ONE of the best kept secrets in British music is Third Culture Collective. The orchestra founded by London based composer, singer and producer Kavi Pau brings together Indian and western classical music, with commercial sounds to create a genre that attempts to go beyond fusion.
The talented musicians and great singers recently released a beautifully crafted cover version of O Rey Chhori from the Oscar nominated Bollywood film Lagaan. This adds to many marvellous music projects for Pau that have included working with AR Rahman and major events like the BBC Proms.
Eastern Eye caught up with him to discuss his music journey, the unique Third Culture Collective, and their new song.
What first connected you to music?
Music has been in my life for as long as I can remember. As a child, I learned western piano alongside training as a Gujarati bhajan singer – I’ve been combining the two styles ever since.
What has been your most memorable musical moment so far?
There have been many. I’ve performed in front of the late Queen and Prince Philip, sang at Stephen Hawking’s funeral, and recently performed at Morari Bapu’s Ram Katha, which was televised across 17 countries. Leading a concert of my music with AR Rahman’s orchestra in Chennai was also really special.
Tell us about Third Culture Collective?
Third Culture Collective is a music production house I founded in 2021 aimed at fostering collaboration between Indian and western musicians. Creating a ‘third culture’ of music is my response to constantly being torn between the Indian and western sides of my identity. As well as releasing our own music, we collaborate with western classical ensembles and run workshops on Indian instruments.
How would you describe the sound of the Third Culture Collective?
It’s a fresh approach to Indian and western classical music that goes beyond ‘fusion’. We recompose music from one culture onto the instruments of another. Picture Beethoven arranged for a group of sitars, or a live orchestra playing an instrumental ghazal.
Could you tell us about your new single?
We have released my production of O Rey Chhori from Lagaan on all streaming platforms. It features the Third Culture Collective’s orchestra and choir, as well as the talented British Asian vocalists Shahid Abbas Khan and Rekha. There’s an awesome music video too, filmed in a church where I used to be the choirmaster.
What in particular made you want to do a cover version of this song?
The music of AR Rahman has always been close to my heart. The blend of English and Indian styles in Lagaan, particularly in this song, made it a perfect fit for us.
Who are you hoping this track connects with?
I’ve added a hidden twist to this track – a small sample from 18th-century composer Johann Sebastian Bach. Blink and you’ll miss it. While Bollywood fans will love the song, I’m also hoping to reach western classical musicians unfamiliar with Bollywood.
What else can we expect from the Third Culture Collective?
We’ve got a packed 2024 with several UK live performances to be announced soon. We also have exciting projects in the pipeline, collaborating with some of the UK’s biggest orchestras and choirs.
What inspires you as a musician?
I’m constantly inspired by the incredible musicians I get to work with, whether in the UK, in India or anywhere else.
What music dominates your own playlist?
My playlist is eclectic, to say the least. Depending on my mood and the time of day, you might find me listening to bhajans, ghazals, 16th-century English church music, or even German operas by Richard Wagner.
Why should we all find your new song?
Where else will you hear a Bollywood song mixed with German classical music, recorded by British Indian artists in a church?