Nitin Sawhney has released a new album titled Last Days of Meaning. Nitin has managed to rack up a Mercury, Ivor, Mobo and Olivier awards for his past work and Last Days of Meaning, his ninth studio album, is certainly worthy.
Like most of Nitin’s projects it is an ambitious one. It features Yolanda Quartey, Tina Grace, Jon Bilbrough, Nicki Wells, Hannah Peel, Soumik Datta, Ashwin Srinivasan, Rajrang, ESKA, NATTY as well as John Hurt. He befriended John Hurt during sessions for the BBC ‘Human Planet’ series which he scored and Hurt narrated. Nitin scored Last Days of Meaning before it became an album, it was written and recorded in just five months. The album traces the character of Donald Meaning (played by Hurt) who is an embittered old man living a miserable and lonely life. He has warped ideas and opinions about the world, probably formed by the press, which in turn feeds his irrational fear of immigrants, terrorists and the outside world. He creates a cage of fear which he cannot leave. He is sent a tape by his ex-wife which he plays and which features the songs for the album, in between songs you hear his self-centered mind at work.
The interspersing of narrative with song works really well. The contrast between Donald Meanings ignorant rants and the album songs provide a very tight focus making each track all the more poignant. Nitin starts to subtley demonstrate the real beauty he sees in the world. After hearing Say You Will a duet bewteen Nicki Wells and Jon Bilbrough you begin to see a very clear message of “the world is not like this and fear is our biggest enemy.” Nitin aimed to make the album into a parable:
“For me it’s ultimately a parable about entrenchment and dogmatism.” Nitin was no stranger to first hand experience having been on the receiving end of prejudice from his formative years – “The National Front was very strong around where I grew up.”
Nitin took a brave and fruitful step by stepping inside the mind of a character who is filled with such prejudice and hate.
“It’s a journey towards self-acceptance,” he says, “and sits alongside ‘The Human Planet’ nicely as well, since both essentially celebrate human diversity.”
The album does feature some beautiful and incredible moments of musical fusion which portray the beauty of diversity perfectly. Kite is a powerhouse of a track which features Soumik Datta (Circle of Sound), one of the most acclaimed Sarod players who recently featured at Songlines Encounters Festival. So Long features Yolanda Quartey & Rajrang blending east and west over bluesy vocals and rootsy acoustics.
This is an album you’ll want to listen to in one sitting to appreciate its effect. As the album moves on you get a deeper glimpse into the sorrowful and souless mind of Donald Meaning. Nitin leaves a seed of hope right at the end of the album when Donald receives a visitor…
Sawhney showcased his latest work at a sold-out headline show at London’s Royal Albert Hall in May. He will return to headline the RAH in July, spearheading the ‘Human Planet’ at the BBC Proms (July 23), for which he has just been nominated for a Bafta, before headlining London’s Union Chapel on 2 & 3 November.