With a sky full of explosions outside and a sharp evening frost descending the Canteen was a predictably warm hubbub at the start of this gig. Indian violinist Jyotna Srikanth’s initially forbidding frown and the semi-classical formality of her opening number cast a slight chill across the stage as the music unfolded, an intricately blended confusion of baroque, folk and Indian traditional styles.
But this was just her warming up, it seemed, and second tune Spring soon kicked off its corsets and burst into life. Drummer Manjunath Ns hit a cracking beat while keyboard player Shadrach Solomon somehow combined Giorgio Moroder’s rocking disco left hand while his right washed funky Weather Report colours over the groove. Best of all Ms Srikanth unleashed her beaming smile with a torrent of Carnatic violin that turned heads as far as the bar. As the set progressed the mood shifted from easy-rolling reggae to clipped Irish jiggery and sleazy blues (complete with stunningly cheesy – paneery? – keyboards), each providing a fresh context for her virtuoso Indian playing. The irony was that her two accomplices had actually come from Bangalore to play this world music while the UK-based violinist got to bring the Indian roots to the mix. Even more ironically it worked best when played fairly straight on Inside, a South Indian morning raga, Srikanth trading off solos with a convincing santoor sample on the keys – though the backbeat drumming ensured things kept their edge.
The players were never less than impressive throughout, however, and the music gave a convincing sense of a venerable tradition finding a comfortable home in the modern world. By the free-form raga finale it was not just Jyotsna Srikanth who had a beaming smile and, not for the first time, the Canteen had offered something memorably out of the ordinary it was great to be there when it happened.