Indian instruments and British beats: Yorkston/Thorne/Khan

It is not often that you see a band described as an Indian-folk-jazz-fusion supergroup, but then the music of Yorkston/Thorne/Khan is anything but ordinary. Made up of three artists of international calibre, the trio bring wildly different musical traditions together to create an entirely new sound.

Scottish musician James Yorkston has long been a stalwart of the Edinburgh musical landscape—the newspaper The Scotsman described him as ‘one of the most respected and influential singer/songwriters on the Scottish indie-folk scene’.

Less familiar to some Scottish listeners is the sound of the sarangi, a bowed, short-necked string instrument used primarily in Hindustani classical music. Suhail Yusuf Khan, the grandson of the instrument’s greatest exponent, Ustad Sabri Khan, contributes this unmistakable sound to the trio, which is completed by renowned double bass player Jon Thorne.

In an interview for the Edinburgh International Festival, at which the trio played a ‘mesmeric’ show this year, Yorkston describes the process of making music with the group as ‘playing, just like little kids’. This experimental, creative attitude is at the heart of what they do, playing Sufi songs, as well as traditional folk songs and improvisation.

Little Black Buzzer

‘Little Black Buzzer’, a single from their latest album Everything Sacred, is a cover of the eccentric Scottish songwriter Ivor Cutler’s song of the same name, and retains the humour and poetry of the original. Yet this uniquely Scottish lyricism is pitted against the Indian sounds of the sarangi, held together beautifully by Yorkston’s celtic harmonies. Check out the music video for the single at the bottom of the page.

The band is touring India later on this year —so watch this space!

Interview with James Yorkston

Yorkston is not only a renowned musician, he has also been lauded for his writing, including a nomination for the First Book Award at this year’s International Book Festival for his debut novel Three Craws. We caught up with him at the festival to discuss his musical and literary projects. You can hear the exclusive interview in the podcast below and also watch an insightful video portrait of Yorkston by Edinburgh International Festival.