Four performers from different traditions came together to prove that innovative artistes of talent can blend together to make music that appeals to the head, the heart and the feet
On August 4, just two days after its concert presenting Ustad Aashish Khan and his concept of Indo-jazz, B Flat gave us another group that crossed musical boundaries. Conversations with the Wind, as the concert was called, featured Amit Nadig playing Carnatic flute alongside Pablo Salcedo from Argentina playing among other instruments the pan flute (a series of tubes of diminishing length and hence rising tone).
Accompanying the two flautists were Aman Mahajan on keyboards and Muthu Kumar on tabla and other percussion instruments, including bongos, congas, and the South American cajon, besides the conventional drum kit. For a couple of numbers they were joined by Priya Kalyanpur, a Hindustani vocalist and wife of Muthu Kumar.
The almost impromptu concert owed its origin at least partly to modern information technology. As Nadig, who did much of the announcing, explained, he and Salcedo connected on Facebook and he discovered that Salcedo was going to be in the country. After a brief exchange of messages they agreed to get together on the day.
Nadig assembled Mahajan and Muthu Kumar at short notice and “Conversations with the Wind” took shape after a short rehearsal.
The opening number was aptly called “Conversations with the Wind”. It was an improvisation developed in outline for the occasion in the rehearsal by the two flautists. There followed a composition of Salcedo called “I Want to Dance”, on which he played the theme and he and Nadig took turns improvising on it.
Priya joined the quartet for the next piece, called “Naina Lage re”, with a distinctly Hindustani but light classical feel to it. Priya and both the flautists took improvisations on this piece.
Salcedo next played a solo piece. The instrument he used this time was a very large flute with a deep tone, large enough to look like a truncated didgeridoo and sounding a lot like one, although unlike with a didgeridoo you could play plenty of notes with it.
The others returned for the next piece, which was called “Pursuit of Pleasure”, on which Salcedo led the proceedings by playing a solo intro.
After a short interval, Salcedo again played a solo piece which was unnamed. He followed this with a brief description of the several flutes he had been using, all of which including the Pan flute are South American. At least one of them looked and sounded like the usual flute, played in the usual way. Another looked like a hybrid between the conventional and Pan flutes, using two tubes of different lengths.
Priya returned for the next piece, a composition of Nadig called “Easy as Monday Morning”. Composed by Nadig, who explained that musicians are lucky in that they can choose the days of the week on which they work, it refers to fact that mostly after a hard-working Sunday they can afford to rest on Monday. Priya’s contribution to this number, evidently composed as an instrumental, was entirely a wordless improvisation juxtaposed with those of the instrumentalists.
For the next piece, “Extreme Peace”, dedicated to a deceased bassist called Prashanth, Salcedo was absent. One of the highlights of this number was a solo intro by Mahajan on which he had only Muthu for support. As if to compensate, on the next number Salcedo and Muthu had the field to themselves entirely.
A composition of Mahajan, “Sundance”, followed. Mahajan began this Celtic-sounding number by playing solo on a xylophone, joined in turn by Muthu and then the two flautists. Solo improvisations were taken in turn by Salcedo, Mahajan and Nadig.
Announced as the last number, it was followed by the inevitable encore, which started as a solo intro by Salcedo who then sang and played flute for a while Muthu gave a demonstration of the art of vocal percussion or konakol.
It brought to an end an evening in which four performers from different traditions – a US-trained jazz pianist, a Carnatic flautist, an improvising musician rooted in South American folk tradition, and a percussionist bridging various disciplines – came together to prove that innovative artistes of talent can blend together effortlessly to make music that appeals to the head, the heart and the feet.
The definition of jazz is broad enough to cover all of this, but it doesn’t matter what one called the music.