My Life In Travel: Nitin Sawhney, musician, producer and composer
'Flying to New York on Concorde whetted my appetite for space travel'
Friday 04 May 2012
First holiday memory?
A trip to India when I was eight years old. I was a sarvala (page boy) at my uncle's wedding in a remote village in the Punjab region. Being a sarvala is almost like being a mascot, so for some reason I ended up on a huge white horse trotting alongside a marching brass band playing "When the Saints Go Marching In". I burst into tears at how out of tune they were.
A world tour for the album Prophesy in 2001. I interviewed Nelson Mandela in his own house, hung out with Aboriginal Australians in Arnhem Land, met Native Americans on Mount Shasta in northern California, recorded string sections in Rio and played with flamenco guitarists in Spain.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
I love Bath for the architecture and beautiful roads, the Lake District for getting back to nature, Edinburgh for the festival and London for its diversity.
What have you learnt from your travels?
How privileged we are in the UK. In other countries, if you don't make the effort, you don't get to eat and therefore you don't survive.
Ideal travelling companion?
Someone who's open and has a sense of adventure. Anyone who's been in a band and toured regularly knows that relaxed, spontaneous and easy-going people are ideal.
Better to travel or to arrive?
It's important to look for interest at every stage of the journey. If we spend our whole life focusing too much on arrival we can end up oblivious to all the exciting and unusual events that often happen on the road.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
I love a challenge, but I also like to get a sense of the place and as much downtime as possible, too. Since I have a fear of heights, I get quite excited by the idea of mountain tops, cable cars and helicopter rides.
Greatest travel luxury
Having time to spend with family or friends. When I'm abroad, I'm either touring, recording or writing, so getting a break is a real luxury.
I love learning new things. Recently I've been reading about electronics, Hindi, quantum physics and the great composers of our time. Fiction doesn't interest me so much, as I have to read through scripts for work, particularly when I'm composing for film.
Where has seduced you?
Rio de Janeiro. It's got samba schools, beautiful mountains, gorgeous beaches, music playing on every street corner, the Amazon within reach and one of the most beautiful languages in the world.
The Hilton in Trinidad's capital, Port of Spain. It has a glorious swimming pool and serves some of the best breakfasts in the world. Also, Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica. I love composing in its rooms. The windows look out across sand and sea, so it's an inspiring place to come up with new sounds.
A hotel in Juhu, Mumbai. I woke up surrounded by cockroaches on the bed and even found one in my sandwich. Definitely not to be repeated.
Worst travel experience?
Being kept back for three hours by immigration officers at Osaka airport in Japan. I was just trying to get to my hotel room, which was actually in the airport, for an overnight stay and instead found myself locked in a room with a rather invasive list of questions for company.
I've always loved the tour-bus experience of travelling through Italy. It's only when you are on the road that you get to see what a truly magnificent country it really is – stunning mountains, old ruins, valleys and forestry.
Best meal abroad?
A sumptuous feast my band and I were treated to in a converted monastery near Bari, Puglia, by the venue promoters. The Italians really know how to appreciate good food and wine.
I love the idea of taking a space flight. I was once lucky enough to fly to New York and back on Concorde, where I witnessed the curvature of the Earth from an altitude of 55,000ft at an average speed of 1,100 miles per hour. It definitely whetted my appetite for space travel.
Mumbai. I performed a gig there recently and am due to go back in a few weeks. It embodies the optimism and new spirit of India. There's a genuine excitement in the air.
I'm touring America and I'm particularly looking forward to revisiting Los Angeles, which is always fun and laid back.
Nitin Sawhney performs at this year's Greenbelt Festival, which takes place at Cheltenham Racecourse (24-27 August): greenbelt.org.uk
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