TCT: As a musician, would you consider it important to have definitions of your music? The way it is defined today, is that limiting in any way?
I totally think so, though I don’t think about it at all. Seriously, categorization was created to put product (LPs/tapes/CDs) on shelves for record stores. As a musician and a creative person, it tends to stifle you artistically. The less you think about it, the freer the expression!
TCT: Could you talk about your latest album, Voyage? What was the inspiration?
Voyage is a metaphorical journey through various regions whose music has inspired me over the last few years. I have never travelled to Algeria or Mali, but I have soaked myself in that music for a long time now.
I’ve always been fascinated by music from other cultures. Not pop music, but indigenous and folk music from different parts of the world. Magreb or Ganawa from North Africa is one such music that I have been attracted to; also music from Mali is really rich and is considered the birthplace of the blues. In order to fuse two different cultures, one must be introspective and go deep into its origin, or else it can start sounding a bit clichéd. I try and spend a few years listening and, if possible, travelling to the place to really get a vibe of the music.
TCT: How would you describe the current music scene in India? How different is it from other regions?
The Indie music scene is just five to seven years old. The music culture has to mature, and for that we need certain infrastructural elements in place, such as venues and music schools. Once we have these in place, this is inevitable. Indian musicians have to see themselves performing on an international stage and evaluate their music based on international yardsticks. We cannot work in a vacuum. I think there is tremendous potential. We are at the cusp of something very big that will happen in the next 10-15 years.
Without the relevant infrastructure, like venues, copyright protection for artists, artist management and booking agencies, the scene cannot take off. All these elements are essential catalysts for the inevitable launch that is not too far away…
TCT: Could you share a little about your current project(s)?
I’m currently working on what sounds like Voyage Part 2, though the sound will be completely different to the first one. It’s still in the early days, but it is really exciting as I have a band that I’m touring with and they influence how and what I’m writing.
TCT: To what extent does your partner influence your work?
Thank you for allowing me to score brownie points with my wife! She is a tremendous source of inspiration, as she is an excellent writer in Hindi and Urdu. She also has a wide knowledge of music that is sometimes outside my purview.
TCT: What is your take on the fusion of Indian classical music with Western music.
A lot of it is really cheesy and mediocre; this has nothing to do with the musicianship of the classical musicians, as most of them are masters in their own right. It’s the interpretation of what is ‘Western’ that is questionable. Indian music lacks harmony, and to make it work with Western harmony requires a lot of time and understanding of both cultures. Easier said than done.
TCT: How has the journey been so far as a composer and producer? What advice would you like to give to aspiring independent musicians?
It has been quite an incredible journey not just artistically but even my years of setting up BlueFrog has been instrumental in my growth as a musician and human being. Life is all about having diverse and challenging experiences and channeling those through your art.
So my advice to anyone starting out today is – travel and live your life outside music, and don’t be afraid of taking risks and learning new things. Start many adventures!
Interview for Culture Trip Mumbai by Aritra Chakrabarty