Friday, Aug 18, 2006
Pulav, pani puri and veena
photo: sampath kumar g.p.
Around five years ago, jazz pianist Robert Wright listened to the veena
and fell in love with its sound
EAST AND WEST Robert Wright was in India to jam with Geetha Navale on the
"I love the gamaka
aspect of Indian music, the modulations sound superb, the variations are
unbelievable," said the English jazz pianist, poet and electronics engineer
Robert Wright at Allaince Francaise recently, who works from his
state-of-the-art studio at Seattle in the U.S. "Be it your peas pulav, pani puri,
or Abheri raga, everything bowls me over," the musician gushes.
Wright was in
India as he jammed with Geetha Navale on the classical veena, and B.N. Ramesh on
mridanga in the `The Rubber World Concert' brought by Guruskool at the Alliance
Francaise. The interesting aspect of the exercise was the seamless blend of
piano and veena one with absolute keyboard straight notes and the other, a
stringed gamaka instrument. "That's the reason we wanted to unite and enjoy the
aural mixture of different regions," says Wright.
It was around five
years ago that Wright was stung by the melody-bug of the veena when he first
heard Geetha's concert at the U.S. and the passion just transformed into a
fusion album of spontaneous music `Rubber World' recorded in a week's time.
fusion did contain a few numbers from the album and also had solo jazz vocals by
Wright. Raga Malahari in Maya was
unfolded in both the genres. With some generous notes played by Geetha in
variations from the initial swara exercises of Carnatic music, the jazz part of
it touched on the straight notes and meandered on the scales creating
`illusions' of the coming together of geography and the mediums. The ebb and
flow of the notes inBlues, "Don' t Fall Down Easily" came as a surprise
package, who are more into fusions. Raga Margahindola, soft and pliable, handled
by Geetha with "Chalamelara" had long pauses even as the slow-paced gaps were
being aesthetically filled over with chord patterns on the scale by Wright. "The
other side of the town" written and sung by Wright, speaks of the grass, streets
and people being better on the other side of the town. Is that the reason why
Wright was here in Hamaara Bharat? The number, "Blondes in black cars" sounded
thunderous as they jammed in Abheri. But that isn't the end of ragas for Wright.
He dotes on Mayamalavagowla as he finds an eastern touch of Arabic intersperse
in the notes. "I like the A harmonic minor that is fused in a lot of your
scales," says the amused engineer. "Shankarabharanam rocks, I can play for hours
on the wonder scale," he says, even as he speaks of taking up elementary swara
lessons in India and is keen on learning laya patterns on tabla and mridanga.
Wright recalls: "I
wanted to be a rock and pop guitar musician. I was briefly associated with bands
in Seattle and Phoenix. But after my experiments with the piano that my parents
had fondly bought for me, and the other world influences of esoteric jazz, I
started practising on it feverishly." The self-taught man went on to release
several albums of his jazz piano later, "Man Standing" and "Towers of Love"
hitting the charts in the U.S.
If all that speaks
of the melody-and-poetry embedded in the self-taught man, the engineering part
is equally stunning. Wright, a consultant for Boeing, was associated with
avionics and worked with the cockpit control systems and designed the
communications system for Boeing 767, 777 and 737.
Just back from the
World Womad Festival, spearheaded by Peter Gabriel at Reading (near London) the
pianist is looking forward to African and Indian music fusions, along with Wild
African drums infused with the mild thumps of Indian percussion. "I straddle in
many worlds," he says, even as he mentions his website www.rawpro.com for
getting into the arts.