Patsy Reid: ‘UK and Indian folk music have different roots yet are permeated by similarities’

patsy reid

Folk musician Patsy Reid took part in a week-long residency in Kolkata as part of the British Council’s three-year Folk Nations project. Patsy is now preparing to perform for a Folk Nations gig at the Southbank Centre in London on 19 May.

Patsy shares her experience of the Folk Nations Kolkata Residency and exploring Indian and UK folk music.

UK and Indian folk music: different roots yet permeated by similarities 

I think that there are similarities and differences between the UK and Indian folk music but my experience of them is really dependant on who I happened to meet and play music with during my three trips to India last year. Suhail Yusuf Khan, for example has so much respect for the tradition and he is known for doing so, but also goes off piste and plays really experimental, cutting-edge music, fusing Indian music with rock and other styles. I know many people like that in the UK. I think what I’m trying to say is that both country’s folk musics are extremely diverse and rich, making them similar contextually. Each is full of musicians working in all areas of the spectrum and although the actual roots seem very different, the nature, respect and geographical implications are exactly the same.  

Exploring the unknown

Before the residency I was a wee bit intimidated by Indian music. Believe me I still am and I have barely scratched the surface during my now 3 trips to India. But I suppose what I did learn is that it’s better to have a go and join in respectfully and informed than to be frightened of it. Often the results would surprise us all and it was exciting to create something new together. Suhail Yusuf Khan was great to work with as he understood all of our reservations and concerns about spoiling such beautiful music and put us at ease.

Recreating the feeling of Kolkata

I don’t think my latest work was consciously influenced by my experience in Kolkata, but there have been lots of reviews saying that it did! Influence is such a difficult thing to measure but I’m sure that my playing in general was inspired by our time in Kolkata. I also made the decision to make the album very soon after the residency and I think that’s because I was on such a high and feeling confident in my abilities as a collaborator. Making the album itself was like the Kolkata residency in that we were all involved in jamming and making the music and I wanted to recreate that relaxed, at home feeling with the musicians. I was just the facilitator.

Musical evolution since the Kolkata residency

We were delighted to be asked to play at Celtic Connections in January 2014 and although we were all part of the original group, there were lots of people, instruments and characters missing and so we really had to treat it as a new band and that was a really lovely opportunity. We were never going to recreate the special time in Kolkata but what we ended up doing was creating a totally different but equally special concert in Glasgow. We worked well as a team creatively and pulled it together in a relatively small amount of rehearsal time.

Advice for young people who want to forge a career in music

I would say, don’t be over or under confident. You have to be humble and open when working with new people yet forthcoming with your own ideas. I think it is important to work out why you are making music together and who it is for. Sometimes the answer is irrelevant and it should be ‘for the love of it’, but unfortunately that cannot always be the case. If the audience is expecting or assuming a certain experience then that needs to be taken into account.

Read more about what the other Folk Nations musicians have to say

Find out more about Folk Nations

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