Sitar Concerto


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"Pressed for Time"
A Concerto for Sitar & Orchestra

The project brings together myself as a composer/sitarist working in the genre of Hindustani Classical music, alongside John Oliver – one of Canada’s leading composers of music for orchestras, chamber ensembles and electroacoustic media. Together we have created a composition of approximately 22 minutes in length that integrates each of our strengths in Indian Classical music (Hindustani tradition) and Western contemporary classical music. The work takes the form of a sitar concerto in one movement.

The final piece, called Pressed for Time, draws on as well as departs from the conventions of Hindustani classical music (the music of Northern India and Pakistan) and Western contemporary orchestral music, Pushing past the idea of ‘setting’ the sitar in either a traditional or avant-garde context, we have tried to merge the best of both, developing the raga in a non-linear way, creating unexpected changes and new ideas that transform the musical materials and form. This new synthetic work plays with the listener’s expectations, whichever of these traditions they prefer or know best.

The work was premiered by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra on November 5, 2017 as part of the ISCM Festival. British tabla virtuoso, Shahbaz Hussain, joined me to accompany the piece. This piece is available for touring across Canada and globally. Get in touch to learn more or make a booking.

Mohamed Assani is a celebrated sitar player and music creator, known for being a proactive ambassador for his rich musical tradition. He has brought the sitar to new audiences through innovative, genre-bending collaborations. According to the Georgia Straight, “Assani is both deeply rooted in the artistic traditions of South Asia and a one-of-a-kind innovator.”

Mohamed Assani
Co-Composer & Sitar Soloist

John Oliver is among Canada’s leading composers. Winner of the Classical Composition of the Year Award at the 2013 Western Canadian Music Awards for his orchestral composition Forging Utopia, he has received praise for the breadth of his creative output, from orchestral and chamber music, to intercultural works, electroacoustic music, and opera.

John Oliver

Shahbaz Hussain is regarded as one of the leading tabla virtuosos of his generation. He has received numerous accolades for his captivating performances, including receiving the prestigious “Son of Lahore” Award for his services to the art of tabla from the Government of Pakistan. Hussain is based in England and regularly performs around the world.

Shahbaz Hussain
Tabla Accompanist

“Worlds collide – and combine, beautifully.”
– The Georgia Straight


As the conductor, it was a pleasure to work with these talented musicians. Assani and Hussain worked well with the orchestra to create a dynamic performance – the audience leapt to their feet to give the performance a standing ovation.”
– Bramwell Tovey, Conductor, VSO

“Many of the [ISCM] festival’s most memorable pieces departed from the Eurocentric norm. One spectacular success was the world premiere of Mohamed Assani and John Oliver’s Pressed for Time, a concerto for sitar, tabla, and orchestra, which for once fully fused these two very different worlds. It was a triumph.” – Musicworks Magazine