How Music and Spirituality Became the Bridge for London’s Tenderlonious and Pakistani Act Jaubi
Also featuring Polish artist Marek Pędziwiatr handling synth and drone, ‘Ragas From Lahore’ unearths a new ruminating blend of jazz, Indian classical and hip-hop
Beyond a regular East meets West collaboration, Lahore’s jazz/hip-hop fusion group Jaubi and London-based flautist and saxophonist Tenderlonious aka Ed Cawthorne dive deep into realms of visceral music unheard with their new album Ragas From Lahore.
Although previously informed about Indian classical music, Cawthorne found out about Jaubi along with Poland label Astigmatic Records’ founder Lukasz Wojciechowski and landed up in Lahore in April last year for a short stay. Cawthorne says, “We didn’t have a great deal of time to explore Lahore as our trip was very much focused towards making music together. We spent most of our time in the studio. However, we were able to walk around the streets most evenings and got to take a walk through Shalamar Gardens one morning. We also visited some of the musicians houses for dinner, which was a great experience. The people of Lahore were very welcoming towards us.”
With Jaubi’s Kashif Ali Dhani on tabla and vocals, Zohaib Hassan Khan on sarangi and Ali Riaz Baqar on guitar, the Pakistanis let rehearsals and jams take their own shape. “Most of the time I didn’t know when we were recording or not. However, as we got to spend more time together in the recording studio, our interests and chemistry as a collective group started to materialize,” Baqar says.
Ragas From Lahore was also built upon by Polish artist Marek Pędziwiatr, who helmed drone and synth duties on the introspective, mostly instrumental record. Pędziwiatr – whose introduction to Indian music came from hip-hop group Cypress Hill’s album Three Temples of Boom  – says that each time the trio met, new ideas gathered steam. With a longstanding journey to understand scales and “rhythm circles” in Indian music and how they were different from Western classical honed in Poland, Pędziwiatr says he came to appreciate the sacredness of the former. “Every part of this music is spiritual… and I am spiritual… [so] this element gave me a sense of connection. Finally, when I came to Lahore sharing soundscapes with Jaubi and Tender, this strange ‘I-do-not-belong’ feeling disappeared,” he says.
The six-track record indeed wants to convey a sense of shared sacredness, helped by the in-the-room production value. Ragas From Lahore is vulnerable, tempered and heightened through different movements, whether it’s Tenderlonious’ soprano saxophone melting into the drone on “Kirwani (Part II)” or gutsy tabla work from Dhani and Khan’s sorrowing sarangi leading the way on “Impressions,” which also sees heartrending flute portions, also by Tenderlonious.
The sessions between the artists also paved the way for Jaubi’s upcoming album Nafs At Peace, which Baqar describes as a record that “revolves around the Islamic philosophical concept of Nafs (‘self’) in the Qur’an.” They’re also working with veteran hip-hop producer Pete Rock (who shares credits with rappers Nas, Ghostface Killah and more) and Los Angeles bass producer The Gaslamp Killer, plus Polish band EABS on different material.
While Tenderlonious and Pędziwiatr will feature on Nafs At Peace, U.K. label 22a Music (helmed by Tenderlonious and Oli Reeves) is working towards bringing Jaubi down to the U.K. for performances and more music. Baqar says, “The pandemic has complicated things, so we are patiently waiting to hopefully perform in U.K. in late 2021. The feedback overall has been very positive to get us across.”
Stream/buy ‘Ragas From Lahore’ below.