Sawa is a trio of three established soloists and bandleaders that began as a collaboration between British-Iraqi composer and vocalist Alya Al-Sultani based in East London and award- winning composer and pianist Clemens Christian Poetzsch from Leipzig.
After spending a few days one winter writing and experimenting with some fragment ideas, they decided that the music needed a cello, and specifically the cello of Shirley Smart, a leading improviser and cross- genre musician who had spent a decade in Jerusalem immersed in the music of the region.
With Alya singing in Arabic and Clemens applying his love of polyrhythmic treatments along with Shirley’s synaesthetic improvising power, they found an instant musical and personal chemistry and began recording their experiments, free improvisations and treatments of folk music, partly using the Fluid Piano, a one of a kind instrument that was housed in Alya’s home for 6 months in agreement with its inventor.
The trio released a double A-side single, a collaboration with electronic artist Lossy, on 10/6/16 and an EP on 20/8/16 on Two Rivers Records.
"Fusion comes in many flavours. With their self-titled debut EP, international trio Sawa create a multicultural stew that fuses Iraqi and Arabic folk song with post-classical gravitas and improvisational flair. British-Iraqi vocalist Alya Al-Sultani’s voice drips with languid drama, stark in its raw emotion, hanging in space, bared before us. Her intimate engagement with timeless melodies communicates a bottomless yearning and longing, simultaneously erotic and spiritual. It’s a sound as old as civilization itself. German pianist Clemens Christian Poetzsch responds with scattered droplets and sweet ripples, jewels glistening on dark, dark silk – or with bright flashes of jazz spontaneity that race off like brash fireworks illuminating a city night sky. At the Fluid Piano – a specially modified keyboard instrument that can be retuned as it’s played – Poetzsch dips and swoons into acerbic microtonal regions that provide both commentary and context for Al-Sultani’s traditional songcraft. British cellist Shirley Smart draws on her years spent living in Jerusalem, adding serpentine microtones to the thick warmth of her arco textures and veering into exquisite moments of pizzicato lyricism. Together, the three musicians create moments of hushed fragility and thrilling momentum, woven into gripping narratives that reveal a sincere urge to keep alive the art of the storyteller. You could call this blend of ancient and modern, secular and sacred, east and west a kind of fusion, yes. But you’ve never heard anything like it."