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Songs of the Saints: Tamil Traditions and New Creativities An AHRC-funded Cultural Engagement Project
Songs of the Saints was an AHRC-funded cultural engagement project, which made connections between Tamil temple songs, professional Carnatic musicians and students in the Music Department at Goldsmiths. With a large Tamil diaspora and a dynamic South Indian music community in London, the project engaged diasporic musical traditions and musicians working in the local vicinity with musical creativity at Goldsmiths.
One of the main outcomes of this project was a collaboration between local Carnatic musicians, Goldsmiths music students, and a composer specialising in European and Indian Art music. The temple song tradition was used a point of departure for new compositions and improvised pieces, which were devised during intense workshops and rehearsals held in May 2016. The collaboration resulted in two concerts, one at Goldsmiths and one at the London Tamil Centre in Wembley, thereby engaging members of the Tamil diaspora, staff and students at Goldsmiths, students of the professional Carnatic musicians, and the broader public.
The Tamil concert programme notes provide further details of the concert performances.
The participating musicians were Manipallavam K. Sarangan (Carnatic vocal), Ratheeshkumar Manoharan (Carnatic violin), Paramasamy Kirupakaran (mridangam barrel drum), Lin Lin (flute), Caterina Dellabona (clarinet) and Pete Yelding (cello), who were led by the composer, Francis Silkstone. The song repertoire, which is thought to originate from the seventh century CE, was completely new for the Goldsmiths music students and composer, whereas the Carnatic musicians had grown-up with this tradition in temple rituals and music concerts. The songs are regularly performed by the Tamil diaspora in temples like the London Sivan Temple in Lewisham and they serve to connect faith, place and Tamil diasporic culture across nation-state borders.
This website features several videos from the project. These include a trailer about the creative process that features footage of the songs performed in their original context in London Sivan Temple, Lewisham, and several videos that document the performances of the new pieces performed at Goldsmiths and the London Tamil Centre
The Songs of the Saints project was funded by the AHRC 10th Anniversary Cultural Engagement Fund in collaboration with the Asian Music Unit at Goldsmiths.
In addition to the concert performances, further outputs from the project include research papers written by the postdoctoral research fellow on the project, Dr Jasmine Hornabrook. The cultural engagement project was led by Jasmine and built on the musical contacts and fieldwork she conducted as part of the AHRC-funded collaborative doctoral award project 'Cultural Identity and Transnational Networks: Musical Learning and Performance in London's Tamil Diaspora'. Jasmine has learnt temple songs since meeting Oduvar Sami Dhandapani, a professional temple singer, during a Tamil New year pooja ritual in April 2013 in Lewisham temple.
The Songs of the Saints cultural engagement project developed from an AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award (2011-14) that was held in partnership with the Asian Music Circuit (AMC). In May 2014, at the end of the collaborative doctoral award research, the Asian Music Unit hosted a two day event on 'Music Learning and Performance in London's Tamil Diaspora' including a performance of South Indian music by three of London's Tamil musicians, who performed at Deptford Town Hall on the 8th May.