World musician Jean-Luc Thomas loves to weave a spell with the flute and share it with others

For world musician Jean-Luc Thomas, his deepest passion lies in the simple parody of nature he experiences and the people he encounters around him. “This is what I translate into the magic of the flute,” he says. The Celtic flute maestro was in the city recently to share some of this magic in a collaboration with Bangalore-based flautist Ravichandra Kulur. The concert, organised by Bhoomija at Windmills Craftworks, presented a beautiful journey of Indian and Celtic fusion music with drummer Arun Kumar, keyboardist Aman Mahajan and bass guitarist Prakash.

The Brittany-based Frenchman likes to call himself a voyager. “I love travelling and exploring new places and sounds.” He also listens to a lot of Indian classical music. “I know most classical musicians and their works. I am also discovering other forms of popular music. I am basically more interested in the connection of music through the flute which is what I do with Ravi as well.”

Recounting his experience with the Bangalore flute prodigy, Jean says he met Ravi just last July. “We played in a very intense collaboration at Rudolstadt in Germany. It was a annual festival which had its theme on the flute for the year. We were nine flute players from across the world. It was great fun. We were neighbours doing rehearsals in the concert and we could feel the sounds of our two flutes coming together well. So we decided to work together and bring something experimental that suits our two styles and flutes.

Looking back at his younger days, the 45-year-old flute maestro says his passion for the wind instrument began when he was 17. “I went to a concert and was awestruck by Irish flute legend Matt Molloy who used to play with The Chieftains. I couldn’t sleep for nights after that since I was amazed at this instrument. I couldn’t find anyone to guide me so I picked up a flute at a random shop. It wasn’t very good. But I started off.”

His musical journey kicked off with simple children’s songs and tunes. “Later I went on to the university where I met a singer who introduced me to all the traditional old masters. These were not classical masters. They were fantastic musicians who were also countryside farmers. I started learning and feeling all the melodies. After that I hitchhiked to Ireland which has a rich flute tradition. Little by little my repertoire grew and I started playing in traditional bands in Brittany.”

Jean wasn’t happy with just that. “I wanted to do something magical. Now I travel the world, teach music to kids and do various collaborations. I make connections with jazz, African, Indian and Arabic musicians. I also want to make my own signature in music,” adds the ambitious flautist.

On playing with Ravi, Jean says, “It’s the best thing we can do together apart from drinking chai - sharing knowledge and skills in music.”

Drawing inspiration from the strengths of people, he quotes a saying by one of his most famous collaborations with African flautist Yacouba Moumouni. Yacouba had told him that “We have nothing to do with each other – it’s just our flutes that fall in love with each other. We are just here to help them communicate.”

Jean goes on to say that his life is a garden with various plants growing. “These are all my collaborations. Now I am putting a new seed with Ravi and we work together in this garden.”

The Celtic musician doesn’t like to think too much in the future. “I’m still sure that one plus one does not equal two. Life is deeper than that. I only want to get better. I’m not a solo player. I play with people. My heart resonates with the global love for the flute and humanity. I love to play with good company. Not just good musicians, but also good people.”