Passing by Mishko M’Ba worships music and firmly believes Jaco Pastorius is God
Mr. Mishko M'Ba, his name resounds in alliterative delight as I waited for him on the wooded patio of Windmill Clockworks, a fine, dandy place, taking in the spacious scenery. A prime bassist of the jazz genre, a gifted musician and a true lover of music, Mishko spoke in a mix of English, some French and a shade of Hindi.
His dreads slither and sweep the floor and he eases burning curiosity when he says, “I have had my dreads since I was 10 years old. I have been playing music even before.” Mishko smiles a wide smile that stretches his face and shines through his eyes, his skin is weatherworn and brown.
At five he began with the clarinet after which he played drums and it was only at 18 that he picked up the bass guitar. Through the heavy folds of a French accent we understand an anecdote he shares about the moment of chance when a band was missing a bass player and his name was recommended, “Bass is in between drums and guitar,” he says nodding with me.
Mishko splits his time between France, Reunion Island and Pondicherry and performs with different bands in all these places. He was in the city for a tribute concert to jazz musician, Jaco Pastorius. For a musician who finds joy in collaborating across genres and crossovers, India was a beginning.
“In 2001 a singer said we’ll go to record in Mumbai. The tabla, sitar, khanjira – it was my first time in India and behind the doors I discovered a whole new world of music. There was so much difference between what I had learned and the classical pattern of music,” he says. “It’s like the two axes (of a graph). In the West, music is about harmony and chord plus chord plus chord, the music is vertical and leaves no room to expand. Classical music is without chords, and the time given to understand the music is more – the music is always moving,” he pauses and slowly confesses, “It is difficult to explain, but the point is to give good music to the listener.”
“India has a different way of music, after the aalap, the melody can start after 20 minutes – I’m not saying one is better than the other, both are complimentary to me and jazz and raga have some in common. The way of playing jazz and playing Indian classical music is not so far away. It’s the same mind, melody and then improvisation of rhythm; jazz is like that; expose one melody and then improvise on that melody,” explains Mishko.
About Jaco Pastorius, Mishko says, “I’m not a believer but he is my God. He was such a clever musician he changed the way of thinking the bass and his music is infinite. He is a special musician for me, the best ever and after I met him in Paris I listened to him so much that I had to stop because he was such a great influence in my music – he would be playing in my head all the time.”
Music comes naturally to him, a way of life to put it simply, “Music is my life, my passion since I was a baby. In India I found meaning in music. Music can help people live together, with music I can be everywhere and in music we can understand each other,” he says. His thoughts are disjointed and have no flow but sit unified by its subject – music. “It has a lot of meaning – you can say things and explain things, your feelings – happiness or sadness, it is the same as poetry – the buddhi understands and you start to listen. Music brings people together and in that moment it’s just music. I’m not a believer but I believe in music and use it to bring different people together.”
CATHERINE RHEA ROY