This weekend, Hyderabad Western Music Foundation (HWMF) celebrates its 10th anniversary with a concert by Nandighosha, the newly formed Indian spiced jazz/ world music group in Switzerland. The team of musicians comprises Bijayashree Samal (vocals) Bruno Steffen (piano, synth, programming, harmonium) , Ekkehard Sassenhausen (saxes), Beat Gisler (bass) and Samir Böhringer (drums). For the concert, the group will perform original pieces and traditional compositions and blends jazz with Indian classical music.
While the group has performed in Switzerland, it is looking forward to its shows in Germany and France later this year. In an interview, Bijayashree, a music teacher and composer shares the excitement of performing in Hyderabad for the first time and how the audience can look forward to soulful and pure music produced by musicians from different parts of the world.
Tell us about the group Nandighosha?
Nandighosha is formed by me, Bruno, a well-known jazz pianist, composer, arranger and music teacher of Conservatory of Zurich (MKZ) and at the ZHDK and well-known classical and jazz saxophonist Ekkehard Sassenhausen (principal of Musikschule Uster Greifensee, Switzerland). The name ‘Nandighosha’ meaning ‘Joy of Music’ signifies the group’s interest and effort to produce original music and combine different world music genres for a global audience. The name has also a connection with my native place Odisha; the chariot of Lord Jagannath of Puri is called Nandighosha and the Ratha Yatra held there stands for universal brotherhood, unity and integrity. We share the same emotion behind our music.
How did the band take off?
Although I was a Hindustani vocalist, I am an avid listener of different styles of music. When I moved to Switzerland in 2006, interactions with musicians from different parts of the world took place through concerts, workshops and music festivals. This was followed by collaborations. However, I was keen to work on original music and produce something for the world audience. I shared this idea with Bruno. Initially as an experiment, he featured me in his jazz band where we presented our first original piece ‘Rasika Balama.’ The first concert was a great success.
How do you describe the music produced by the band?
The band works on Indian compositions (originals as well as traditional) in connection with western harmonic music to infuse colours of jazz on Indian melodies and vice-versa. All the original compositions are by me and Bruno. The focus is to produce good and soulful music for a world audience and not for any particular country or genre. Though we have our fixed members/musicians, we are open to collaborations with other artists.
What is the inspiration?
Music is given to me by the Supreme Lord is an inspiration in itself. I believe a creative person — be it an artist, musician or dancer is blessed as he/she has the capacity to create something which is unique, original and which the world might like. Even if it is for a moment, artistes create joy as they have the power to touch somebody’s soul. I am also driven by the same mantra of life.
What are the challenges in musicians of different styles coming together?
Initially it was difficult as it was time consuming to understand each other’s working style. We all are musically educated in different ways so it was bound to happen. We are in unison now. Challenges are common in life and in any creative field but it helps one to learn many things. In fact, I can give you an example: Western musicians work on scripted/noted lead sheets and Indian musicians improvise in ragas/or compositions. Working on raga-based compositions is not just difficult to write on lead sheets but is immensely time-consuming too.
Are people in Switzerland aware of India’s music and its vibrancy?
I was doing my doctorate in Chemistry when I came to Switzerland soon after my marriage in 2006. I was sure that living in a foreign land will give me no scope to take my music further. However, Switzerland surprised me by providing many opportunities, thanks to its culture of embracing diverse cultural identities and ethnicities. One would be surprised to see the Swiss pursuing Indian classical music and dance; They like our Bollywood music as well. The Swiss absolutely love many things about India; be it food, clothes, historical places or Indian festivals. I am happy that I am in a country where I can follow my passion; I get the opportunity and support just as I would in India.
How excited are you to perform in Hyderabad?
We are extremely happy to perform in this hi tech city, which is also home to many historical places