Bombay Showcase

A continuation of the full circle

There’s total silence at guitarist Sanjay Divecha’s Deonar flat. You can’t even hear the birds, bees or honking cars. “This is the perfect place for a hermit like me,” he says. “It’s quite removed from society, but I find peace here. It’s home,” he beams.

In the drawing room, a cardboard box is filled with copies of Divecha’s new album, Sanjay Divecha & Secret , which will be launched on Thursday. He hands over a copy and says, “Before we listen, here’s something tangible.” And then music envelops the air.

It’s not jazz, as one would expect from Divecha, whois identified more with the genre. Rather, it’s a Kannada song ‘Ota’, sung in its pure form by Chandana Bala but accompanied by a global guitar and percussion sound. Seven tracks follow. Barring the instrumental ‘Secret’, all have vocals, in languages as diverse as Sanskrit, Hindi, Malayalam, Oriya and Assamese. “This is the real me,” he says. “I trained in sitar for five years. Later, I switched to rock and folk music. When I went to learn guitar in Los Angeles, I was exposed to jazz, Latin music and the blues. I have always loved jazz, mainly for its scope for improvisation, but I always came back to Indian music, both Hindustani and Carnatic.”

Brought up in Mumbai, 54-year-old Divecha returned from the US in 2003. In 1989, he graduated from the Guitar Institute of Technology where he studied with ace guitarists Scott Henderson, Joe Diorio and Robben Ford. He has also played with luminaries like Carlos Santana, drummer Dave Weckl and singer Angélique Kidjo.

“I had actually come on a holiday, and never knew I would settle down here,” he says. “But it was the best decision I took, as it helped me get back to my roots. India has such a rich culture, and I wanted to create a seamless blend between our music and sounds from other regions. In fact, India has given me my own identity.”

His first step towards transcending these genres was the 2008 album Full Circle , which featured singers Kailash Kher, Kunal Ganjawala and Nandini Srikar, bassist Karl Peters and percussionists Ranjit Barot and Taufiq Qureshi.

The new album, he says, is largely a continuation of Full Circle , but, “This time, I wanted to give it a more acoustic and organic sound. I would concentrate more on acoustic guitar and though I have used a drum kit on three tunes, the focus is on hand drums.”

Divecha began working on this project three years ago. While he had a rough draft in mind, the main challenge was to find appropriate musicians for the right band. “I first met Chandana through Taufiq, and she seemed perfect as she’s deeply aware of both North and South Indian classical music styles,” he says. “In fact, she has been my source for Carnatic music.”

And then the time came to choose the percussionist. “I wanted someone who could play a cross-section of instruments,” says Divecha. “I suddenly heard Sanket Naik. Besides tabla, he can play the cajón, djembe, duff, darbouka and shakers. He also understands the swing required in global music.”

For bassist, Divecha chose Sonu Sangameswaran, with whom he had played before.

“While writing the tunes, I figured we would need another voice,” he says. “While discussing this with musician friends, Raman Mahadevan’s name came up. I heard him and he seemed the ideal choice.”

Keyboardist Louiz Banks, drummers Gino Banks and Kurt Peters and a host of other musicians put in guest appearances.

In the live sessions, keyboardist Indrajit Sharma a.k.a. Tubby will join the band on stage. “The concert renditions will have a different feel, but that’s going to be my focus,” says Divecha. “I really want to take this music to various countries as it’s so Indian in soul and global in sound. Many people may categorise it as world music, but if someone close to me asks, I would simply say it’s ‘music’. Why brand it?”

After we chat, Divecha offers a tour of his home. In the hall, a rack full of CDs looks like a music aficionado’s delight. His studio is filled with a variety of guitars and computer software. A balcony bubbles with potted plants. From all four sides, one can see the hustle, bustle and chaos of Mumbai … but it’s a comfortable. There’s that feather-drop silence. Yes, it’s a perfect place for a musical hermit like Divecha.\

The Last Set: Sanjay Divecha & Secret:Today, 9.30 p.m., Blue Frog. Entry is free.

The author is a freelance music writer

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Printable version | Mar 3, 2021 1:07:06 AM |

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