12th May 2022

The Celtic and North Indian Fusion We Never Knew We Needed

We were lucky enough to talk to Sid Peacock, Mendi Mohinder Singh and Ruth Angell to discuss Kush – their fiddle, guitar and tabla trio based in Birmingham. We are delighted to welcome them as our next guests for Mid Day Mantra.

Let’s start at the beginning – how was the trio formed?

Sid: We have all known each other for around 20 years and played together in various projects over the years. Mendi was invited to do a concert for Diwali at the Bramall Music Building and invited Ruth and myself to join him. We gelled very quickly and decided to keep the project going. It was Mendi who suggested the name Kush.

Who are your musical inspirations?

Mendi: Every single person who has helped me to create a path playing music are my inspirations, and l am eternally grateful to them all, there are too many to name. My mother who encouraged me as a child to learn tabla. My tabla teachers, Harjinder Singh, Kuldeep Singh and my brother Pritam Singh, Sir Ajit Singh Matlashi and Pandit Shalil Shankar who l toured and studdied with for over 10 years.

Sid: I love all sorts of music across many genres that it’s hard to suggest any particular artists. Increasingly I am taking my inspiration from the artists I work with and encounter on a regular basis such as Didier Kisala, Niwel Tsumbu, Xhosa Cole, Eimear McGeown, Rihab Azar, Germa Adan amongst many others.

Ruth: My first musical experiences were from the world of classical music, bluegrass/american and folk music quickly following. Throughout my career I’ve been fortunate to work with artists from so many different musical genres that I feel I can take inspiration from all of them. Folk, classical, jazz, pop and world to name a few. 

People who have inspired me are those who believed in me when I was little, Steve Read the man from down the road who sang American old time music and played the double bass, my music teacher from school Mr Barnes, Alison Krauss, Pat Metheny, Dr L Subramaniam, and like Sid said all the beautiful people I have the pleasure of working with – too many to mention by name. 

What would you say the highlight of your career as individuals has been?

Ruth: A career highlight for me was performing at the Royal Albert Hall with one of my musical heroes Rufus Wainwright, also, having my violin playing and my version of Tambourine Man listened to and highly commended by Bob Dylan.

Mendi: For me each concert is just as important as the next, and l feel blessed that l have many highlights performing with musicians all over the world. In 2017 I toured with Take That, the iconic pop band, and that was one of my career highlights.

Sid: A highlight of my career is seeing young musicians I worked with in school projects becoming successful professional musicians. 

May’s Mid Day Mantra presents a fusion of Celtic folk and North Indian music. Why do you think these styles work so well together?

Ruth: For me as a melody player I find the Celtic and North Indian genres fit beautifully together. The melodies have similar lilting qualities and often would be used for dance and celebration. I love the improvisatory quality of passing the music from musician to musician and this is something we will now enjoy having more time to explore having received an Arts Council Grant to do so. I find the ornamentation and decoration of notes fascinating and love trying to put elements of both styles into my own unique way of playing. 

Sid: There’s quite a bit of academic research trying to determine historic links between Irish and Indian music. Some suggest Celts traded kompu horns with Indians over 2000 years ago and perhaps also musical ideas too. I suspect there’s a healthy research grant in there for someone if nothing else!

Personally, I believe all musical styles can find a way to blend where there is a willingness, having a long term personal friendship makes it easier still.

What should audiences expect from your performance at Mid-Day Mantra?

Sid: We are aiming to give our audience a moment to feel relaxed and uplifted. We have been fortunate to receive support from Arts Council England to develop the trio so will be ready with new material too.

May’s Mid-Day Mantra is on the 28th May at Symphony Hall – find out more here