Navarasa: Nine Emotions is the new album from Yorkston/Thorne/Khan, trio’s third record, realeased by Domino on 24th January. With this release, and their Celtic Connections gig on the horizon The Fountain thought it time to catch up with the trio to discuss the album in more depth, along with their plans to evolve.

TF: YTK have a new album out early this year, a great way to kick off 2020? 

Jon: The best way. This is a unique and special project to be involved in and this new album is for me our clearest and most far reaching musical statement yet.

James: Playing with Jon and Suhail is a woozy luxury. I’m looking forward to hanging out and getting back on stage. Jon and Suhail have very different musical backgrounds to me and it’s always inspiring to be around them, we’re always learning from each other.

Suhail: Indeed! YTK has been a special project for me and I cannot wait to be on tour with our new music.    

TF: What inspired you to call it Nine Emotions? It’s the third album in your creative alliance, in which ways does the project continue to evolve, from your respective points of view?

James: Suhail introduced Jon and me to the concept of Navarasa, which literally translates as Nine Emotions. It made sense to me with the English translation being included in the title. Aside from anything else, it’s meant we haven’t had to explain what it is…

Jon: Suhail brought the idea of the nine emotions in, and the music we had been working on adapted itself to the concept instantly. It’s a good example of how this group continues to be wide open to trying each other’s ideas. We improvise a lot when writing together. YTK keeps evolving organically from that centre.

Suhail: The r?gs are designed around nine-emotions that are mentioned in the natyas?tr? (4th and 5th-century treatise). Thus, being a trained Hindustani musician, I deal with this system on a daily basis. As part of my ongoing doctoral research in Ethnomusicology, I gained a deeper insight into the philosophy and shared it with Y and T. They both agreed upon the idea almost instantly, and soon we began to work on the project. The YTK sound is an improvised sound that has a structure. It leaves us loads of space for sonic possibilities and innovations. Thus, as long as we as musicians are evolving the sound keeps getting evolved.  

TF: Navarasa seems steeped in musical traditions from all over the globe, given a new twist. Which influences have you taken to the studio… I’ve heard James remark that Mogwai were a strong influence for him, this time around.

James: Any artist or group that has made their own distinct sound and path is surely an influence and Mogwai fit that category. I love soundscapes, lush, thick instrumental pieces, complex, spidery compositions… I’d put Mogwai in there, alongside acts like Cocteau Twins, Papa M, Miles Davis, of course. Music is music, and it all opens up hugely when you learn not to categorise styles or genres and just follow what interests you. 

Suhail: I am a trained Hindustani musician and have been influenced by Sufi, Bhakti and folk musics of India. In addition, I’ve learned a lot about the UK folk sound from JY and JT’s jazz approach in improvisation.

Jon: I am a self taught musician and have been influenced a lot by jazz and folk music. I’m a huge fan of many of the bassists on the ECM label, Charlie Haden, Dave Holland and Gary Peacock to name three. Plus, Danny Thompson is my mentor, and he taught me to listen without prejudice to all music. When recording I’m trying to bind the musical elements together somewhat while still responding melodically. A fluid foundation.  

TF: You are also joining the Celtic Connections line up. Are you excited to debut the new material? 

James: We’ve played at music festivals all around the world and Celtic Connections is genuinely one of the best. It’s a bonus, for me, it being held in Scotland. There’s always so much to see and do around our own gigs, it’s an exciting time to be in the city and I can’t wait to try out the new material, the Celtic Connections audiences are usually pretty enthusiastic and switched on.  

Jon: It’s always a privilege to play Celtic Connections, a festival of true international renown, and it will be thrilling to debut our new material.

Suhail: Absolutely, CC is one of my favourite music festivals to perform in the UK.  

TF: What can the YTK audience expect from your upcoming tour, for those who perhaps haven’t seen you three performing live collectively?

James: Well, we’ll be enjoying it, that’s for sure. Musically, we connect, we trust each other, we improvise, we give each other space… I can’t wait. Never waste a moment. And when it works, when we take off, well, I still get the chills on my neck, three albums in…  

Jon: Something very different from anything they’ve seen before hopefully! The music is very diverse and hard to categorise, and all the better for it.

Suhail: Melodies loosely based around r?gs, Sufi poetry, resonant sarangi strokes accompanying vocals, mouth percussion, improvised jams and alchemy of three extremely diverse musical minds coming together.   

TF: What else is on the cards for YTK, after a wee hiatus? 

James: Let’s see how this tour goes, we’ll probably try a few new things in soundchecks and such, talk about what’s next and all that. I don’t think we’re done exploring as a trio yet, but there’s always the temptation to do an album with guests… we’ll see. It’ll be driven by the love of the music, whatever it is.  

Jon: Yes, a UK tour in March and some European festivals this summer. It will be a lot of fun whatever happens.  

Suhail: Maybe a tour of India in 2021. 

Navarasa: Nine Emotions is out on 24th January, via Domino Records. The trio perform at Drygate, Glasgow, as part of Celtic Connections on 22nd January.