An Affair to remember

Sandeep Chowta is only the second Indian to break into the US Billboard charts with A Foreign Affair, his collaborative venture with American band Spyro Gyra. The music composer talks to The Guide about the album and working with the Jazz-fusion legends

It's a collaboration that couldn't be short of a magical sonic alliance. Jazz-fusion legends Spyro Gyra and India's musical maestro Sandeep Chowta have come together on the band's newest album, A Foreign Affair. Chowta has written and co-produced a sublime composition, Khuda on the album. After weeks of ruling international charts (including a debut at #2 on the US Billboard Charts), the album is set for its India release on October 29. The Bollywood music director tells us more about the collaboration.

Bollywood music composer, Sandeep Chowta

What brought about this collabora-tion with Spyro Gyra?

I've been a fan of Spyro Gyra's work since I was in school, back when people were listening to Abba and Boney M! About eight years ago, when I started working on my album Matters of the Heart, I met musicians in Los Angeles and New York, one of whom was Spyro Gyra's keyboardist Tom Schuman, one of my favourite musicians. He performed on a track on my album, and later, so did Jay Beckenstein and another band member.

Grammy Award-winning band Spyro Gyra

We became friends and stayed in touch. Then, one fine day, Jay asked me to write a song for them. They liked the first track I sent but said, "It's very Spyro. We want something that's very you." Khuda was the second track I sent; they fell in love with it and with Arijit Singh's vocals on it.

How would you describe the sound of the track?
The beauty is the synergy -- it sounds like Spyro Gyra, and yet they've retained the melody and musical elements of my composition. They've even retained the Hindi lyrics, a first for Spyro Gyra. They didn't know what the words (by lyricist Shabbir Ahmed) meant, but felt it sounded spiritual and full of love -- and that's exactly what the song is about.

Were there many instances of creative tug-of-war?
With collaborations, it's possible that somebody's aesthetics will get compromised but not in this case. I remember there was a solo by the great Schuman that had some notes in an Arabic type of scale; there's a tendency to inject an Arabic flavour into Indian tracks. I mentioned this to him and he said, "I'm sorry. I should change it." I said, "No, Khuda is a Persian word, so there is an Arabic connection anyway." But he changed it. That's how they are -- they want you to be satisfied as a composer. They were wonderful and made me feel like part of the family. It was a dream come true for me.

When will your much-anticipated album hit the stores?
It'll be out at the end of November. The album has been in the making for eight-and-a-half years and then it spent one year in cold storage! A Foreign Affair debuted at number two on the Billboard charts; that means a lot of people would have heard Khuda. So this is the right time to bring out Matters of the Heart. It's very melodic, like ballads without vocals, and features 45 great musicians from all over the world, including Jazz and Rock musicians and some Indian musicians, including Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt. It's something I'll take to my tombstone.

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