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The Welshman's wells

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MULTIPLE PERSPECTIVES A common inclination to look at music from a range of cultures brings Dylan Fowler and Konarak together Photo: K. Gopinathan
MULTIPLE PERSPECTIVES A common inclination to look at music from a range of cultures brings Dylan Fowler and Konarak together Photo: K. Gopinathan

To go out and come back home to find something precious in your own roots is true music, Welsh musician Dylan Fowler tells PRASHANTH G.N. The Park is hosting an acoustic performance tomorrow featuring him along with our own Konarak Reddy

Welsh guitarist Dylan Fowler carries a compelling philosophical approach to music that must inform much of his playing. "I look to be free, to express myself. I look to freedom in music. But I understand that I need to learn the craft, the instrument... that there is discipline. I think as musicians you want both - to be free and to be in the craft."Fowler then is naturally an artiste who moves back and forth, in receiving and in the making of music, and who by this movement, builds a repertoire that is necessarily layered - technically and aesthetically. It is as part of this movement, a journey away from his moorings that Dylan Fowler will perform here with another well-known guitarist, Konarak Reddy. Bangalore will see yet another intimate, acoustic performance at The Park on January 29 much like the earlier one that saw Peter Finger and Konarak jamming.

Meeting of minds

Fowler is naturally happy to be performing with a guitarist of another country and culture even if he knows they belong to the same body of world music. Konarak happened to meet him at the International Guitar Night organised by Peter Finger in Germany recently. Playing at the fest, Konarak and Fowler discovered they had much to share and explore. They even played together for a while in Germany and were happy for themselves. Konarak immediately invited Fowler to perform in India. "Both of us are different personalities, but I think we connect, essentially because both of us have the same inclination to look at music from a range of cultures," Konarak observes. "I would first travel listening to music and eventually I travelled as a musician...I started by working outwards and coming around and looking inwards, trying to understand music from where you come from," offers Fowler.He is pointing to the roots he and Konarak agree all musicians have, even while incorporating world influences. "World music is what we have experienced in our lives. But the world where we have learnt from also has roots." Fowler is from Abergavenny, Wales, and plays Welsh folk, Balkan and Celtic music. While he also plays the piano, guitar and woodwind, he is focused on the guitar. And brings the sound and tone of the piano and harp into his guitar. The piano and harp sense come from jazzman Bill Evans and Llio Rhydderch, his heavy influences. He is also intensely fond of Egberto Gismonte, Miles Davis, Giles Jarrett, the Polish accordionist Vanya Bronislav, and Bosnian singer Tea Hodzic. He has also seen funk, jazz funk and rock. In Fowler's most popular composition, "Ffynnon (Ofor's) Well" is his perspective on roots - Celtic/Welsh. The composition is on (water) wells in a mining town that did not afford opportunities for a musician to work, except in the mines and railway yards. So, having travelled away from there, Fowler comes back to discover wells that contained water and Celtic mythology. "The wells did have water, but magic too. The culture held it that people and animals would long appear and disappear in these wells. I thought I discovered a jewel right in my home, right where I lived. You go, you come back and you find something." Music to Fowler is about going and coming back and forth. There are also ways other than in cultural terms, that this inclination for music beyond regulation, works for Fowler. "I write on the piano," he says, "and I see how I can play it on the guitar. It stops me from going into clichés. When I write a piece, it could just come out of the instrument. I am free there. Or I could write a piece and work out how it plays on the instrument. These are two different disciplines, but I suppose both happen." However produced, for Fowler music is there to be given away."The faculty of sharing music is important to me because that is how music happens. Music is not only performance. Something is shared; there's a dialogue. People take away something."Much as he speaks eloquently, Fowler doesn't think music is in the words. When you press him on he could say something for the record. "The sensibility is in how you play. In your music. Somewhere you can't seem to find the words. You can't talk about it. It's what you feel and what you express." He isn't a man for easy frames, easy regulations, easy rules. When a student asked him how long he would take to learn the guitar, Fowler told him: "If you're lucky, you may never get to the end of it."

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