SANDUNES AGAINST THE TIDE
Computer Music|October 2021
With live performances that ‘reveal an appetite for integrating the worlds of studio and stage’, Sandunes was on something of a roll pre-pandemic, having made a mark at many high profile festivals including Blue Dot, WOMAD, Roskilde and more. However she’s used the enforced time and studio world to come up with her best EP yet, and continue an upward momentum that has brought her sound to the attention of everyone from Ableton to Warp, Bonobo to Red Bull…

After six critically acclaimed EPs – the latest, Nowhere To Stand, released on !K7 this summer – Sandunes is making waves way beyond her home city of Mumbai, India. Sandunes is the producer and pianist Sanaya Ardeshir and her music covers everything from the pop-inspired four tracks on the new EP through electronic jazz, right over to more leftfield works, including an album of natural soundscapes which has raised money for COVID-19 relief in India.

Sandunes has also successfully been able to bring her musical output over into the live arena. notching up some very highly-regarded performances, including a Warp Records and Boiler Room-commissioned performance for Different Trains 1947 at London’s Barbican Centre, support slots for both Bonobo and George Fitzgerald, a tour with the critically acclaimed UK jazz drummer Richard Spavento, plus a string of high-profile festival appearances in 2019 including Blue Dot, Roskilde, Magnetic Fields and WOMAD.

Sanaya has also lectured for both Point Blank and Ableton and as an Ableton Certified Trainer, taken part in the company’s loop Summit. Indeed so impressed were Ableton and Red Bull by the producer that they asked her to take part in the latter’s Searching For Music project which involved her creating samples and remixes by recording sounds in Mumbai for a bespoke sample pack which you can get from the Ableton website.

Live to studio

However, it’s not all been plain sailing as, like for so many artists out there, the live arena has largely been an empty one for the last year and a half for Sandunes. But again, like so many frustrated producers and performers, she’s channelled the time and creativity into new music: a new EP that is possibly her best work yet. Nowhere To Stand has a pop sensibility that is sure to increase a profile already at an international level, and well beyond anything Ardeshir expected as a child in India.

“I grew up with access to pianos, records, and in the knowledge that my dad had very much wanted to play music for a living,” she recalls. “However, growing up in India at a time when there were barely any opportunities to make a living from being a musician, he became an engineer and wound up working in a steel plant in Jamshedpur, a small, industrial Indian town where I was born.”

That didn’t – eventually anyway – stop Ardeshir’s musical ambitions, but it would take some exposure to electronic music and music technology to help propel them onto a new dimension and into a new country.

“Piano lessons naturally evolved into college band competitions,” she explains, “and after being exposed to trip-hop and synthesisers, I pursued a music production course in London. Being in a city like London was extremely horizon-expanding and eye-opening, and that’s when I started producing my own work, roughly a decade ago now.”

The tech route

Of her introduction to the technology that very much surrounds her these days, Ardeshir recalls: “I was rehearsing with a band for some cover gigs in a garage very many years ago, and the engineers from the studio next door asked me to come lay down some chords for a documentary they were scoring. It was the first time I was exposed to a DAW and the idea of composing and arranging with the help of a screen and a multitude of devices. It meant limitless possibilities for the sounds that came through the speakers when I hit notes on a MIDI controller. My mind was truly blown, and that led me to discover Logic, Ableton Live, and a new modality of writing.”

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