Nitin Sawhney is the world-class musician, composer, producer, songwriter, DJ, multi-instrumentalist, and actor. He is a British citizen with Indian roots. His parents are Punjabi emigrants. He is one of the pioneers of Asian Underground music scene, establishing a music genre that mixes western electronica and breakbeat style with South Asian musical influences. His skill set includes sitar, tabla, classical & jazz piano, and flamenco guitar, drum and bass. Sawhney became a modern-day Renaissance man in the world of music, video games, film, dance and theatre. Nitin attended Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School. He studied law at Liverpool University. At that time, he met James Taylor, his school friend and acid-jazz keyboard player. He toured with him along with The James Taylor Quartet. With this exposure, he formed his band ‘The Jazztones’. He later took assistant training. He left his job at a hotel as a controller of finances. When he moved to London, he created ‘The Secret Asians’, a comedy team with
, his friend from the University. They both gave a show on BBC Radio, which subsequently shaped into first-class show ‘Goodness Gracious Me’ in BBC Channel. His solo career started in 1993 and his first album is ‘Spirit Dance’. All of his albums were critically acclaimed. His second album is Migration (1995). His third album ‘Displacing The Priest’ (1996) won an EMMA Award in 1998. His fourth album ‘Beyond Skin’ (1999) won ‘Best Mainstream Fusion Act’ at Asian Pop Awards and ‘South Bank Award for Popular Music’. It also won the coveted Technics Mercury Music Prize nomination. Later on, he signed V2 Records of
. In 2001, he released the turn of century epic ‘Prophesy’ which is silver certified. That album won ‘Music Of Black Origin’ (MOBO) Award, BBC Radio 3’s Boundary Crossing Award, BBC Asia Award for Music, an EMMA Award, and a Muso Award. He also won a ‘Media Personality of the Year’ nomination at RIMA Awards. His released another album ‘Human’ in 2003. His other album ‘Philtre’ in 2005 won yet another BBC Radio 3 Award.
On 13 October 2008, his album ‘London Undersound’ was released by Cooking Vinyl. In this, he collaborated with the artists
, Paul McCartney,
, Faheem Mazhar, Reena Bharadwaj, Natty, Aruba Red, Tina Grace, Roxanne Tataei and Ojos de Brujo. It has artwork featured by Antony Gormley. Chris Jones of BBC gave his review as, “an album with its heart firmly at the right place”. In 2011, Shawney’s ‘Last Days of Meaning’ opened at the Royal Albert Hall. It revolves around a lonely and uncompromising man’s extraordinary journey, marvellously enacted by the distinguished actor
. In 2013, he recorded live-to-vinyl ‘One Zero’ to celebrate the release of ten albums. His recent album ‘Dystopian Dream’ was released in 2015. Sawhney’s music is profoundly political, with the themes of multiculturalism, spirituality, poverty, immigration, identity and empowerment. His music also has the Indian influences. He imparts Raagas, Hindi & Urdu lyrics and Qawwali music. He is a resident artist in five organisations for performing arts in Asia and Europe. He is also a part of British Government’s Access-To-Music program. He scored music for many films, advertisements like Nike & Sephora, and TV shows. He was nominated for Ivor Novello Award for Film & TV Composition for Channel 4’s film ‘Second Generation’ film’s music, which also saw the ‘classical’ community’s acceptance of him. He composed music for Mira Nair’s
(Oscar nominated), the adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel of the same name. He also scored for the adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s ‘Midnight Children’ by
. He worked with BBC for ‘Human Planet’, ‘Wonders of the Monsoon’ and ‘Natural Fantasia’. ‘Wonders of the Monsoon’ renamed as ‘Lands of the Monsoon’ earned him ‘Best Composer’ Award by Royal Television Society in 2015. In 2004, the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra commissioned him to compose new works. Also, London’s Royal National Theatre asked him to score work in 2005. His special score commissions include Britten Symphonia’s ‘Neural Circuits’, The Royal Opera House’s ‘Entanglement’, the BBC Proms’ ‘Urban Prophecies’, BBC’s ‘Natural World Symphony’, Cirque Du Soleil’s ‘Varekai’, and Hitchcock’s ‘The Lodger’.
Sawhney also scored theatre & dance for Akram Khan’s Zero Degrees (‘Best Score’ - New York Performance & Dance Awards), Vertical Road (‘Best New Work’ - Melbourne Awards) and ‘In The Mind of Igor’ (iTMOi). He also worked with Complicite for ‘A Disappearing Number’; Royal Ballet of China (Bahok); Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui for the life of Tezuka (the creator of Manga). He won ‘Best Performer’ and ‘Best Writer’ at Sony Awards for BBC’s award-winning TV series ‘Goodness Gracious Me’. He also acted in ‘Masala FM’ by
, and Akram Khan’s Confluence. He was the commentator in TV shows like ‘Newsnight’, ‘Newsnight Review’ and ‘Hard Talk’ at BBC. He started ‘Vinyl Room Ltd.’, his own TV Production Company. He also collaborated with A.R.Rahman,
, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Will Young, Jeff Beck, Shakira, Brian Eno, Joss Stone, Nelson Mandela among many others. She judged BAFTA, The Ivor Novello Awards, BIFA, and the PRS Foundation. London’s South Bank University gave him an Honorary Graduate Degree. He received the University of Kent’s ‘Doctor of Music’ Honorary Degree. He received honorary doctorates from the University of Roehampton, the University of Sussex, the University of Staffordshire and from Goldsmith’s College. He is on the board of Somerset House, London. He received 17 coveted national awards for his albums alone.