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Like most of us, Tender (Ed) has faced many troubles in his life. Music has been a guiding light, leading him onto the right path. It was whilst in his darkest place, that he taught himself to play the soprano saxophone, bringing much needed focus and discipline back into his life. Much like his musical heroes, John Coltrane and Yusef Lateef, who were both inspired by eastern spiritualism and the deep tradition of Indian classical music, Tender has always been searching for something different and much deeper.
The seeds for a young Tender to embark on the right musical path of transcendence were planted during his father's secondments to the East as a result of being a Ghurkha officer. However it was after hearing the North Indian Classical flautist Ronu Majumdar's "Raga Mangal Bhairav" that Tender knew this was a spiritual seed he had to fully develop.
This particular seed however was ironically sowed in a grimy Peckham pub, after one too many beers - like many of our endeavours. Whilst reminiscing about previous musical journeys in Poland, we were reminded of an instrumental quartet from Lahore, Pakistan - Jaubi. We later discovered that Jaubi is an Urdu word for "whatever/whoever" and creating whatever sounds good with whoever feels good is the groups guiding principle - a vibe we could relate to. Drinks continued to flow and we further explored the idea of a trip to Lahore in Pakistan, where the band resides.
That evening after getting home from the pub, we both told our family and friends that we were planning to go to Lahore, Pakistan and record an album with Jaubi. We were met with heavy resistance from family and government officials. Our families constantly fed us articles and WhatsApp links about why it is dangerous to travel to Pakistan due to terrorism, kidnappings, tropical diseases…the list was endless. The Pakistani embassy also showed resistance by rejecting our Visas twice. The project felt destined for failure, however we slowly persevered with the Lahore dream. We learned not to believe everything people are telling you, this was more than a musical quest now, it was about breaking down cultural misconceptions.
Through many hours of hard work and planning, we arrived in Lahore on the 9th of April 2019, greeted with nothing but love and humbleness. Lahore is something special, full of positivity, humility, care and hope. Thankfully all a stark contrast to the negativity we heard about Pakistan before arriving. It was not long into the first day and that first studio session, where we realised this trip would be a real awakening. Nothing whatsoever was written down during the recording sessions - no sheet music, no song titles. It was sincere, all egos were left behind and hearts and souls were open and poured into the music.
'Impressions' is a pure raga (Raga Ba Khizer), the taala (rhythmic cycle) is Ektaal (12 beat cycle). It is the raga that Tender first heard Ronu Majumdar play. This beautiful scale, thatTender would often practice back home, becomes the musical framework for rich improvisations. Joined by Zohaib Hassan Khan on the stringed instrument called sarangi - Zohaib is a 7th generation sarangi maestro and one of only 5 professional sarangi players left in Pakistan practicing this ancient art form. Kashif Ali Dhani provides the stunning backdrop on tabla, weaving in and out of complex rhythmic patterns.
'Kirwani' is composed by Dhani and is based on a raga that resembles the harmonic minor scale in western music. Whilst 'Shalamar Gardens' provides a peaceful moment for reflection with Tender on soprano sax and Dhani on vocals.
3. Shalamar Gardens