“It would be easier to jot down what this man can’t do than what he can.”
– The Guardian
Nitin Sawhney is one of the most distinctive and versatile musical voices around today. Firmly established as a world-class producer, songwriter, DJ, multi-instrumentalist, orchestral composer and cultural pioneer, Sawhney has become a latter-day Renaissance man in the worlds of music, film, videogames, dance and theatre.
Sawhney’s output as a musician is highly prolific. He has scored for and performed with many of the world’s leading orchestras, and collaborated with and written for the likes of Paul McCartney, Nora Jones, Sting, The London Symphony Orchestra, A.R. Rahman, Brian Eno, Sinead O’Connor, Anoushka Shankar, Jeff Beck, Shakira, Will Young, Joss Stone, Taio Cruz, Ellie Goulding, Horace Andy, Cirque Du Soleil, Akram Khan, Deepa Mehta, Mira Nair, Nelson Mandela and John Hurt. Performing extensively around the world, he has achieved an international reputation across every possible creative medium.
Often appearing as Artist in Residence, Curator or Musical Director at international festivals, Sawhney works tirelessly for musical education, having acted as patron of the British Government’s Access-to-music programme, the East London Film festival and, currently, Artis as well as acting as a judge for The Ivor Novello Awards, BAFTA, BIFA and the PRS foundation. He is a recipient of 6 honorary doctorates from British universities, is a fellow of LIPA and the Southbank University, an Associate of Sadler’s Wells, sits on the board for british theatre company Complicite and in 2007 turned down an OBE for ethical reasons. In 2017, Sawhney received the Ivor Novello's lifetime achievement award for his eclectic and highly acclaimed body of work.
Sawhney has released 10 studio albums, each garnering critical acclaim. Indeed, Sawhney has received no less than 17 major national awards for his album work alone.
In 1999 Sawhney released his fourth breakthrough Gold selling album, Beyond Skin, on London’s Outcaste Records, which took a prestigious Technics Mercury Music Prize nomination and won Sawhney the coveted South Bank Show Award. After a subsequent signing to Richard Branson’s V2 Records, Sawhney released the millennial epic and Silver certified Prophesy in 2001, winning a MOBO Award as well as a BBC Radio 3 Music Award. Sawhney’s seventh album, Philtre, was released in May 2005, taking yet another BBC Radio 3 Award and in 2008, his eighth album, London Undersound, released on Cooking Vinyl, featured artwork by Antony Gormley and performances from Paul McCartney, Anoushka Shankar, Imogen Heap and Natty, amongst many others.
Sawhney’s 2011 studio work, Last Days of Meaning, previewed at the Royal Albert Hall in May 2011, centres on a stunning performance from legendary actor, John Hurt, and follows the epic, metaphorical, Dickensian journey of a lonely and intransigent man. His 2013 box-set release ‘ONE ZERO’ was recorded live-to-vinyl as a celebration of ten albums releases. Nitin’s tenth studio album entitled ‘DYSTOPIAN DREAM’ was released in November 2015, featuring Joss Stone and a host of up and coming young artists.
Sawhney produced Anoushka Shankar’s Grammy nominated album ‘Traces of You’, featuring Norah Jones, for Deutsche Grammophon. He also produced the tenth album of internationally renowned concert pianist Helene Grimaud called ‘Water’, also for Deutsche Grammophon. The same label are also working with Sawhney to create a duet album called ‘Memory’ with Helene Grimaud for release sometime next year.
Film, TV and Video Games
To date, Sawhney has scored over fifty films as well as a plethora of international TV programmes, ads and cinema trailers. Signed to prestigious Hollywood agency, First Artist Management, he has scored everything from dark, high-tension drama to light hearted animatronics. Sawhney is currently scoring Andy Serkis’ adaptation of “Jungle Book” for Warner Bros, due for release in 2018. He recently finished scoring Andy Serkis' directorial debut “Breathe”, (featuring Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy) which goes on general release in October 2017.
Sawhney scored a 5 episode series for the BBC’s Natural History Department called “Wonders of the Monsoon” which had its debut airing with the BBC in 2014. With other broadcasters and with its DVD release it has been retitled “Lands of the Monsoon”. The series earnt Sawhney a Royal Television Society award for best composer in February 2015. He scored all 8 episodes of the BBC’s landmark series, winning him a BAFTA, “The Human Planet” for the National Orchestra of Wales, which was broadcast across 44 countries internationally and received huge critical acclaim globally. In 2004, his music for Channel 4’s Second Generation saw him nominated for the prestigious Ivor Novello Award for Film and TV Composition and his subsequent film catalogue includes work from Mira Nair’s internationally acclaimed “The Namesake” and for the London Symphony Orchestra and BFI, Hitchcock’s “The Lodger”. Sawhney also scored Deepa Mehta’s adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s book “Midnight’s Children”, Khyentse Norbu’s “Vara: A Blessing” and “Japan in a Day” for Ridley and the late Tony Scott, “The Confession” for Rogan Productions/BBC Storyville, and “Animal Symphony” for Sky Arts.
He has scored ad campaigns for Yves Saint Laurent, Nike and Sephora and Trailer scores include Hollywood release “The Men who Stare at Goats”.
Sawhney has worked extensively with Cambridge based games developers, Ninja Theory, on their international best-selling and groundbreaking titles, “Heavenly Sword”, “Pigsy” and “Enslaved”, with the latter receiving an Ivor Novello nomination for Nitin’s orchestral score with the Prague Philharmonic. As sole composer for these games, Sawhney has evolved an entirely new range of technical skills for the cutting edge world of motion capture videogame narrative.
An acclaimed flamenco guitarist and classical/jazz pianist, Sawhney’s musical ability to transcend cultural barriers has gained him much recognition from the classical and pop communities, leading to his unique claim to broadcasting and selling out as artist in his own right for both the BBC Traditional and Electric Proms at London’s Royal Albert Hall and Roundhouse respectively. His band has toured the world for decades selling out venues such as Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, Sydney Opera House, Chicago’s Stern Grove and Alhambra, Paris to name a few. Sawhney has performed and scored in recent years with international orchestras to silent films, most notably Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Lodger”, Franz Osten’s "A Throw of Dice" and Naruse’s "Yogoto No Yume", all for the London Symphony Orchestra. Nitin has conducted both the London Symphony Orchestra and the Singapore Festival Orchestra and has written choral pieces for the London Contemporary Voices Choir. Sawhney performed at London’s Royal Albert Hall in September 2014 where he showcased tracks from his tenth studio album, “Dystopian Dream”. Sawhney musically directed a star-studded tribute to the legendary rock musician Jack Bruce at London’s Roundhouse in October 2015, and was also musical director for the show "Tony Visconti: A Life in Music" at London's Union Chapel in 2017. He also played alongside Joss Stone, again at the Roundhouse, for Barnado’s children’s charity. Sawhney’s own show at the RAH took place in November 2016. A coproduction with RAH & Sadler’s Wells featured a host of guests including the Berlin based dance duo Wang Ramirez.
Sawhney, given his classical background, is a surprisingly experienced and established DJ, spinning everything from Afro-beat and Dubstep to Asian breakbeat and drum ‘n’ bass. Cutting his Dj-ing teeth at London’s tastemaking Fabric nightclub, Sawhney has Dj-ed at the Big Chill, Womad, Womadelaide and across the world at numerous major festivals. Clubland has seen 3 international DJ album releases by Sawhney; All Mixed Up – The definitive remix collection; Fabriclive 15 and In the Mind of… Nitin Sawhney.
Theatre and Dance
Sawhney's album “Dystopain Dream” has been made into a full stage show with Sadler’s Wells, co-devised with Honji Wang and Sébastien Ramirez, which premiered in Luxembourg on September 29th 2017. Sawhney’s substantial theatre/dance credits include the scores for Complicite’s Olivier Award winning “A Disappearing Number” and Akram Khan’s also Olivier Award winning “Zero Degrees”, for which Nitin received a New York Performance and Dance Award for best score. After scoring Bahok for the Royal Ballet of China, Sawhney’s composition for Khan’s “Vertical Road” received a best new work Award in Melbourne. Sawhney worked again with Belgian Choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui on a production based on the life of Manga creator, “Tezuka” and has worked with Akram Khan for “iTMOi” (in the mind of Igor) as part of the centenary Rites of Spring celebrations at Sadler’s Wells. Sawhney directed and produced “Indelible” a multi-installation experience at Sadler’s Wells as part of their “NoBody” programme.
Acting, writing, directing, commentating
Sawhney’s acting credits include the Award winning Radio and BBC TV series, “Goodness Gracious Me”, for which he received a Sony award as performer and writer, Meera Syal’s Radio 4 mini-series, “Masala FM” and “Confluence” with Akram Khan. As a fledgling theatrical director, his work to date includes “Confluence” for Sadler’s Wells and directing/ writing workshops at London’s National Theatre for his play, “Trust”. He has also written articles for UK broadsheets and appeared as a commentator on BBC’s Newsnight Review, Newsnight and Hard Talk.
“Nitin Sawhney Spins the Globe” is Sawhney’s BBC R2 show. It’s fourth series was broadcast in March of 2015. Sawhney has recently appeared as an industry expert in two series of the acclaimed TV show, “Guitar Star” for Sky Arts, as well as appearing in and working as music director on the Sky Arts show "Tony Visconti's Unsigned Heroes", which aired in 2017.