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  • Cy White

Nitin Sawhney: Immigrants

Let's cut to the chase here. Nitin Sawhney's Immigrants is miraculous. Stunning work that reverberates through the body and pierces the soul.

The voices Sawhney invites on this album are crystal-clear, poignant. Enrapturing instruments of their own accord that grab you by the arm and pull you along on a journey you never would've expected. It's sophisticated music for fine palettes. Rich in textures and aural imagery. The composition of each song tells its own story to add to the introspective heart-thoughts. Sawhney seems to favor the female first alto. Each vocalist carries a pure, clear tone sculpted within an inch of existence. Able to float effortlessly between head and mixed voices with just the right amount of breathiness to add some relevant heartache to each composition.

The music goes deeper than just the instrumentation. The production itself is so intricate, a mixture that we haven't seen much of after the early 2000s. Music that explores the tumultuous relationship between raw instruments and technology. Scatter beats reminiscent of Yoko Kano, Peace Orchestra and Massive Attack. The glory of the sound is tempered by something human, of earth. Again, it's music that requires you have an honest-to-God love of music to really dig into it.

On its surface, it is just rather lovely. But to really feel the sounds, lean into their warmth and delicacy, you must, must give yourself over to the depth and reach of the medium. Give up any ideas that you know anything of the gift and allow it to truly surprise you as you unwrap it.

Immigrants is really gorgeous work that I wasn't expecting in 2021. Fitting for the world as it is now. There is ugly truth within the album. A "Western" (read white European) fear of being othered as they have othered. "More of us than them," as it is. A fear bred from knowing full well the consequences of the past can and will catch up with them. The sins of the father punishing the son.

However, the openness, freedom and knowledge of self within the strength of the strings and the collected voices speaks of power, pride, fearlessness. The triumph of existing without permission. In a time when we are lost, Immigrants is an apt title whose sounds envelope listeners in an embrace as if to say, "We are all immigrants on this planet. Do not fear the oppressor. It is not yours to bear. We are one. And you are made of royalty."

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