Sangam was established in 1989 by Pandit Ashok Roy (1936-2007) and the Australian Institute of Eastern Music, as a multifarious music ensemble to explore possible fusions between North Indian classical music, various Western music genres, and other musics of other cultural origins. Over a number of years, many musicians, many styles and many ideas passed through Sangam, all leaving something behind them in the pool of possibilities.
By 1994 Sangam settled into a stable, highly professional and highly accomplished quintet, each one of whom brought something individual and unique to the ensemble: Ashok Roy, master sarod player of North Indian classical music; John Napier, a student of Ashok Roy's for many years and a highly accomplished cellist in classical, North Indian classical, multicultural and improvised musics; Satsuki Odamura, a virtuoso performer of the Japanese koto; Greg Gibson, a saxophonist experienced and accomplished in Jazz, Latin American and multicultural musics; and Tony Lewis, a percussionist experienced and accomplished in Indian, Arabic, African and many other cultural idioms in percussion.
Sangam presented a compelling and unique confluence of ideas from North Indian classical music, traditional and contemporary Japanese music, many Western forms including jazz and classical, and much more. Moreover, this was a confluence that could only arise in the cultural milieu of contemporary Australia, and as such Sangam constituted a vital and indispensable exponent of contemporary Australian music.
In the late 1990s, regrettably, Ashok Roy's health seriously declined to the point where he was no longer able to participate with the group as an active performer. Ashok's role as Sangam's Musical Director was taken over by John Napier, and his musical place in the group was filled by Jonathan Pease, a highly accomplished guitarist in jazz and many other styles.
In 1999, Sangam released the CD Anamika (Vox Australis VAST025-2), to critical acclaim. Anamika captured both the old and the new faces of Sangam, by including both Ashok Roy and Jonathan Pease in the recording.
Masthead photo (Waratah) by Peter Sams.
Courtesy of the Australian 2005 Aichi Expo Unit