Carola Grey travelled the world and found true love in Indian music. The result is Meeting of the Continents, Indian jazz fusion, performed with her band Noisy Mama, writes Pankaja Srinivasan
Date: November 10
Venue: PSG College of Arts and Science
Time: 7.30 p.m.
Genre: Indian Jazz Fusion
She is regarded as one of Germany’s most famous modern drummers. In 2010 she became the only woman to be part of German Drum Heroes, the 25 best German drummers selected by the magazine Drum Heads. She has collaborated with musicians such as Mike Stern, Ravi Coltrane, Rocco Prestia, Larry Coryell, Jeff Berlin and Stu Hamm. She is also a composer, arranger and a singer. Carola Grey’s CDs have made it to the top 10 of the US Gavin Jazz Charts and have won many awards. She has travelled the world and in India she has been studying South Indian music under the tutelage of Padma Bhushan T.V. Gopalakrishnan. Carola Grey performs with her band Noisy Mama at The Hindu Friday Review November Fest. The concert is supported by Goethe Zentrum.
Excerpts from an interview:
When were you first exposed to Indian music?
My first encounter with Indian music was in 1996 when the great T.V. Gopalkrishnan invited me to (then) Madras to perform with his ‘Carnatic Jazz Project’. He had heard my first CD, a modern Jazz one, that I recorded in New York City in the early 90s, and he spontaneously invited me to India and that was it! Working with him and hearing great Indian music started as a passion; now it is an important part of my life.
What attracted you to Indian music?
If I have to analyse it, I would say: ‘The combination of intellectual challenge and the transportation of emotions at the same time.’ More simply, it hit me when I first heard it. I felt the same way when I first heard Miles Davis. Like a little kid at Christmas — somewhere between laughter and tears and excitement. Then again, at a Yesudas concert. I have to fall in love first, and more the attraction, the more I learn.
What made you take up the drums?
I actually started to play classical piano at the age of four and was very serious about it, practising many hours a day. When I came into my rebellious teens, I wanted to stop. But my mother made a deal with me: I could take up another instrument if I continued with the piano. Of course, I picked the loudest, most annoying instrument I could find just to mess with her… I never expected to fall in love with it, but it happened. I started to play in various bands, and after high school I went to study Jazz drums and then moved to New York to work as a Jazz drummer.
Tell us about your Konnakol experience…
I remember my first rehearsal with T.V.G. I came in, expecting to work on the instruments. But everybody just sat on the floor and did the konnakol (vocal percussion) together. It blew my mind and I was in shock trying to figure out what do with the drum kit and all those syllables.
Nowadays, everything I do, no matter what style, I transfer it to Konnakol in my head. That has totally changed and improved my way of thinking about rhythms. It was quite a challenge to perform it or develop any kind of speed as I come from Bavaria where the dialect is very lazy. We are famous for not opening our mouth unless it is absolutely necessary and we avoid wasting energy by talking fast and just leave out half of the consonants. Not very Konnakol friendly!
What can the audience expect from your music?
An official response would be ‘a blend of solid Jazz rock and funk grooves, combined with the sophisticated intricacies of Indian rhythms. My music uses Indian ragas as well as Western harmonics and melodics’. But, in simpler words, I want my music to be an experience for body and mind. It should be accessible, groovy and fun and with something deeper. Both, modern Jazz and Indian classical music are very deep and intellectually developed art forms and that is why I find them fascinating. So, I am trying not to lose that, and am combining the two worlds with as much knowledge and respect as possible.
Do share some anecdotes about your work with Indian musicians. You have worked with classical musicians as well as a Bollywood music director…
My first tour in 1996 with T.V.G. is engraved in my memory. T.V.G. Sir is someone who likes to keep you on your toes. Just when you think you know something well, he changes everything, preferably on stage!
Working in the studio with modern movie producers is very similar to the work at home. The procedure, working with backing tracks and clicks is the same. But working with old school music directors, who often composed music on the spot in the studio and kept throwing stuff at you that you had to play perfectly on the spot, was an experience. I have to admit, that in combination with complex Indian structures, it had me in quite a sweat!
Napier Peter Naveen Kumar
Facebook at Friday Review November Fest