The Return of Khamira

The Return of Khamira

January 2020 marks the return of Khamira, the collaborative musical project between leading Welsh and Indian musicians. Here, band leader and trumpeter Tomos Williams charts the evolution of the band and maps out what they have in store, including a new album, and live dates where they play the music of Miles Davis’s 70s period.

Khamira is the Hindi word for ‘Burum’ (yeast in Welsh) and Burum is the jazz/folk sextet that I lead. To cut a long(ish) story short, Burum toured India in 2014 and as a result of that initial visit, Khamira was formed – an Indo-Welsh fusion group intent on exploring Welsh folk music, the Hindustani Classical tradition, rock and jazz. Khamira has a core membership of four Welsh and three Indian musicians. We manage to meet intermittently – it’s not that easy when band members span continents – but with the continued support of WAI (Wales Arts International), the British Council and the firm commitment of all musicians involved, we hope to keep developing and performing in to the 2020s.

The decade is starting with a bang for us with us all gathering in Cardiff for rehearsals at Chapter Arts Centre, a masterclass and a concert at the Royal College of Music and Drama, a performance at the Hindu Cultural Association, India Centre, Splott, and then we disappear into the hills of Mid-Wales for a four day recording session.

Khamira toured India in 2015, released our first album and toured Wales in 2017, toured India again in 2018 (as part of the UK/India cultural projects) and also performed in South Korea in the Summer of 2018 (I wrote a short diary piece for WAR on that visit). We didn’t manage to meet or play in 2019, so starting 2020 with some concerts and a recording is extremely exciting and pleasing.

On Friday (10th January) we’ll be performing the 1970s music of Miles Davis. Why? Since Khamira are an ‘Indo-Welsh’ world music band fusing Welsh folk, Hindustani classical music, rock and jazz, where does Miles Davis fit into this? Well, Miles is everywhere; his influence on music, and the music that I (try) to make is fundamental and deep. Miles’ music from the 1970s is rhythmic, dark and groovy – just like I want to be.

Khamira’s music since our inception has been moving in that direction, and ‘Great Expectations’ a song from Miles’ Big Fun (1974) has been our encore since our very first concert. During the 70s, Miles dabbled with Indian instruments and sounds. He had Khalil Balackrishna and Badal Roy in the band playing sitar and tabla, which invites Khamira to give an Indian slant to other songs from this period also. All the musicians in Khamira are exceptional, with Suhail Yusuf Khan (sarangi and vocals) and Vishal Nagar (tabla, vocal) providing a genuine authentic Indian flavour and voice to the music.

For this concert we will also be joined by two guests, Joe Northwood on bass clarinet (a la Bitches Brew) and soprano sax – an important colour in Miles’ 70s sound world.

While, due to a family illness, Dave Jones is unfortunatley un-available, so Huw Warren will be stepping in on keyboard/fender rhodes duties. This is particularly exciting since Huw is such an incredible musician. I recently performed with Huw as part of the Cwmwl Tystion/Witness tour, so another chance to share the stage with him is always welcome. We’ll be performing tracks from the seminal albums: Bitches Brew, Jack Johnson, Big Fun, Get Up With It and Live Evil. Songs that are rarely heard live, but who’s influence on music still resonates.

Earlier on Friday we will be presenting a masterclass for the Jazz Students at the RWCMD, and on Sunday we’ll be performing at the Hindu Cultural Association, India Centre, Splott, Cardiff – an exciting opportunity to connect with the Indian diaspora community of Cardiff.

If you are curious about connecting cultures or the music of Miles Davis from the 1970s, come and support live, creative music in Wales on Friday night.

Khamira are:

Tomos Williams – trumpet, Suhail Yusuf Khan – Sarangi, vocals Joe Northwood – bass clarinet, soprano sax,  Aditya Balani – guitar, Huw Warren – keyboard, Aidan Thorne – bass, Mark O’Connor – drums , Vishal Nagar – tabla, vocal