Cellist | Sitarist | Vocalist
Pete comes from a long family line of travelling performers. His unique musical voice draws from his training in Hindustani music and from his initial encounters, as a teenager, with improvised song structures under the guidance of Griots from West Africa. He has devised a style of playing that combines his cello, sitar and vocal techniques to create intricate melodies and visceral textures, which shape soulful songs, pieces and improvisations. He has also designed and built a new instrument, the gourd cello, which has a calabash body and cello bridge, strings and neck.
The teachers who have shaped his command of Raga-based music include the Scottish sitarist Clem Alford who was a disciple of Sachindra Nath Saha, Senia Gharana; Jonathan Mayer of the Senia Veen-kar Gharana; Ustad Naseeruddin Saami and his son Rauf Saami of the Delhi Gharana; Ustad Irfan Khan of the Lucknow-Shahjahanpur Gharana.
He owes his approach to songwriting and his creative instrumental techniques to Griots, Sura Susso, Modou Ndaiye, Juldeh Camara and Jally Kebba Susso.
Over the centuries the Yelding family’s occupations included hawkers, marine store dealers, carriage painters, puppeteers, musicians, clowns, wire walkers and bareback horse riders. First they moved with travelling fairs and later became a prominent Circus family. After a generation’s gap and much of the old knowledge about horses and the Romany jib forgotten, Pete has chosen to reignite the occupation of his earliest traced ancestors, who were themselves musicians.
Moving between an estate in a small town near Milton Keynes and off grid communes in Norfolk & Suffolk via his Mother’s illustrated caravan, Pete grew up playing his Cello in many contexts: Western Classical ensembles, in Rock&Pop bands, with Djs at raves, with Mandinka Griots and Gnawa musicians. He was then awarded a scholarship to study Composition at Birmingham Conservatoire, which is where he met his first sitar teacher Clem Alford. This was the beginning of his journey into the art form that would shape the rest of his musical life: Hindustani music.
After 5 years in Birmingham Pete moved to South East London, where his ancestors used to stay over winter. In order to bring together the many strands of his practice, he went to study a Masters in Creative Practice at Goldsmiths. He combined his ongoing sitar training (now under Jonathan Mayer) with further development of his unique cello playing style (after spending time sitting with Juldeh Camara) and academic interrogations of legacies of empire embedded in dominant musical histories. This process deepened his connection to the flows of musical knowledge, and the people he has learnt from, that have shaped his life.
In May 2019, Pete received Arts Council funding to continue the development of his practice. This enabled him to build the prototype of his Gourd Cello, to learn more instrumental techniques from Jally Kebba Susso, to have vocal lessons under Ustad Nasseeruddin Saami, and to go to Kolkata to continue his sitar training under Ustad Irfan Khan.