AN album launching at Celtic Connections takes inspiration from Robert Burns, a 13th-century Sufi mystic and ideas dating back to the ancient world.

Navarasa: Nine Emotions is the third album from Fife singer-songwriter James Yorkston, English jazz bassist Jon Thorne and Indian sarangi player Suhail Yusuf Khan, a trio who came together by chance.

The intimate record is testament to how, says Thorne, “music operates without boundaries as a common international language and a source of cross-cultural unity”.

Fusing Thorne’s mellow grooves, Yorkston’s tender guitar and Khan’s masterly sarangi, it sees the three – known collectively as YTK – taking in influences from across time and cultures including Dick Gaughan, the Anglo-Scottish ballad tradition and the poetry of Hazrat Amir Khusrau, a 13th-century scholar known as the “father of Urdu literature”.

That meld of east and west takes particularly rich form in Westlin Winds, where Burns’s 1783 Now Westlin Winds (And Slaught’ring Guns) meets ancient Indian devotional song and a melody fragment inspired by Scots folk icon Gaughan.

On his 1981 album Handful Of Earth, Gaughan sang his version of the ploughman poet’s song, which was performed 30 years later at the royal opening of the Scottish Parliament by Karine Polwart.

Khan’s radical reworking, written in the old Hindi dialect of Purdi, is also inspired by qawwali, singers of Muslim devotional song he heard at a shrine in Dehli.

READ MORE: First-time all-female win for band in Scots trad awards

“Its source is Hazrat Amir Khusrau,” says Khan, speaking from Connecticut, where he’s completing a PhD in ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University.

YTK’s fusion of the cultural icons originally came about as a result of a commission by Germany’s Rudolstadt-Festival, says the eighth-generation hereditary musician.

“The organiser gave me three or four songs to translate but the one song which kept my attention was Dick Gaughan’s version of Now Westlin Winds,” he says. “I love melody and it has this beautiful musical phrase in it. It sounded like a raga I had learnt in India, especially when he goes into the lower notes.”

Khan ruminated over the song for a month or so, trying multiple translations with the help of Yorkston.

“Some of the heavy Scottish terminology was beyond my understanding,” Khan says. “And I needed time to perform a song which has such heavy lyrical content. I need to generally need to get used to songs in a very personal way. But I just wasn’t feeling my own translation.”

One day he awoke to the memory of the qawwali singing words by Khusrau at the shrine.

“He’s talking about the birds, the weather, the agriculture blooming,” says Khan of the revered mystic. “It sounded similar to me to what Robert Burns was saying in his poem. So I borrowed some of those lyrics, in the old Hindi dialect of Purdi, and borrowed Dick Gaughan’s melody and tried to put them together. We ended up with what I think is a quite beautiful version and I think people are liking it as well, we have a great time when we perform it.”

The oldest composition on Navarasa: Nine Emotions, Westlin Winds is paired with adbutha, meaning surprise and wonder. Each of the album’s tracks are connected to the navarasa, the nine emotions or sentiments which have organised the arts and culture of the subcontinent for centuries. In addition to adbutha are shringara (love, beauty), hasya (laughter, mirth), raudra (anger), karuna (sorrow, compassion), shanta (peace, tranquillity), bibhatsya (disgust), bhayanaka (terror) and veera (heroism).

READ MORE: Landmark victory for India's LGBT community as gay sex is decriminalised

The latter two are embodied respectively in rhythmic, eerie murder ballad Twa Brothers and a funky take on Punjabi praise song Waliyan Da Raja.

From ancient epics to contemporary Bollywood, anything with creative or artistic aspirations is informed by navarasa, Khan explains.

“I swim in navarasa, because that’s how Indian aesthetics and arts are structured,” he says. “It’s an ancient concept which has evolved over a period of time. Scholars have thoroughly worked upon it for centuries. I’d been saying to James and John for a while we should base an album on the idea.”

Each of the rasas, or emotional “juices” have Sanskrit terminology, says Khan, and date from the ancient world.

“Musicologists and philosophers wanted some rules about what I will call an opera, though they have no real comparison in the western classical tradition,” he says. “They came up with nine basic emotions which human beings have. Obviously we have other emotions and some-times emotions are combined in one rasa, like sorrow isn’t just sadness, it’s more than that. Then they started writing music pieces, theatre, dance pieces and ragas with this theoretical philosophy behind it.”

Both as individual musicians and together on previous albums Everything Sacred and Neuk Wight Delhi All-Stars, YTK are not ones to stick to tradition for the sake of it. Whereas many Hindustani musicians stay away from bibhatsya, the trio explore disgust in a version of Scots traditional The Shearing’s Not For You, supposedly a dialogue between an itinerant soldier and his pregnant rape victim.

In hypnotic 12-minute closer Darbari, they take on a melody which dates back to the 14th century.

“I was kind of apprehensive about how the audience will receive that. I still am,” says Khan. “A musicologist might ask us why we are doing this, messing with the rules and regulations. But if we don’t experiment with this stuff, it won’t reach a new point, keep living.”

Khan first met Yorkston by happenstance backstage at a TED Talk in Edinburgh in 2011. They immediately gelled and went on to recruit Thorne, a self-taught bassist of 30 years who’s toured the world with Manchester electronic band Lamb.

“We got to the heart of what we are trying to do more sharply and with more focus this time,” says Thorne from his home on the Isle of Wight.

“We are all quite different and I think our personal chemistry is borne out of that mutual respect for each other. It’s a wonderful forum, which almost accidentally arrived in my life, to be able to play with people who just want you to be yourself, unadorned as it were.”

After launching the album at Celtic Connections next month with a one-off date supported by French-Cameroonian singer-songwriter Djana Gabrielle, Yorkston, Thorne and Khan then take the record on a tour that takes in smaller, less visited venues.

“Personally, I love intimate concerts. There’s more connection with the audience,” says Khan. “Coming from an Indian classical music background, there is the sense of getting the performance to a much higher place than just playing music. Things are more transparent: instead of performing for the audience, I feel it’s more I’m performing with them.”

January 22, Celtic Connections @ Drygate Brewery, Glasgow, 7.30pm, £17.60.; March 21, CatStrand, New Galloway; Mar 22, Summerhall, Edinburgh; Mar 23, Perth Theatre; Mar 24, Eden Court, Inverness; Mar 25, The Old Bridge Inn, Aviemore; Mar 26, The Barn, Banchory; Mar 27, Tolbooth, Stirling; Mar 28, Eastgate Theatre, Peebles.

Navarasa: Nine Emotions is released on January 24 via Domino