Shared beats

Creative collaboration: The Three Seas in performance   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Collaborations are the future of the arts. Almost a decade ago, an Australian musician met with a few Indian artistes and today we have what is called The Three Seas, a band that fuses Australian jazz with Bangla folk music. And the result? Nothing but a soothing blend of the two genres. Bengal’s Baul tradition with its earthier tones have given this version of jazz a depth that only a few could have thought of.

Unique characterstics

Says Matt Keegan, the Australian composer, saxophonist and the Artistic Director of The Three Seas, “I had the idea on that first trip to Santiniketan in 2009. I thought that, in the hands of the right musicians, these sounds could all blend very well together. The unique characteristics stem from the instruments and the techniques involved in playing them.” The Bauls are mystics with a rich cultural heritage and their own language, movements and music style. Raju Das Baul, singer and khamak player, along with multi-instrumentalist Deo Ashis Mothey lead the vocals. Gaurab Chatterjee, the drummer, is a renowned artiste from Kolkata and founding member of Bengal’s rock band, Lakkhichhara. He is also fluent in traditional West Bengali folk percussion beats, and specialises in the dubki (hand drum). Australian double-bassist Steve Elphick is a master of jazz and fusion music.

“I am a saxophonist and composer who works in a variety of musical styles but I mainly enjoy creating new music with a diverse array of musical colleagues. The double bass is a wonderfully adaptable instrument that works well with the Indian instruments and my baritone sax has a deep voice that can blend nicely but can also really contrast the other instruments very well too,” says Keegan. Some of the Three Seas pieces are modern interpretations of the traditional Baul songs that celebrate this spirit. “For me, it is mainly the feeling I get from a particular place, person or situation that inspires my work as a composer. While reflecting on thoughts of these kind, I often hear music that is inspired by my feelings. The trick is to capture the music when you hear and feel it, before it disappears into the ether,” reflects Keegan.

Diverse nature

Their second album, “Fathers, Sons & Brothers” was recorded in Sydney while on their first tour of Australia in 2017.

“The music reflects the diverse nature of the band. The title track was composed by our drummer Gaurab Chatterjee, I contribute three originals compositions that put the focus on the baritone saxophone, we play two traditional Baul songs that feature Raju Das, and Ashish Mothey has brought an arrangement of a Carnatic song, a Nepali song and a rap in Hindi,” says Keegan.

At their recent Delhi concert, the Three Seas picked a selection of tracks from their two previous albums with some brand new material composed for their India tour as part of the ongoing Australia Fest.

As an artiste, Keegan says that it is imperative to seek and understand various cultures to encourage and uplift one’s own art. “As a non-Indigenous Australian, we have very young culture and therefore limited inspiration to draw from, so for me looking to other places for inspiration has been crucial to my understanding of how music works,” he says.

Less cultural baggage

But there are advantages of being a contemporary Australian musician as well. “There is less cultural baggage to negotiate and a freedom to look at music in possible naive ways, but with a fresh perspective. Making original music is what I love to do most. The Three Seas is born from my interest in combining new sounds with great people. These collaborations can only work if all the members come together with a sharing attitude and open heart,” sums up Keegan.

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Printable version | Jul 28, 2021 2:58:32 AM |

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