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Sandunes On Reinvention, New Music and Going Back to the Piano

The Mumbai producer released her latest EP ’11:11’ last month and is already on to a new live project called Hand of Thought, premiering this week

Anurag Tagat Oct 17, 2019

Mumbai producer Sanaya Ardeshir aka Sandunes. Photo: Courtesy of City Press

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Speaking right after wrapping up a couple of Europe shows last month, Mumbai producer Sanaya Ardeshir aka Sandunes is happy to admit her thought processes have been rewired personally and professionally over the last couple of years. As someone who has been a keen advisor to other artists in India, Ardeshir has often had her own moments of doubt and anxiousness in her journey to becoming one of the country’s best known electronic music producers.

She says over the phone from Switzerland, “A previous version of myself was acutely intent on accumulating as much skill as possible so that I didn’t have to rely on people, so that I could get things done. Now, there’s a different hat I’m wearing. I think, ‘No, rely on people.’ The work is richer, the process is richer. You have tons to gain from that process and so do they. Ultimately, that is the foundation of what I’m doing.”

Performing at the Pickle Factory in London and then at the Nova Batida Festival in Lisbon, the Sandunes live set featured Mumbai singer-songwriter and vocalist Sohrab Nicholson (LANDSLANDS) and drummer Max Hallett aka Betamax (from U.K. psychedelic/electronic jazz band The Comet Is Coming). Nicholson and Betamax also contributed to her new EP 11:11 and Ardeshir says the music was ready for quite sometime before the release was slotted by Berlin label !K7 Records. She adds, “I’ve been learning to get patient with the idea that there can be stuff ready and there’s a little bit of lag time between completion and when it goes out.”

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Listen to ’11:11′ EP below.

While LANDSLANDS has had prior collaborative experience with Sandunes (on the formidable 2014 song “Slybounce”), Ardeshir reached out to Betamax in October last year, when she was supporting U.K. house/techno artist George Fitzgerald. Initially, Ardeshir was tasked with finding a local replacement for her previous live drummer, Dhir Mody, since taking the Indian musician to the U.K. was “prohibitively expensive.” She adds, “I was like, ‘Shit, that’s scary.’ You’ve got to rethink your set and you get into that comfort space for the live stuff. It was initially cumbersome but then it quickly became an opportunity that opened up a lot of doors.” Later on in the process of working on 11:11 remotely with Betamax, Ardeshir says she also got the attentive ears of her artist collective Dasta, drummer Jehangir Jehangir at Island City Studios and more. She adds, “After you’ve done the emotional work, it needs that professional touch. You need to open it up to other people. Often, your friends can help your record sound better than you can on your own.” There will be more releases via !K7, but the producer adds with a laugh, “I have a parallel calendar of stuff that’s highly important to me that’s going on in India.”

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Among those is her latest project called Hand of Thought, which has been in the making for around 18 months. What began as piano compositions at her Border Movement residency and at the Red Bull Music Studios in Berlin starting sometime in 2017 has now become an experimental performance. She’ll be joined by multi-instrumentalist Shirish Malhotra, saxophonist Rhys Sebastian and arranger Neil Waters as orchestrator.

Name-checking composers and singer-songwriters such as Nils Frahm and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon as reference points for Hand of Thought, Ardeshir is understandably “terrified” but that might be a bit of an overstatement. She adds, “It’s a Sandunes gig, but I’m trying to make it around a vulnerable part of me as an artist, which is piano playing. This show is a return to that foundation for me, but blending into the world of synthesizers and production and drum machines.” But as she’s learned, it’s important to keep moving out of one’s comfort zone. “It’s important to keep throwing yourself into a little bit of fear.”

Red Bull Music Presents Sandunes: Hand of Thought and Chennai artist JBabe live at Liberty Cinemas, Mumbai on October 20th. Get tickets here.

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