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Nitin Sawhney (born 1964) is an Indianmarker-Britishmarker musician, producer and composer. His critically-acclaimed work combines Asian and other worldwide influences with elements of jazz and electronica and often explores themes such as multiculturalism, politics and spirituality. Sawhney is also active in the promotion of arts and cultural matters, and is a patron of numerous film festivals, venues, and educational institutions.

Early years

Nitin Sawhney was raised in Rochester, Kentmarker, Englandmarker. As a child Sawhney studied piano, classical and flamenco guitar, sitar and tabla. He attended Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical Schoolmarker, where he was the victim of racial persecution from members of the British National Front. After leaving, he studied law at Liverpool Universitymarker for a short time.

It was during this period that Sawhney met up with an old school friend, acid-jazz keyboard-player James Taylor. Sawhney then toured as part of The James Taylor Quartet. This experience led to him forming his own band, The Jazztones. He also joined forces with tabla player and DJ/producer Talvin Singh to form the Tihai Trio.

After dropping out of university, Sawhney took up a position with a firm of accountants called Day Smith and Hunter in Maidstone, Kent. He trained to become a chartered accountant but found that his music was proving too much of a distraction and quit after about two years. Sawhney moved to London, where he met Sanjeev Bhaskar; together they created the comedy team The Secret Asians. The pair were given a show on BBC Radio, which eventually grew into the award-winning BBC TV sketch show Goodness Gracious Me. Refocusing on music, Sawhney's solo career began in 1993, when he released his debut album, Spirit Dance on his own label.

Solo career

Sawhney has released eight studio albums to date. His final album for Outcaste records, 1999's Beyond Skin, was his breakthrough, earning a Mercury Prize nomination and winning the South Bank Show's award for Popular Music. Subsequently, Richard Branson’s V2 Records signed Sawhney to a six-album deal, and released Prophesy in 2001. The album went on to win a MOBO Award, an EMMA and the BBC Radio 3 World Music Award. In 2004 Sawhney issued two remix collections, All Mixed Up and FabricLive.15, released worldwide by London nightclub Fabricmarker and featuring samples of Gipsy Kings' Nicolás Reyes vocals. Sawhney’s album, Philtre, released in May 2005, was awarded the BBC Radio 3 Culture Crossing Award.

2007 saw the release of In the Mind Of… Nitin Sawhney, the first release in District 6's new compilation series.

Nitin Sawhney's latest album, London Undersound, was released on October 13 2008.


In recent years Sawhney has been commissioned to write the scores for a number of different projects. He has established himself as an in-demand composer for film and television. His music for Channel 4’s Second Generation saw him nominated for the Ivor Novello Award for Film and TV Composition. He has also scored ads for the likes of Nikemarker and Sephora. In 2006 Sawhney composed a new symphony to accompany Franz Osten’s 1929 silent film, A Throw of Dice, which premiered with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican, London. More recent works include scores for Oscar-nominated director Mira Nair’s adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri’s, The Namesake, as well as Natural Fantasia for the BBC.

This work for film and television has led to recognition within the classical world as well. In 2001 Sawhney composed "Neural Circuits" for the Britten Sinfonia, a collaboration that has continued in the years since. In 2002 he worked with Akram Khan and Anish Kapoor, scoring the music to Khan’s choreographed work Kaash, which toured worldwide between 2002 – 2003. In 2004, Sawhney was commissioned by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra to compose a new piece for their Harmony Project. His most recent scores include the new adaptation of Mahabharata by Olivier-award winning writer Stephen Clarke, Simon McBurney’s A Disappearing Number for Complicite, and first-time theatrical director Jonathan HolmesFallujahmarker.

Sawhney produced the music for the Ninja Theory video games Heavenly Sword and Enslaved (both starring Andy Serkis) and will also score Fifth Beatle, a major studio film currently in production.

Collaborations and remixes

Sawhney has remixed a wide variety of artists over the years, including Sting, Natacha Atlas, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Jeff Beck, Julian Lloyd Webber, Tina Grace and Paul McCartney (for McCartney's The Fireman project). He also collaborated with Paul McCartney on a song called "My Soul", which appeared on Sawhney's "London Undersound" album. His own work has been remixed by 4hero, Talvin Singh, MJ Cole and Quantic. He produced several songs on Cheb Mami's album Dellali. Last year he co-produced the second album from songwriter Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly entitled Searching for the Hows and Whys released through Atlantic Records . During 2006-2007 Nitin Sawhney wrote the music for Akram Khan and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's dance piece "Zero Degrees"; Antony Gormley created the set.


1998 2000
  • Asian Pop Award for Best Mainstream Fusion Act for Beyond Skin
  • Technics Mercury Music Prize Nomination for album of the year for Beyond Skin
  • South Bank Award for Popular Music for Beyond Skin
  • BBC Asia Award for Music for Prophesy
  • MOBO Award for Prophesy
  • Boundary Crossing Award, BBC Radio 3 Music Awards for Prophesy
  • Media Personality of the Year nomination, RIMA Awards
  • EMMA Award for Prophesy
  • Muso Award for Prophesy
2003 2004 2005
  • Boundary Crossing Award, BBC Radio 3 Music Awards for Philtre
2006 2007 2008

Additional information

Much of Sawhney’s attention remains focused on the areas of education and community building, accepting the role of Artist in Residence for no less than five separate performing arts organisations across Great Britain and Asia. Sawhney joined Sir George Martin as a patron of the British Government’s Access-to-Music programme, and he is also patron of the Raindance East Film Festival and the British Independent Film Awards. Sawhney appears regularly as an arts and current affairs commentator on topical discussion and news programs such as the BBC’s Newsnight, Newsnight Review, and HardTalk. He has also written for UK national broadsheet newspapers: The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent, and The Observer.



  • Spirit Dance (1994) World Circuit
  • Migration (1995) Outcaste Records
  • Displacing the Priest (1996) Outcaste Records
  • Beyond Skin (1999) Outcaste Records
  • Prophesy (2001) V2/BMG
  • Human (2003) V2
  • Philtre (2005) V2
  • London Undersound (2008) Cooking Vinyl


  • "Introducing Nitin Sawhney" (1999) Outcaste
  • FabricLive.15 (2004) Fabricmarker
  • All Mixed Up (2004) V2
  • In the Mind of... (2007) District 6


  • Flight (Alex Pillai / Hindi Pictures for BBC TV)
1998 1999 2001 2002
  • Anita & Me (Metin Husseyin / Paul Raphael)
  • Bodily Harm (Tim Supple / Catherine Wearing / Channel 4 TV)
  • (Gilles MacKinnon / Howard Burch)
2003 2004
2005 2007 2008 2009


  1. No barriers | | Guardian Unlimited Arts
  2. How we met: James Taylor & Nitin Sawhney - People, News -
  3. The Mighty Organ | Nitin Sawney
  4. BBC - Comedy - Shows A-Z Index
  5. :::Outcaste Records:::
  6. Nationwide Mercury Prize
  9. BBC - Radio 3 - Awards for World Music - Nitin Sawhney
  10. BBC - Awards for World Music 2006 - Nitin Sawhney
  11. The Ivor Novello Awards - All the nominations for 2003
  12. A Throw Of Dice
  13. Rounder Records - Nitin Sawhney - The Namesake Original Motion Picture Soundtrack - Album Detail
  14. COOL Music Limited - Composers - Nitin Sawhney
  15. Britten Sinfonia : News & reviews
  16. National Arts Centre - Centre national des Arts
  17. The CBSO gets a taste for Bollywood - City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
  18. Sadler's Wells
  19. Productions - Complicite
  21. Access To Music - Patrons
  22. - Films. Raindance East Film Festival, 21 - 27 March 2003

External links

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