Shubha Mudgal Photo by Raghav Pasricha
Shubha Mudgal | © Raghav Pasricha

Award winning saxophonist Sandy Evans leads this  brilliant collaboration between renowned Australian and Indian musicians. The project is comprised of world-class collaborators, including, Shubha Mudgal (voice, composition), Aneesh Pradhan (tabla, composition), Sandy Evans (saxophones, composition, orchestration), Sirens Big Band, Bobby Singh (tabla) and Sudhir Nayak (harmonium). 

Bridge of Dreams represents the diverse and nuanced possibilities that the musicians bring to the collaboration: Shubha and Sudhir’s emotive and soulful raga expositions are answered by Sirens’ warm and luscious horn section; Aneesh and Bobby’s sophisticated tabla solos weave around jazz rhythm section ostinatos; breathtaking improvisational exchanges between saxophone and harmonium.  

Jazz and Indian music are diverse, complex, constantly evolving musical systems. The music in this collaboration draws on many aspects from both systems, and influences from the Indian sphere include Hindustani, Carnatic, sacred, folk, Bollywood, fusion and Indipop genres.This is an opportunity to hear the very best in contemporary music created by culturally and gender diverse musicians.

Bridge of Dreams musicians waving at camera


Supported by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body; and by the NSW Government through Create NSW; and commissioned through APRA AMCOS Art Music Fund. Supported by the School of the Arts and Media, UNSW.

Presented in association with the Sydney Festival and Sydney Improvised Music Association (SIMA)

Bridge of Dreams trailer

Bridge of dreams original CD artwork by Monica Higgins
Bridge of dreams original CD artwork by Monica Higgins

“...the sold-out house was enraptured by an astonishing collaboration between creator-composer-saxophonist Sandy Evans, the Indian virtuosi singer-composer-lyricist Shubha Mudgal, …tabla-player-composer Aneesh Pradhan and harmonium player Sudhir Nayak; [and] Sydney’s own Sirens Big Band led by Jessica Dunn”

Musicians in the 12 January 2019 performance of Bridge of Dreams

Shubha Mudgal voice, composer, co-musical director
Sandy Evans saxophone, composer, arranger, musical director
Aneesh Pradhan tabla, composer, co-musical director
Jessica Dunn Sirens bandleader, co-musical director
Sudhir Nayak harmonium
Bobby Singh tabla
Ross A’hern sound

Sirens Big Band


Laura Corney (alto, soprano, tenor)
Melissa Mony (alto, flute)
Harri Harding (sopranino, tenor)
Ruth Wells (tenor)
Phillippa Murphy-Haste (baritone, clarinet, bass clarinet)


James Power
Ellen Kirkwood
Claire Hollander
Louise Horwood


Rose FosterAlex Silver
James Greening
Carla Dobbie
Nick Barnard (bass trombone)


Jessica Dunn


Zela Margossian


Ali Foster


Claudine Field

Listen and watch 

Listen and purchase on Bandcamp

YouTube highlights

More about the music in Bridge of Dreams

Since the recording of Bridge of Dreams has been released, I’ve been asked a number of questions about the project, the music and the lyrics. Here are my answers to the most common questions. 

Like many musicians before me, I am entranced and excited by the possibilities of exploring links between jazz and Indian musical traditions. My main (very rudimentary) formal training in Indian classical music has been in South Indian music with mridangam maestro Guru Kaaraikkudi Mani in Chennai and wonderful vocalist/sitar player Sarangan Sriranganathan in Sydney. This experience helped me understand certain things about raga and tala that definitely helped in this collaboration, but my musical contribution to Bridge of Dreams is more from my perspective as a jazz musician. I have been friends with Hindustani tabla player Bobby Singh for many years and have had many wonderful opportunities to play with him. During tours of Ben Walsh’s ‘Fearless Nadia’ with Bobby in Australia and India in 2012 and 2013, I got to know and work with Aneesh Pradhan and Sudhir Nayak. I discovered that we all shared a passion for deepening the exchange of ideas between jazz musicians and Indian musicians. Whenever we had a spare moment we would meet in one of our hotel rooms to play music to each other and discuss creative ideas. This was very inspiring.

I was lucky to visit Mumbai in 2014 on a Churchill Fellowship and undertake an exploratory creative development period with Aneesh and leading Hindustani singer Shubha Mudgal. We loved this experience and hoped to collaborate on a project at some future time. That was the genesis for this project. Shubha and Aneesh are extremely accomplished, experienced and versatile performers and composers. Shubha is a renowned singer and composer in a number of genres including khayal and thumri, as well as Indian pop and fusion. Aneesh is an acclaimed practitioner of Hindustani music, having studied with illustrious tabla maestro Nikhil Ghosh. He is also Bobby’s guru.

Another group of musicians I hold in very high regard, and have had the privilege to work with are Sirens Big Band, led by double bass player Jessica Dunn. Several years ago, I was very pleased when Jess asked me if I would be interested in composing a major work for them. So many things about the Sirens’ philosophy and worldview reminded me of Shubha and Aneesh’s. I began to imagine how incredible it would be to combine Shubha’s extraordinary voice, Aneesh’s incredible tabla playing and Sudhir’s virtuosic harmonium playing with the Sirens’ glorious big band sound. We discussed a number of ideas, and I suggested this collaboration with Aneesh and Shubha. It was a hugely ambitious project to undertake, but Jess and the band enthusiastically accepted the challenge and we have been very working hard on it for several years now.

Shubha sings in a number of different languages in this project.

The lyrics for ‘Arms of Imagination’ are from a poem in Urdu by a contemporary poet, Gauhar Raza, who is based in Delhi.

‘Dharti Ke Darbar’ is a traditional text in a mixture of Hindi and Braj bhasha.

The lyrics for ‘Joyous Rain’ are in Urdu and were written by a 19th century poet Upadhyaya Badri Narayan Chaudhari. (Shubha has used only a single couplet from a much longer poem in this song.)

The lyrics for ‘Ya Kareem’ and ‘Deepening of the Red Sun’ are by the 15th Indian mystic poet, Kabirdas. His writings have influenced Hinduism’s Bhakti movement (among others).

Kabir wrote in a mixture of many old dialects of Hindi and that is why his language is referred to as khichdi (a mixture) or sadhukkadi –  the informal, mixed language used by wandering sadhus.

Shubha explains why she is drawn to his texts:

‘For me, what is important is that many of his verses are relevant even today. His fearless denouncing of communal violence and disharmony, his protest against the orthodoxy of religious rituals, and his overarching message of peace is as relevant today as it must have been centuries ago’.

There are no lyrics for ‘Beam, Arch, Suspension’. The vocables used in this piece are typical of a ‘tarana’.

‘Aji Jaaiye’ and ‘Imagining and Longing’ are in Hindi.

The recitation that Aneesh and Bobby do in ‘Tabla Spiral’ is called Padhant and is a vocalisation of the bols (or strokes) used in tabla playing. They always learn to say what they play.

Most of the vocal melodies in Bridge of Dreams are derived from ragas, but I’m not sure Shubha would class them as ragas in the Hindustani classical sense. Nevertheless, there is a strong influence of raga in the vocal melodies and in the harmonium solos.

e.g. ‘Arms of Imagination’ is in a raga called Jog which has both a major and a minor 3rd. Shubha describes ‘Ya Kareem’ as having shades of the raga Abhogi.

‘Joyous Rain’ is mostly in raga Yaman (similar to the Lydian mode).

The vocal and harmonium sections in ‘Beam, Arch, Suspension’ are in the raga ‘Patdeep’.

‘Aji Jaaiye’ is in the raga Kirawani.

Lyrics and translations

Here are some transliterations and translations of some of the texts, as well as some other background information.  (Please note that Shubha and Aneesh apologise for the English translations, but I have found them very helpful to get a sense of the meaning of the songs, and hope they will enhance your enjoyment and understanding of the music)

Lyrics by Gauhar Raza

The poem is a tribute to differently-abled people.

Meray khayaal ki baahein athaah samundar hain (times 2)
The arms of my imagination are like an infinite ocean

ye saare gham ko jahaan kay samet sakti hain
Capable of holding within their comforting embrace every pain that the world has known

Meray khayaal ki baahein athaah samundar hain (times 2)
The arms of my imagination are like an infinite ocean

naheen jo aankh to ehsaas ban gai hai nazar (times 2)
If blind, the ability to feel transforms into sight

ye din ko, raat ko, taaron ko dekh sakti hai
and experiences the joy of day, night and the stars

Meray khayaal ki baahein athaah samundar hain
The arms of my imagination are like an infinite ocean

naheen jo haathon mein harkat to gham naheen hai mujhe (times 2)
If the hands are unable to move, I do not grieve

mere khayaal to duniya sambhaal sakte hain
Confident that my imagination can rule the world

Meray khayaal ki baahein athaah samundar hain
The arms of my imagination are like an infinite ocean

naheen jo pairon mein harkat to gham naheen hai mujhe (times 2)
If the feet are unable to move, I do not grieve

mere khayaal to parbat ko naap sakte hain
Because my imagination permits me to scale the mountains

mere khayaal ki duniya ki hadd naheen koi
The world my imagination inhabits has no limits, no boundaries

mere khayaal mein saari zameen basti hai
My imagination covers every corner of the earth

kisi se zyaadaa naheen hai, to ye yaqeen bhi hai (times 2)
If not more than others, I say with conviction and belief

kisi se kam naheen mere khayaal ki duniya. (times 3)
That no less than others is this world of my imagination.

Dharti ke darbaar naubat baaj rahi hai
In Mother Earth’s darbaar (court), the naubat drum plays on

Baaj rahi hai ghanghor
The sound of the naubat is mighty and intense

Phool rahi hai phulwaari
The garden bursts into bloom

Champa maur rahi hai
The champa (flower) is taking bloom

Maruwaro mehek rahyo hai
And the maruwa (flower) is fragrant

Mata ke darbaar naubat baaj rahi hai
In the court of the Mother, the naubat plays on

Lyrics by Upadhyaya Badri Narayan Chaudhari

Lyrics by Shubha Mudgal

Jaage se ujaale, uneende se andhere
A  light that is bright and awake, a darkness that is sleepy and yawning

jaage se ujaale, khwaabon se bhare ujaale
Light/radiance that is bright and awake, and full of dreams

khwaabon se bhare ujaale, ummeedon se bhare ujaale
Light/radiance that is replete with dreams and hopes

ujaalon ki chaadar pe jad kay khwaabon ki bootiyaan
On this sheet of light, I will add some motifs made of dreams

andheron pay chadhaa doon main ik ujali si chadariya
And over the darkness I will lay in offering my bright, ornamented sheet of light.

Lyrics by Kabirdas

Ya Kareem, bal hikmat teri, khaak ek soorat bahuteri
O Kareem, the merciful, I bow to your wisdom. From the same dust you create countless faces.

Ardha gagan bich neer jamaaya, bahut bhaanti kar nooran paayaa
You are able to plant water in the middle of the skies, and find light/radiance in every direction.

Avaliya aadam pir mulaana, teri sifat kar bhaye divaanaa
The most wise and saintly of men, auliya, pir, maulana, lose themselves singing your praises.

Kahe Kabir ya het bichara, Ya Rab ! Ya Rab ! yaar hamara
Says Kabir as he contemplates, O Lord ! O Master ! you are the one I love. 

Lyrics by Shubha Mudgal

‘Aji Jaaiye’ is written in a retro Hindi film song style (a bit tongue in cheek) and arranged with both Cuban and klezmer influences. It’s a song about a lover’s argument. This argument is depicted musically between the clarinet and the trombone.

(Note from Shubha: We are cringing while we write this translation, because it sounds like a witness report filed at the police station.  Please note that the overall tenor of the song is mischievous and flirtatious)


Go on now, don’t give me any more of those silly old excuses

1st Antara

Why did you promise to meet

If all the while you only intended to go back on your promise?

Your promises are false, and your intentions suspect,

And so is your promise of romance

2nd Antara

What’s with your betrayal and your flirtation?

No longer do you enjoy any credibility with me

I too can play a clever hand at this old game

I’ve played my hand, now let’s see who emerges the victor

lyrics by Kabirdas

Baalam aavo hamare geha, tum bin dukhiya deha
Beloved, come to my dwelling, for without you, my body suffers and is in pain.

Note from Shubha: ‘Metaphorically, in Kabir’s poetry the human body is a dwelling made of the five elements (Earth, Fire, Water, Ether and Air) in which dwells the Truth.’

‘Deepening of the Red Sun’ is in a very slow 14 beat tala called Jhumra that Aneesh taught me. I wrote this melody one morning when I woke up in Mumbai after a very vivid dream about death. The image of death in my dream was very joyous and quite powerful, somewhat like a wedding. Just after I wrote the main melody that morning, I received an email from Tony (my husband) saying that the mother of a student of mine had passed away. I was very close to this family and knew that the mother had been battling cancer for many years. Tony went to the funeral while I was still overseas. That day I took the melody in to Shubha and Aneesh and Shubha seamlessly sung the lyrics by Kabirdas to the melody I had written.

The title for this piece, and some of the musical ideas came from a discussion between Aneesh and myself where Aneesh described the rhythmic approach in Indian music as being like a spiral. It struck me that this also described a lot of the cyclic aspects of jazz music.

Tabla solo compositions have a lot of structural and expressive elements, some of which are incorporated into this composition. One unusual feature of this project is that we have 2 tabla players playing together (Aneesh and his disciple, Bobby). Aneesh decided to tune the tablas a 5th apart for most pieces (one player in Ab, one in Eb). In ‘Tabla Spiral’ I created a chord sequence where Ab is always the top note of the chord, although it moves through different tonal centres. Harmonically I wanted to expand upon the simple harmonic language used in a lot of Indian-jazz collaborations. My idea was that the piano sequence would be a harmonic version of the nagma (a melodic line played repeatedly on an accompanying instrument such as harmonium)  used during tabla solo pieces. There are many other ways in which the tabla language is incorporated into the Big Band music in this piece.

I used drawings of 3 different bridges to create many aspects of this composition:

  • a suspension bridge: the Chakzam bridge south of Lhasa, a very beautiful bridge constructed in 1430with cables suspended between towers, and a planked footway below
  • a beam bridge: the Lake Pontchartrain causeway in Louisiana, the longest continuous bridge over water
  • an arch bridge: the Sydney Harbour Bridge of course!

I traced drawings of these bridges on to manuscript paper and used the drawings to guide various architectural, melodic and rhythmic elements of the piece, as well as decisions about register and orchestration. I was stuck by how incredible the feats of engineering are that go into making actual bridges. This has a parallel with the skill, knowledge, resources, effort and goodwill that go into making the kind of metaphorical bridge in this project!

Reviews and interviews

Published in The Weekend Australian, December 29, 2018

Review  by Eric Myers

Personnel: Sandy Evans, Sirens Big Band & Indian Musicians

Label: Rufus Records


This ambitious album, the culmination of Sydney saxophonist Sandy Evans’s musical career so far, is a dignified and satisfying melding of Indian music and Western jazz. It’s a complicated collaborative project brought to fruition over several years. The music is original, the compositions shared by Evans and two Indian artists, Hindustani classical music singer Shubha Mudgal and her husband Aneesh Pradhan. The album is dominated by Mudgal’s haunting vocals. Her lyrics are in a number of non-English languages, but non-Indian listeners will hear them simply as wordless vocals. Other soloists are Pradhan (tabla), Sydney’s Bobby Singh (tabla), Sudhir Nayak (harmonium) and Evans herself (saxophones). Evans’s solos are a highlight, particularly on soprano saxophone, with a sensitivity reminiscent of Wayne Shorter. The Indian musicians were recorded in Mumbai in June 2017. A year later in Sydney the Sirens Big Band and Evans overdubbed their contributions. Evans’s arrangements are a real work of the imagination, pure jazz-oriented writing which is highly sympathetic and respectful towards the Indian contributions, enhancing and commenting on their music. Evans’s charts are played beautifully by the largely female Sirens Big Band. Indian music, without the harmonic changes found in Western music, can often sound drone-like and repetitive. On Bridge of Dreams that tendency is leavened by the jazz sensibility in operation, giving the music welcome variety. Also, the great strength of Indian music – rhythmic subtlety – survives here, never smothered by the Western drum-kit. Future musicologists will no doubt deconstruct the complicated scales and rhythmic patterns explored on this album. For the moment I hear it simply as splendid art music at a high level of achievement, and also it is accessible and very moving.

Sydney Morning Herald, 13 January 2019

“Not only was the dream exquisite, it came true” ★★★★½

City Recital Hall, January 12
Reviewed by John Shand

View this review on the Sydney Morning Herald website

For some artists it happens when they’re very young, fostering only disappointment thereafter. For others it never happens, leaving a uniform career trajectory of relative mediocrity or unacknowledged genius. For Sandy Evans it happened here: everything she has poured into the previous four decades as an artist, saxophonist, composer, improviser and collaborator culminated in this one night.

Evans has worked with both Indian musicians and jazz big bands before, but never like this in terms of the scope of the ambition or the fullness of its realisation. The foundation of the overwhelming success of Bridge of Dreams lay in the compositions, on which she collaborated with tabla player Aneesh Pradhan and singer Shubha Mudgal. Coming from the elite of Hindustani music, they, like Evans, saw a way to span the divide between two musical cultures so that they melded, but, crucially, with their own identities intact.

Compositional triumphs included Tabla Spiral, in which (beyond the thrilling tabla dialogue between Pradhan and Bobby Singh) Evans had composed parts for Sirens Big Band that replicated and harmonised the tabla figures. Another was Deepening of the Red Sun, in which Pradhan’s hypnotic rhythm, Evans’ melodies and Mugdal’s singing (of a text from the mystic poet Kabir) combined in a manner that seemed preordained.

Mugdal’s singing was spellbinding throughout, with her range, beauty, instinct for truth and thorough intertwining of ethereality and earthiness. Similarly Pradhan’s playing combined virtuosity, humility and warmth in equal measure, to generate some of the most moving tabla playing I’ve encountered.

Sudhir Nayak was just as remarkable a soloist, his harmonium’s accordion-like sound ranging from brawn to fluttering whispers. Then there were the locals: the brilliant Singh, Evans soloing as if her life depended on it and Sirens’ leader Jessica Dunn proving again what a special bassist she is. Dunn’s 18-piece band executed the sometimes extremely challenging music with panache, including notable contributions from pianist Zela Margossian and drummer Ali Foster. The sound was also exceptional, presenting the 23 musicians with warmth, clarity and finesse.

The Australian, 15 January 2019

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Eric Myers review image from 15 January 2019
Eric Myers review image from 15 January 2019
Review by Neeru Saluja
This article was originally published on 
Shubha Mudgal with Sandy Evans, Aneesh Pradhan, Bobby Singh and musicians of the Sirens Big Band Pics. Courtesy Anthony Browell

When India’s rich classical music collaborates with Australia’s finest jazz, the composition has to be magical. Internationally renowned Indian singer Shubha Mudgal came together with Australia’s top jazz saxophonist and composer Sandy Evans in a sold out concert ‘Bridge of Dreams’ as part of the Sydney Festival.

They were accompanied by tabla maestro Aneesh Pradhan, his disciple Bobby Singh and the 17-piece Sirens Big Band, comprising Sydney’s leading musicians.

Sandy Evans has had a long association with India. Five years ago, the 2014 Churchill Fellowship took Sandy to Mumbai to see if a collaboration was possible, and the outcome was a two-way street dream. The concert was a culmination of her work as a composer, saxophonist and musician. “It’s the greatest privilege in my life to be on stage collaborating with trained musicians like Shubha Mudgal, Aneesh and Bobby Singh, said Sandy Evans.

A world class collaboration, the concert ranged from Shubha Mudgal singing from classical to Bollywood unravelling an unreal earthiness of Indian music. The highlight of the concert was the ‘Deepening of the red sun’, which brought out the best of all the musicians. As Shubha’s classical mystic singing (inspired from the poet Kabir) mingled with Evan’s melodies and Aneesh’s Pradhan’s rhythmic beats, the audience was left spellbound. The ‘Tabla Spiral’ also stood out as Pradhan and Bobby Singh kept the audience entertained with their tabla dialogue. The Sirens Big Band deserved a big applause for being the perfect base to keep the identity of the music both intact and together when required.

Award winning saxophonist Sandy Evans had a dream and it has been fulfilled. The concert showed how the best of both musical worlds can come together to weave an exotic dream. The only link missing was the absence of music lovers from the Indian sub-continent, as they missed a world class musical encounter.

BRIDGE OF DREAMS, City Recital Hall in association with SIMA and Sydney Festival, 12 January 2019. 

Read the full review by Diana Simmonds at StageNoise

The one-night-only, world premiere at City Recital Hall of Bridge of Dreams has to be among the best and more memorable events of this January 2019 in Sydney. For me, dramatically, musically and creatively it was the most exciting and rewarding evening in a long time.

For a couple of hours, the sold-out house was enraptured by an astonishing collaboration between creator-composer-saxophonist Sandy Evans, the Indian virtuosi singer-composer-lyricist Shubha Mudgal, her husband, tabla-player-composer Aneesh Pradhan and harmonium player Sudhir Nayak; Sydney’s own Sirens Big Band led by Jessica Dunn and pianist-composer Zela Margossian. 

Bridge of Dreams began, one brick at a time, some years ago through Evans and her friend Melbourne’s Bobby Singh (tabla) riffing on the idea of a bridge between Australian jazz and Indian music. Bit by bit it brought together, virtually and in person, the key personnel and slowly their various approaches and emerged the basis of what is now available on Rufus Records and in all formats, if you missed the concert.

Bridge of Dreams is wonderfully unusual in that there is none of the awkwardness so often found in attempted “East-West” fusion works. Rather, there is a soaring meeting of minds and sounds in, for instance, the ostinato facility of the harmonium, on one side of the stage, melding with the brass and saxophones on the other. 

In Tabla Spiral, Zela Margossian begins with a meditative piano solo into which Bobby Singh and Aneesh Pradhan add a conversation of the sounds and rhythms of the tabla. They bring their instruments into the mix to repeat the dialogue before the trumpets, trombones and saxes of Sirens Big Band join them in a thrilling, mesmerising exploration of similarity and difference.

Similarly, there are passages of exquisite balance and melody when Shubha Mudgal’s richly sonorous voice duets with Sandy Evans’ lilting soprano saxophone in written and improvised pieces based in the poetry and traditions of north India.

The nine pieces that make upBridge of Dreams range across history – of ancient India and early jazz, through Western improvisation, Indian poetry and song and contemporary composition. With the idea semi-fledged, Evans used a Churchill Fellowship to go to Mumbai and spend time with the musicians. From then and over a period of two to three years, Skype, MP3s and other technology – musical and computer – became integral to the growing partnership, as did such diverse inspirations as Louis Armstrong, the 1430 Chagzam iron chain bridge and mystic poet Kabir. 

All this also coincided with the then upcoming occasion of Sirens Big Band’s tenth birthday. Leader Jessica Dunn had asked Evans if she’d come up with a work to celebrate such a momentous anniversary and thus the band was drawn in to Bridge of Dreams. (The off-stage social activism of both the Indian stars and the Sydney big band add yet another heartfelt if unheard layer to the foundations of the project.)

Dunn’s magnificently flexible double bass underpins the entire work as well as highlighting the melodious qualities of tabla and the possibilities for synchronous partnering with the western drum kit and percussion (Ali Foster and Claudine Field). On the night, at City Recital Hall, the 23-piece ensemble – and audience – were very well served by sound engineer Ross Ahern, with the uncommon range of voice and instruments reaching every part of the auditorium with clarity and precision.

All in all, Bridge of Dreams is the kind of human alliance, musics and outcome that audiences and (most) Festival directors fantasise about. That the work is already publicly available as a recording is a miracle (at $24.99 on disc and $18.99 download from Bandcamp). Yet it doesn’t quite cancel out the thought that, at another time and budget, the ABC would have been in the house recording it for live and subsequent broadcasting. Let’s hope the ensemble will be gathered together again on a stage before long – Adelaide? Mumbai? Edinburgh? We can dream.

Read on the Daily Telegraph website $$

Sydney Festival’s sold-out concert Bridge of Dreams featured top female Hindustani singer Shubha Mudgal alongside Australia’s finest jazz saxophonist and composer Sandy Evans in an uplifting collaboration.