near mutiny at the public broadcaster and the BBC later reinstated Lineker as host of flagship Premier League highlights show “Match Of The Day”.

“I thought … here’s a safe space that you could actually express whatever you want to and he did,” Sawhney said.

The result is track “Illegal”, which also features the voices of Asian women asylum seekers and concludes with Lineker saying “No one is illegal”.

Another song, “This Is Our Home”, featuring composer and singer Ayanna Witter-Johnson, celebrates the “Windrush generation” of post-war migrants to Britain from the Caribbean.

Sawhney, whose previous album was called “Immigrants”, is known for playing different instruments and working in various genres.

“What I wanted to do by choosing titles with every album I’ve made is to work around a theme or an idea so that … all the different influences I have musically aren’t necessarily silenced by trying to make just one work in one genre, but … that I’m serving an idea,” he said.

(Reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; editing by Christina Fincher)