Valentine's Day is around the corner. Pick up your clubs and your trishul shaped knives and lets set the world right. Lets set the world right back by a couple of hundred years in the name of upholding the Ram Sena values. But I digress.
Let me try again. It’s so easy to fall in love, It’s so easy to fall in love, and “easy” seems to be the flavor of the month. February 2009 continues to remain the month of Slumdog Millionaire, with the whole world putting forth a whole gamut of falling in love responses to it. I am not going to go into that discussion other than register that for anyone who discovered A.R. Rahman post slumdog, a journey into his earlier works, Roja, Dil Se, Rangeela, Bombay, Jeans, just to mention a few off the top of my head, are a must listen in order to appreciate the genius of the man. Oh Boy!!
What I am going to hold a light to is the other “India” story brewing, that of Miles Davis. With Gino Banks, Louiz Banks, Ravi Chari, Rakesh Chaurasia, Selva Ghanesh, Sikki Gurucharan, Dilshad Khan, Shankar Mahadevan, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Brij Narain, Sridhar Parthasarathy, Taufiq Qureshi, Badal Roy, Kala Ramnath, U. Shrinivas, A. Sivamani and Vikku Vinayakram joining the likes of Ron Carter, John McLaughlin, and Chick Correa, for the express purpose of interpreting the legacy of Miles Davis, what else can one expect but a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Jazz album.
While for many young Indians, fusion music started with Shakti, the first steps were really taken in the times of John Coltrane and Miles Davis with their seminal innovative world citizen spirits seeking out the spirituality that they sought in their music. And you had the spin offs from the bitches brew, Chick Correa, John McLaughlin, Santana, down to our own Ravi Shankar and Ananda Shankar.
Miles from India is not one of those fusion acts where the band steps back to accommodate the paced intricacies of Indian classical soloists, not one of the Jethro Tull backs Anoushka, or the sarod concertos, or one where a McLaughlin imbues his acoustic guitar with the descending whims of northern ragas, not the celesta on Everyday. This is Wallace Roney matching the Silent Way of Rudresh Mahanthappa, Taufiq Qureshi provoking Badal Roy into melody, this is Kala Ramnath breaking publicly into song, and Robert Irving and Adam Holzman resurrecting the spirit of Joe Zawinul.
Floating point, also contending for the Best Contemporary Jazz album, is McLaughlin working with many of the Indian performers on Miles from India but with a lesser impact. One reason for that could be the fact that in spite of his adapting to Indian musical sensibilities as a theorist, John’s ouvre centers around showcasing his own brilliance. This fortunately is not the case with Miles From India, a work of true jazz collaboration.
And wait, there is more. Apart from these two Grammy frontrunners, we also have Debashish Bhattacharya gunning for the Best Contemporary World Music Album with his customized slide guitar (what else does one call them?) odyssey titles Calcutta Chronicles, which also has competition in the same category from live recordings of octogenarian Indian Classical vocalist, Lakshmi Shankar’s, this one called Dancing in the Light. (Debbie Harry, there still is hope for us!)
I am going to have a real good weekend, since a lot of the decision at awards such as these are influenced by complex and important factors that go beyond mere creative or artistic value. And for me, there is an emotional component too. I cant get over the fact that after Ravi Shankar, perhaps the one Indian music name Grammy watchers will recall will be that of Vihswamohan Bhatt (Pandit VB, if you please). So whether it is AR Rahman, Louiz Banks, Mandolin Srinivas or Taufiq Qureshi, serious innovation will be the winner, not the sales and marketing paintball called India. And in case none of the four make it, I will make sure I don’t feel the pain. Peggy Sue got married, didn't she? I will wait for the Oscars.
I must confess, a lot of this post is subtext to the Buddy Holly story that featured on the greatest cover podcast ever, Brian Ibbott's Coverville, an episode that was on my headset while I was writing this. Love you, Brian.