Yeah, right, there are some good musicians around! I've had the pleasure to tour India this year from January 21st to Feb.21st, in a quartet with Holger Jetter, a german violinist who is based in auroville for many years (he had a great career in Germany before that), and two Indian musicians, Keith Peters and Jeoraj George. Keith is an experienced electric bass player and Jeoraj a young and very talented drummer who has studied in London, but knows his roots in Indian music. We played in 9 cities, and the highlights for me were the Congo Square Jazzfest, for which we were the closing band this year, the audience really loved us there - and a small and
very nice and funky club in Delhi called "The Haze". Very relaxed atmosphere there, a very friendly owner and a great VOX tube amp on the really small stage that made playing there an extra pleasure for me.
I really hope to go back there some day!
India is close to my heart. I spent some time there co-composing and recording with some dear friends and Indian Classical musicians, Vishal and Ujwal Nagar. Vishal is a tabla virtuoso and his younger brother is rapidly becoming known for his baritone vocal (although I have to say he is also no slouch on the tablas). We co-composed and recorded all the Indian tracks for six songs. These Indian tracks ended up being used in an Indie movie featuring the Dalai Lama called "Dalai Lama Renaissance". Our music was played during scenes of traveling through the Indian countryside, so I was really kind of flattered by that. What a feeling it was when I watched scenes of His Holiness travelling in India and heard our music as the background! Anyway, then I came back to the states and put in all the western parts. I haven't premiered the material yet with them, but I am awaiting the opportunity. Some of this music will be featured on TJN next month.
The surface has barely been scratched in the field of east-west fusion. There's a group in the Pacific northwest here that combines Afro-Cuban and Indian Classical. They call it Indo-Cuban music. Other groups in India have been reaching out to. Check the JazzGoa network. And Ujwal works with a group called "Advaita" that has been getting good press in India.
There's definite challenges to Indian Jazz fusion. One is that jazz players love all their fancy chords and key changes. Indian music doesn't use chords or change keys. The way of counting rhythmic cycles is structured differently. Indian taals are counted in a different way than American measures. Microtones are central in Indian music, which, as you can imagine, presents challenges for a jazz piano player.
But there's ways to handle all these differences, and the common bond is improvisation. The result is something which I find the most exciting in music - the exploration of absolutely new musical territory. Some folks don't know what to make of it and that's OK - I just remind myself that many music critics also thought Thelonious Monk didn't know how to play his instrument in the beginning. The reality is that he was just hitting the listeners with stuff they had never heard before, so they didn't know how to categorize it.
And that is as it should be. Categories are always invented after the fact.
Jaijai, what a wonderful mission you've undertaken to create such a place for artistic minds to meet and share their hearts. A place to renew faded determinations, and revive lessened momentums. A place to display our wares and reconfirm to one another that we actually are on the right track.
I commend you, Jaijai, for caring so much that you created this castle of the heart for all of us. I want to share my praise for all of the new friends as well as old friends that I've met and will meet here in our castle. Here we can garnish the where-with-all, the strength, the conviction, and the selflessness through our symbiosis, to share our gift to the world with an unbiased agenda.
My mentor, Daisaku Ikeda says of art: "A beautiful flower delights and refreshes the hearts of all people equally, no matter what soil it grows in. That is the power of beauty. The same is true of great art. It is this spirit that the German poet Heinrich Heine sang of when he wrote that once the peapod bursts open, the sugar peas inside are for everyone to enjoy."