Stream the music of Ekta: The Unity Project

Mr. Jasnam Daya Singh has distinguished himself as both composer and performer with a remarkably personal and powerful musical voice. His writing and his playing reflect deep sensitivity and emotional meaning and offer an exceptional blend of finely honed virtuosity and an extraordinary knowledge and understanding of the music he shares. Listening to his most recent album “Ekta, The Unity Project”, reaffirmed my conviction that this remarkable artist’s unique and compelling musical vocabulary is convincing enough to deliver this important message. 

Yaacov Bergman, Music Director
Portland Chamber Orchestra
Walla Walla Symphony
Siletz Bay Music Festival

About Ekta: The Unity Project

Taking the romanized Punjabi word for “unity” as its title, Jasnam Daya Singh’s Ekta: The Unity Project is a meditation on the oneness of all people. Commissioned by Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble for the Montavilla Jazz Festival in 2017, Ekta is a meeting of the Brazilian choro and samba of Singh’s country of birth, European Jazz and Classical styles, fleet-footed swing, and lush ballads that are filtered and refracted through Singh’s cosmopolitan musical perspective.

The release of this recording in 2020 and the message it implies come during a time of intense upheaval in American life, a time when a true feeling of solidarity is rarer than at any other time in recent memory. Singh’s work posits that unity is an ideal to consider deeply, to celebrate joyfully, and to work strenuously to achieve.

Jasnam Daya Singh

Singh’s Ekta: The Unity Project, commissioned by PJCE for the Montavilla Jazz Festival in 2017, is a multi-movement suite that incorporates a wide-range of tributaries of the jazz stylistic river—Brazilian choro and samba of Singh’s country of birth, expansive European jazz and classical styles, and high-energy straight-ahead jazz. The piece embodies Singh’s musical interests but also expresses personal truths drawn from his journey as an immigrant and eventual citizen of the United States, and his conversion to Sikhism.

In 2017, in an interview with PJCE Executive Director Douglas Detrick he said that “unity is not a luxury or something we concern ourselves with when everything else is taken care of. Rather, I want to think of this word and concept, Unity, as possibly one of the most needed things in our existence.” In 2019 those words ring just as true, if not more so given the intense division in our society around issues of immigration and American identity.

Singh’s harmonic depth and intricate rhythmic sense are on full display in Ekta. Movements like the opening “Prologue” and the fifth movement, “Oneness” abound with singable melodies dressed with colorful orchestrations and pristine execution by the ensemble. There is more urgency and rhythmic force in the first movement, “Edinenie,” and the closer, “Walking Together.” With a stellar cast of some of Portland, Oregon’s finest musicians, solos are succinct and powerful. Each player in the band is given a chance to shine with an improvised solo, highlighting the sentiment of unity.

“Revisiting this piece has been on PJCE’s wishlist for several years,” said Douglas Detrick, Executive Director of the organization. “Thanks to a grant from the Regional Arts and Culture Council, we’re finally able to record the suite and perform it once again in a larger venue. Singh’s Ekta: The Unity Project is among the most dynamic and sophisticated suites that we have commissioned. We also feel that the time is right—taking place as the 2020 presidential primaries begin, Ekta is a plea for unity at a time of discord. Additionally, Singh’s status as a naturalized citizen emphasizes the vital contributions by immigrants to our musical culture, and specifically to Portland’s jazz scene.”

About the Composer

Once I connect with the feeling behind a word, the notes just begin appearing.

Jasnam Daya Singh about the process of composing Ekta: The Unity Project

Born Weber Ribeiro Drummond in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1962, it was not until the mid-90’s that pianist/composer Weber adopted the stage name Weber Iago as a homage to the Roma people. Since he took Amrit (initiation in the Sikh Religion) in 2013, Iago has adopted the name Jasnam Daya Singh. 

Singh has spent all of his musical life researching different types of sounds, ultimately dedicating most of his endeavors to uniting elements of classical, jazz, and Brazilian music. In Brazil, he advanced his craft as a concert pianist as well as a composer, writing mostly piano and chamber music works. In the early 80’s he developed a strong interest in jazz which prompted his move to Los Angeles in 1987. Once in the US, Singh began working with notable musicians such as Moacir Santos, one of Brazil’s greatest composers and arrangers. 

Singh has participated as a pianist and bandleader in jazz festivals all over the world as well as shows and interviews in the most important jazz radio stations in the United States. Since 1991, he has made constant appearances at the Monterey Jazz Festival, among those are the one in 2005 with the Carla Bley Big Band, which featured Carla herself, Steve Swallow, and Billy Drummond and 2010 as part of the Hristo Vitchev Quartet. 

Singh has recorded and performed with great luminaries such as Paul McCandless, Ali Ryerson, Kenny Stahl, Claudia Villela, Charles Loos, Marcia Maria, Alex Acuna, and Alphonso Johnson. Singh has released several albums including Children of the Wind Spring Will Stay Here. At the end of 2005, Daya Singh was commissioned by the Carmel Bach Festival to write his Jazz Concertino for Piano and String Orchestra which premiered on July 9th of 2006 in Monterey, California, and has since been performed by the Portland Chamber Orchestra. In 2009, Jasnam Daya Singh’s CD (still as Weber Iago) in duo with Jovino Santos Neto, received a Latin Grammy nomination for Best Instrumental Album.

PJCE with Jasnam Daya Singh, in concert February 2020 at The Old Church in Portland, OR.

About Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble

Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble is a 12-piece jazz ensemble that commissions and performs original works by its members and other jazz composers in Portland and beyond. It is PJCE’s mission to act as a forum for the development and presentation of works for large ensemble by established and emerging jazz composers and to engage and enrich community awareness and appreciation of contemporary music. PJCE also runs the Grasshoppers Young Composers mentorship program, PJCE Records, and the PJCE Records Presents series every first Sunday at The 1905.

The Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble is Lee Elderton – soprano sax/clarinet; John Savage – alto sax, flute; Tim Willcox – tenor sax; Mieke Bruggeman – bari sax, bass clarinet; Noah Simpson, Douglas Detrick – trumpet, flugelhorn; Stan Bock, John Moak – trombone, Jasnam Daya Singh – piano; Ryan Meagher – guitar; Dave Captein – bass; Ken Ollis – drums.