31 Jan 2024

Bridging continents and generations in the studio

From Three to Seven, 4:00 pm on 31 January 2024

It was love at first sight, or at least sound, for tabla master Basant Madhur, and Irish guitarist and bouzouki player Jon Sanders.

The pair met on stage in New Zealand several years ago, and before exchanging a word began playing, seamlessly fusing their traditional Indian and Irish sounds. They haven’t stopped since.

Now, the next generation is with them. Daughters Sargam Madhur and Jenny O’Shea Sanders, make up the second half of India Meets Ireland, who are travelling the country this February as part of Arts on Tour NZ.  

Basant and Sargam, a sitarist, come from a musical family, which in 2006 established Aotearoa’s first Indian music school in Auckland’s Blockhouse Bay.

Jon, originally born in London, but with family from Ireland's County Kerry, spends his life "following the sun" between Europe and Aotearoa, where he has a house in Owhango in the North Island's King Country.

Usually Jon travels alone, but this time he brought his daughter Jenny O'Shea Sanders, who will sing the bulk of the vocals for the group's New Zealand tour.

India Meets Ireland: Father daughter duos from left, Sargam Madhur, Jon Sanders, Basant Madhur, and Jenny O'Shea Sanders live in the Auckland studio.

India Meets Ireland: Father daughter duos from left, Sargam Madhur, Jon Sanders, Basant Madhur, and Jenny O'Shea Sanders live in the Auckland studio. Photo: Andre Upston

Together, the four artists blend the flavours of North India with the compositions of the wild Irish West Coast.

They performed two pieces for their session on RNZ Concert; the first was 'Samhraidh Samhraidh' (Irish Gaelic for summer) sung by Jenny, accompanied by Sargam's sitar.

After their stunning duet RNZ Concert host Bryan Crump asks why two talented young musicians want to hang out "with a couple of old blokes?"

"No choice," laughs Sargam. "I live with him."

"I also find you can learn a lot from musicians who have been doing it for a lot longer," says Jenny.

"I''ve been really lucky that my dad has opened up the music world for me in the last few years and brought me along with him ... and I've liked it, and want to continue doing it."

"Can I say something?" interjects Basant.

"I tell her (Sargam) to go and play the music with younger age people, and she just comes back and says 'no, I like playing with you.'"

"He knows the way I play," agrees Sargam. "And I can get mad with him".

India Meets Ireland: Father-daughter duos Basant and Sargam Madhur and Jon Sanders and Jenny O'Shea Sanders

Photo: Arts on Tour NZ

At the end of the interview it was time for the dads to shine, with Basant accompanying Jon's bouzouki in a medley; 'Santa Cruzing into Eastern Polka'.

'Santa Cruzing' because that was the name of the California town where Jon came up with the tune, while the 'Eastern Polka' is as the name suggests, a two-step dance number.

"I thought Polkas were a continental European thing," comments Bryan Crump. "I thought you had jigs (in Ireland)?"

"We have the jig as well," says Jon, but "Polkas are the go-to format for dancing in County Kerry".

The quartet's tour begins in Putaruru in South Waikato, taking in towns around both Islands, before ending in Nelson at The Boathouse on February 25th. More details here.

Get the RNZ app

for easy access to all your favourite programmes