Photo: Marcin Szymczak
Jesse Bannister is BSDC’s composer in residence and has been a key collaborator with Balbir Singh since 2012 starting with Synchronised. Jesse and Balbir have collaborated in many shows over the years.

Jesse is a unique musician in that he plays North Indian classical music on the saxophone to international audiences. He is also an accomplished jazz musician, often merging the two styles in his compositions for BSDC.

Born in London to an Indian mother and English father, Jesse came to Leeds in 1992 where he gained a Graduate Diploma in Jazz (with Honours) at Leeds College of Music.

Jesse has worked with the Halle Orchestra, The Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra with Indian artists and Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty with Priti Paintal at the Purcell Rooms, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Kathak dance duo Sonia Sabri in Holland, Mercury Prize winner Talvin Singh and Grammy Award winner Sukhwinder Singh.


Jesse Bannister

“It was my flexibility and uniqueness that kept me in work in the 90’s. This then led me to some great projects with the leading Asian musicians of the world”

Jesse Bannister


Jesse has a long history of collaboration from his days at Southgate tech in the 80s. These early projects allowed Jesse the freedom and confidence to try new things when making music. It was clear he was very different from his colleagues at Leeds College of Music. Some of the projects were a bit more commercial. Others came from a way of sharing a multi media and cross art space with others.

“By observing my teachers and the world of sound, I have become more in tune with the purity of Indian music. When one sees the glow of a master musician who is guiding you, those feelings stay forever and reveal many layers of musical perception.”

Jesse Bannister

Photo: Karol Wyszynski
‘Indian music found me’

Indian music finally found Jesse in 1992 in Leeds when he started a 10 year teacher-student interaction with Dharambir Singh. Jesse learnt under pressure in the traditional way, where the performance stage became the classroom.

Jesse’s work as a soloist stems from intense periods of self-study and solo Indian performance. He has always believed deeply in the purity of acoustic sound. This need to breathe at his own pace, and take off into an inner space is fulfilled for Jesse in his solo playing.

“Saxophonist Jan Garbarek believes that the room in which you play becomes the saxophone’s resonance chamber. This has directly inspired my way of working”

Jesse Bannister

Photo: Marcin Szymczak
Open-hearted teaching

Teaching for Jesse stems from a natural desire to help others on the path to musical knowledge and expressiveness. Whether in a classroom, festival workshop or University Hall, Jesse’s approach is to give music in an open-hearted and pure way.

“It’s my life mission to share my approach to Indian music with younger students. Our musical education needs to have ways of giving freedom to the spirit and the will of the future musician”

Jesse Bannister

“Jesse Bannister is the future of Indian Classical music”

Panjit Jasraj


Listen to Jesse on Soundcloud >

Explore the process

A lost art?
A bridge to India
Immersed in music
When Worlds Collide
The Idea (learning to dance)
Natural curiosity and questions (learning to dance)
Composer thoughts on Learning to Dance
In the presence of geniuses
The story (love and spice)
A dancer reflects on The Strategists (1)
Overview of The Strategists
Breakdown of The Strategists
Roundness of 12: a breakdown of the piece
Breakdown of the piece (love and spice)
Script (12)
Painter research
A dancer reflects on Love and Spice
Full Contact – highlights from the script
Dancer notes performance (flatlands)
Peacock Lake – genesis of the concept
Firing up the Mehfil Machine
The Collaborators
Creative Case – challenges along the way
The Guru-Shishya relationship
What is Kathak?
Life blood
Collaboration: Balbir & Gary
Colouring your emotions
Covid-19 Update on Monday, April 6th, 2020
Creative Case in action – July to September 2019
Finding my way in The Creative Spirit of John Curry
Talent Development – Abirami Eshwar
Talent Development – Kimberley Hardy
Collaborators: Lorna Brown and Gary Beacom
The Work: Act 1
The Work: Act 2
Planning the show
The 8 Dances
Who was Hans Krebs?
The Citric 
 Acid cycle
Balbir’s thoughts behind the work
Balbir on developing the work
Amrita Sher-Gil & Frida Kahlo
My favourite painting is. . .
Balbir reflects on The Two Fridas
Cast one
Devising in lockdown
Las dos Fridas
‘Alas Para Volar (Wings to Fly)’
Amrita – a story that lives in Art