As an Indian classical musician who has lived in Delhi, grew up in Dublin and now
resides in NYC, my approach to Indian and Irish traditional music has been very
multidimensional. The music for this project aims to take an all-encompassing approach
to examining the different nuances and facets of these two two traditions for e.g the
similarities and yet the friction between raga ornamentation and Sean Nos ornamentation,
the contrasting approaches to the way the traditions deal with rhythm and space yet the
shared cyclic nature of tension and release which underscores the foundation of the
music, the incredible tonal variety of both musics treating pitches as much more than just
notes but ranges of spaces inherently tied to instigating emotion in the listener. Possibly
the most important parallel for me is the blurred lines between composition and
improvisation in these traditions. The “living” qualities of existing compositions passed
down through oral tradition are constantly morphing, assimilating new ideas in line with
new generations of individual styles. They are both forms of music where you have
permission to insert yourself, your memory, your vision and your experiences into vast
and rich history of repertoire as long as you set out to do so with the utmost respect and
reverence for the history behind you. I view them both as living traditions with
innovation and malleability at the core of their heart which is what ensures they will
never be “ancient artifacts” and possess the dynamism to interact in a very interesting and
Taking all of that into consideration the primary focus of the material is to arrive at
something greater than the sum of its parts. Long scale raga forms blend with reels, jigs
and airs which compliment each other seamlessly and and lead to thrilling, culturally
fluid musical climaxes. Reels mesh into jhala patterns, slow airs coalesce into alap
phrases, jigs segue into original material written to highlight signifiers of both genres but
the final product is not just Indian music mixed with Irish music. It’s strives to be
respectful of its parents but also fiercely independent. It aims to represent the changing
face of Ireland and India and the complexities of identity in an increasingly fluid world.
Ragas To Reels was first conceptualized in Dublin with Leitrim flautist, Dave Sheridan
and performed twice at the National Concert Hall in 2008 and 2009. The project took a
massive leap forward when Lal collaborated with Sam Comerford, a Dublin-born flautist
and saxophonist with a background spanning traditional music, jazz to contemporary
classical and free improvisation. Collaborating with different Indian percussionists, the
artists presented a unique exchange of musical ideas developed over years of
collaborating together culminating in two multi-city tours of India in 2011 and 2014. A
center piece of the cultural celebrations of 2014, the 50th anniversary year of the
presence of the Embassy of Ireland in India, the Ragas to Reels” performances were held
in in the cities of Bangalore, Goa, Delhi & Mumbai in India. A performance at the Blue
Frog in Mumbai resulted in a live record “Ragas To Reels” featuring Comerford, Lal and
tabla player Durjay Bhaumik. The primary duo of the project also collaborated with U.K.
based tabla player Kousik Sen to bring the project to Belfast for the first ever Diwali and
Samhain Indo-Celtic Festival.
The newest incarnation of this project aims to introduce
prolific new material, explore electroacoustic possibilities and welcome some of the
leading pioneers of contemporary Irish and Indian music into the conversation.
Premiering at the Irish Arts Center NY in November 2022
Featuring Utsav Lal, Linda Buckley, Sam Comerford, Ganavya, Nitin Mitta and Sahar Romani.
“A meeting of East and West full of ‘dreamy embellishments and flights of fancy’…..” Terry Blain, Music critic.
” Soak in a unique fusion of Irish reels and Indian ragas as two young musicians set out to redefine music boundaries… Mid-Day, India.