We’re excited to welcome the incredibly talented pianist, composer, and multi-instrumentalist Helen Anahita Wilson to our guest playlist series.
The Brighton-based talent started playing the piano at the age of 3. Studying at Guildhall in London and the University of Sussex led to a successful career as a classical pianist. But personal fulfilment eluded her until she embarked on her solo project. The release of her 2018 debut album BHOOMA saw an exciting return to her first love; jazz.
Her latest album DIWAN, with tabla player Shahbaz Hussain, was released earlier this year, and across its seven tracks, you’ll hear the duo concoct Punjabi rhythms, Persian melodies and contemporary jazz.
We loved the album so much that we asked Helen to compile a Spotify playlist of songs that represent the various influences upon her music. She duly obliged, and you can dive into her selection below.
The beautiful playlist includes everything from Abdullah Ibrahim, Bombay Jayashri, Sarathy Korwar, Ahmad Jamal and a whole lot more.
Settle in and enjoy the music as Helen takes us through the tracks. So, without further ado, over to Helen…
From Scotland to South Africa, Senegal to South Asia, these ten tracks feature some of my very favourite musicians.
Raymond MacDonald & Marilyn Crispell – Longing
Raymond MacDonald’s playing on this track is so wildly intimate that every time I hear it, I have an extraordinary experience. I’m synaesthetic, which means that I ‘see’ and ‘feel’ sounds as well as hear them. There are certain musicians, MacDonald being one of them, who create beautiful and intensely powerful blended experiences of sound for me.
Abdullah Ibrahim – Ishmael
Recently I’ve been obsessively listening to Abdullah Ibrahim’s Ishmael. Since I was a kid I have gone through phases of being utterly addicted to certain songs and pieces and I can listen to them almost on repeat for days and weeks: ‘Ishmael’ is the current object of my fixation. Both Ibrahim’s piano and soprano are so beautifully judged on this.
Bombay Jayashri – Mayatitia – Mayamalavagowla – Rupakam
Bombay Jayashri’s performance of the nineteenth century Sanskrit song Māyātīta Svarūpiṇi by Pillai is part of the first Karnatic concert to be digitally released in cinemas. The film, called Marghazi Raagam, is a brilliant introduction to Karnatic performance (the classical music of South India) for those not familiar with it. On mridangam, the double-sided drum common to music in the south, is Patri Satish Kumar, with Ember S Kannan on violin.
Sarathy Korwar (feat. Upaj Collective) – Mind Ecology (live)
There’s some more kickass mridangam playing, this time by BC Manjunath, on Mind Ecology by Sarathy Korwar and Upaj Collective. I’m lucky enough to have studied with BC Manjunath, and I’m totally in love with his playing and his konnakol videos. This track is a wonderful reinterpretation of Mind Ecology by Shakti, the seminal 1970s fusion band featuring John McLaughlin, Zakir Hussain, L. Shankar, Ramnad Raghavan, and T. H. “Vikku” Vinayakram.
Trevor Watts – Mexico Nights
I recently heard Trevor Watts and Jamie Harris playing at Café OTO, part of the Trevor Watts at 80 residency, and it was one of the most glorious sets I’ve heard in a long while: so joyous. Mexico Nights is from his 2019 album Life & Music.
Rajna Swaminathan – Offering
This is another brilliant example of fusion with mridangam at the fore. Offering features a rhythmic dialogue between Swaminathan on mridangam and Miles Okazaki on guitar with repeated melodic lines returning and developing.
Constantinople & Ablaye Cissoko – Fleuve – Fleuve Saint Louis
Such a gorgeous recording that I find it difficult to describe how much I love it; timbrally and texturally I just want to bathe in it forever.
Ahmad Jamal – Ahmad’s Blues
There should always be a cocktail in hand to listen to this.
Johnny Dyani – Radebe
Another major obsession of mine: a friend introduced me to this a couple of years ago, and I am hopelessly and happily addicted to it. I must have listened to it hundreds of times and know every millisecond inside out and back to front. John Tchicai and Dudu Pukwana are just so wonderful. I love to dance, and these last two tracks are a couple of the very first things I play when I feel like dancing in my kitchen late at night.
Chris Montez – The More I See You
Well, why not?! A perfect, classic, charming pop song.