As a 19-year-old traveler I passed the hat for a busking saxophonist who played exclusively free improvisations. Decades later as a painting tutor in India, staying in splendiferous Rajasthani Palaces, I listened to postprandial entertainment provided by the resident indigenous singers. Back home in Wales, I enjoyed traditional folk music. Now to my delight, I have come across a band called Tyhai which has evolved a way of interweaving these three very different types of sound.
It was close to freezing on Friday night, but a reasonable number ventured out to Ffwrwnes to be whisked away on a warm intricate woven carpet of music by Indo-Celtic band Tyhai.
Tyhai is a trio: Pete Stacey on flute and saxophone; Rajesh David, vocals and harmonium; Dylan Fowler on guitar and sometimes tabla. All are consummate, highly-experienced musicians.
It was after attending a concert of Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble, performing at St David’s Cathedral, that Pete and Rajesh were individually inspired to bring together the piquante percussive spice of Indian music and the lyricism of Celtic music, with the seductive sonorities of the saxophone.
The sensitive guitar of Dylan Fowler plays an important element in the Tyhai treatment of tunes. They often begin a piece with him playing solo which sets the scene, but you never quite know what is going to happen after that. The mood continues or changes mercurially, as the others join in, either separately or together. Rajesh’s melodious vocals invoke India – Pete’s saxophone sometimes suggests more of a smoky nightclub atmosphere. Three separate strands of music somehow become one. Then unexpectedly – Raj starts to percussively sing – Ta ticky ta – repeating rhythmically, increasing in momentum, using his hands expressively to describe the phrases. He takes the tune and embellishes it like a piece of Indian silver with changing patterns of sound.
The definition of Tyhai is multi-layered, like their music. There is the Hindi word which refers to a rhythmic musical idea. Then there is the band’s adoption of the word as a verb, to express how they might take a traditional or contemporary Welsh tune and work on it, till they have reached “the sweet point.” Thus, if they “Tyhai” a piece of music, they work through a process of creative exploration – involving many cups of tea – to put their own imprint on it.
Rajesh was born in India where he trained in Indian classical music though he has lived in Wales for about sixteen years. He has three ways of using his voice as well as singing in Hindi ,Sanskrit, English and Welsh. A lapsed Dysgwyr myself I was impressed by his Welsh and beguiled by the extra musical languages of sorgams, taranas and bols. I often felt like a tiny curious child, absorbing without really understanding. But music is the great leveler; you don’t have to know the language to love it.
Research into the poetic and philosophical nature of a tune and its sense of place is richly woven into the Tyhai sound. A perfect example is their treatment of Ym Montypridd mae fyng nghariad, which begins with the traditional Indian tale of Rama searching for Krishna in the exotic gullies of India and then shifts by a musical carpet made of the same theme, to Pontypridd. The search continues there, with wonderful whirling rhythms and sonorities of Indo-Celtic celebration. I imagined Krishna was found on the slopes of Porth.
At a time when Western politicians are solidifying boundaries, it is refreshing to spend an evening flying over them.