Mela opening night: The King of Ghosts

On Friday night, the Edinburgh Mela opens with a specially commissioned new work sure to set a new standard in international collaboration. Celebrating its 20th birthday this year, the Mela has brought together rising world music star and sarod player Soumik Datta, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and percussionist Cormac Byrne.


Datta was inspired to write this new work, The King Of Ghosts, by the classic 1969 Indian art house film Gupi Gayen, Bagha Bayen, by Oscar-winning director Satyajit Ray, scenes from which will be projected above the musicians during the performance. The work weaves Indian folk rhythms with electronic beats and the rich Western classical textures of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Together, these sounds create an incredible landscape of fantasy and fairytale, whisking the audience away.

The King of Ghosts is co-composed, arranged and conducted by Johannes Berauer, one of Austria's most prolific and diverse young composer. Percussionist Cormac Byrne developed a love for the Irish drum the bodhran and all traditional music while studying in Manchester. Since then, he has become an award-winning performer, touring festivals around the world and working with musicians throughout the UK.

Soumik Datta, born in Bombay and based in the UK, is taking the traditional Indian stringed instrument the Sarod into the global arena. His career has already seen him performing alongside Beyonce, Jay Z, Shankar Mahadevan and Bill Bailey. Playing the Sarod is no easy task - its metal strings can cut the fingers, and because it is fretless, a huge amount of knowledge must be acquired to perform effectively. But Datta is a true maestro, and is pushing the instrument into new terrain, creating bold new sounds that blend classical Indian and contemporary music.

Speaking about creating The King of Ghosts, Datta said:

Weaving Indian folk rhythms, powerful Raaga based melodies with avant-garde string writing, I wanted to bring together Indian and western traditions. Not only would this project pay tribute to Ray, one of the greatest film makers in the history of Indian cinema but it would also allow me the chance to create a dark, surreal, atmospheric and cutting edge score for the SCO, whom I consider one of the most progressive, dynamic orchestras in the UK. Furthermore, I wanted this show to raise awareness of an Indian cinema model outside the archetype of Bollywood and allow for the creation of a new audio visual experience for diverse audiences.

Image: Edinburgh Mela

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