Letting the Sparks fly...

A CELEBRATED multi-percussionist who has performed with a host of musicians from different countries, Pete Lockett is touring India with his Network of Sparks - a multi-genre musical experience. `Leader' is not how Pete would describe his role. "This is musical democracy," he clarifies.

The performance features Indian celebrity percussionist V. Selvaganesh, Ghanian multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Nana Tsiboe, British composer and percussionist Simon Limbrick, and members of the popular Indian band Mrigya. Having performed at the British Council in New Delhi this past week, they are off to Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai for performances and workshops in the coming days.

For people from diverse musical traditions to create an integrated performance requires something beyond technical virtuosity. Yet it is not a compromise, avers Pete. This music is "about the integrity and honesty and respect of these different types of music. It's about human interaction."

Pete, Nana and Simon regularly work as a team, though they also spearhead projects of their own. As the Network of Sparks they perform across the world, collaborating with other musicians and creating a different experience each time - a quality that might be termed the only constant in the fluidity of world music.

Pete Lockett.

Pete Lockett.  

Nana, who plays the Ghanian thumb piano apart from balafon and other African percussion instruments, feels this confluence of styles opens up myriad possibilities and dismantles an insular worldview. This music is "for future listeners" who "needn't be trapped in a small area of rock and roll" which many have been confined to since the 1950s. Nobody need feel, for example, that "triangle with tuba" or "sarod with an African drum" cannot be viable combinations, he says, pointing out: "Sometimes little statements can make big reading."

The present project came about through Pete's longstanding interest in Indian music.

"It's been one of my big studies," recounts the musician who started off playing the drum kit and has learnt tabla under Yusuf Ali Khan and Shib Shankar Ray, besides mridangam, kanjira, nattuvangam and konnakol - rhythmic recitation - under Karaikudi Krishnamurthy. "I've always wanted to work with Selva," he says of the famous Chennai-based young musician, son of the ghatam wizard T.H. `Vikku' Vinayakram.

For Pete what is important is not musical training or technique, but the emotions a musician tries to convey. He cites music makers who call themselves "sound sculptors", saying: "Music is not about technique but about attaining a route to what you want to convey."

Selvaganesh agrees. "I would say every music is about feeling," he offers, adding that Indian music is basically devotional. Dedication is essential, and your music reflects how you are as a person. So for a musical collaboration to work, "you have to feel from the heart."

Pete who has worked "in every sort of Indian school" in Britain including Tamil and Rajasthani, as well as a Bangladeshi institution, has had ample opportunity to observe the increasingly visible efforts of Arts Councils and educational bodies across Britain to foster multi-cultural education and exposure to minority art traditions.

He laughs as he recalls how at his arangetram - debut performance of South Indian percussion - in London in the early `90s, where hardly a non-Indian turned up, he was mistaken for the theatre's caretaker.

"The only thing I would like to see is for communities to mingle more," he muses. "Partly that's what this music is about too, for communities to share their life and culture."

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