Jazz Music

German jazz collective Ragawerk on why India continues to inspire their musical influences

Guitarist-composer Max Clouth (L) and Martin Standke   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

German jazz collective Ragawerk (formerly known as Max Clouth Clan) is set to release its Live EP on December 4, based on its concert held right after the first pandemic lockdown in July, at Centralisation Darmstadt, a concert hall near Frankfurt.

The band’s guitarist-composer Max Clouth describes it over e-mail: “It was the first time we were playing music together in a while and realised how much we had missed it. All the pent-up energy discharged into the joy of playing and making the sound on this EP quite intense.”

The Indian subcontinent had been a second home for Max Clouth for three years (2009 to 2012) when he came to Mumbai to study Indian ragas. His trademark double-neck guitars, developed with Luthier Philipp Neumann, are based on Oriental and Indian string instruments oud or sarod. He returned to Germany in 2012 and formed a band with Frankfurt-based Martin Standke (drums), Peter Puskas (bass) and Georg Boessner (keyboard).

In fact, when the band unveiled its new name in August, it did so through jazz-fusion track ‘Face in the Sky’ recorded during their India tour in December 2019. Its video shot by filmmaker Niklas Doka on the roads between Germany and India alternates between foreground and background to highlight how perspectives change.

Exploring India as his muse, the composer is inspired from its people, food, sounds, smells and textures (“it has helped me evolve as a person and musician”). Having discovered jazz and Indian classical music in his late teenage years, he feels an inherent connection with both forms. “They are both largely based on improvisation - direct and intuitive,” he says, adding. “Everything about India inspires us and we try to capture that vibe — being in a different climate zone and surrounded by different dialects and atmospheres. What we missed the most this year is the Indian tour — the special vibe we experience while visiting different cities, meeting music lovers and the collaborators and musicians who make Ragawerk what it is.”

Edited excerpts from an interview:

Why did the band decide to change its name during this tough phase for music industry?

The band’s name change to Ragawerk mirrors our musical influences from Germany and India — Indian ragas and the German word ‘werk’ meaning ‘work’ or ‘factory’. The name Ragawerk brings an emphasis on us as a collective; our shared vision of creating music that draws listeners into spheres of soundscapes that bridges influences and contexts. Our music develops organically and through interactions; which is why everyone’s ideas contribute significantly to the final form.

Since we had been thinking about the name change for quite some time, we went ahead during the pandemic. The current health emergency brought with it many challenges, but on the bright side, it gave us a lot of time to reflect as artistes and as a collective. The name change gives an opportunity to evolve our sound, explore ideas, experiment, reinvent and embrace change. We can be less attached now to certain sounds/ideas and allow ourselves to flow.

The band is known to explore and integrate Indian and Western soundscapes...

Combining two worlds — German and Indian — is exciting. It’s not about harmonisation of two lands but a combination of two worlds that result in a unique and sometimes harmonic and dis harmonic synthesis. Incorporating guitar, drums, sitar, flute, tabla, and vocals lend to a unique West-East merging; a heady transfer and fusion of sounds. Over the past few years, we have given a lot of importance to artistic collaborations between us and Indian/local artistes to bring out the right flavour.

How is your new album, set to release in January 2021, shaping up?

It is work in progress, as things have been delayed due to the pandemic. We plan to record in January 2021 and release it in the summer of 2021. Hopefully by then it will be possible to go on a tour with the album. The reason we planned to release the Live EP in December is to shorten that wait time and let our audiences know that we are still creating the music that we are known for.

What are the efforts to revive live music industry scene in Frankfurt?

Some major shift is taking place across Germany as in the rest of the world. Performances happen now with strict rules and regulations, and limited audience. It is a difficult time for musicians and venue owners. We have been extremely lucky to have the government support musicians on projects. Unfortunately, as it is winter time in Europe, we can no longer hold outdoor events. Due to a rise in COVID-19 cases, all cultural events have been cancelled again since November. It is important for musicians to set the right precedent when it comes to live music events to make them safe and fun.

How did music help you wade through the pandemic?

Music has definitely made it easier on me during these past few months. That’s why people love listening to music in their everyday life; Composing music is my idea of soul searching. Off late, we have started to explore musical approaches that are derived from electronic music, such as loops and poly-rhythmic textures.

(Ragawerk’s Live EP releases on December 4 on Spotify and Apple Music and will be available on other streaming platforms)

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2021 12:20:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/german-jazz-collective-ragawerks-on-their-live-ep-and-why-india-continues-to-inspire-their-musical-influences/article33239687.ece

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