Dhruv Ghanekar’s first album Distance released in 2009. And now, the music composer, guitarist and singer is ready with his second album Voyage, which he plans to release soon. A seamless blend that brings together music from North and West Africa, jazz, pop, Assamese and Rajasthani folk and even classic rock, Ghanekar has got award-winning international artist Raul Midon, French/Cameroonian bassist Etienne M’Bappe, Algerian drummer Karim Ziad, Mauritian bassist Linley Marthe, percussionist Trilok Gurtu, Ila Arun, Kartik Das Baul from West Bengal and Vasudha Sharma to lend their musical prowess to this collaborative effort.
Dhruv Ghanekar’s upcoming album Voyage has a West African, Arabic, Indian, jazzy, folk and pop rock vibe to it
On a Tuesday afternoon, when we meet the musician at his studio in Khar, we expect to hear music, which would leave us spellbound, and we aren’t disappointed. Vasudha Sharma and Ghanekar’s Sway with Me is a beautiful ballad that makes us sway our heads in sync with the music. The latter tells us that this song is special to him. “It has a certain universality of emotion that transcends the romantic pop song idiom,” he says. Excerpts from a chat with him:
Q. When did you conceive the idea for Voyage?
A. Over the past few years, I’ve been listening heavily to music from North Africa — Maghreb or Gnawa, as it’s called in that region and also music from West Africa (Mali). The music left a deep impression on me as I began to find similarities in their rhythms and melodies with North Indian music. In the beginning, I was just curious about how it would sound to juxtapose a Rajasthani melody over that rhythm or an Assamese voice over something else. Slowly those conversations in my head turned louder and began to consume me. Then I began actively pursuing the idea of working with musicians from that region and fusing them with Indian melodies.
Q. How was the experience of fusing the elements together?
A. Due to my commitments to my commercial work, it was difficult for me to find time to compose music for this album. But the flip side is that I always believe that production values improve when you have the luxury of time. The music has been recorded over the past few years in various studios in Mumbai, Paris and Los Angeles.
Q. You have worked with some very talented musicians from across the globe. Can you tell us a bit about these artistes?
A. French/Algerian drummer extraordinaire Karim Ziad was on top of my list of people that I wanted to work with for a long time. Mauritian-French bassist Linley Marthe was a logical choice as both, Karim and him, had toured together with Joe Zawinul.
Raul Midon is a genius singer-songwriter from NYC who agreed to sing for the project after he heard the song that I wrote for him. French/Cameroonian master bassist/vocalist Etienne Mbappe jumped on board to play on a couple of tracks on his visit to Mumbai. Grandmaster percussionist Trilok Gurt, with whom I have performed with a few years ago, also guests on the title track. I have collaborated with Ila Arun in the past on a folk-rock project and she features in a song as well.
Q. Can you give us a feel of the music of Voyage?
A. This album has a West African, Arabic, Indian, jazzy, folk and pop rock vibe to it. The song Zawi D is really a tribute to Joe Zawinul who died a few years ago and has been a huge influence on my music. I wrote Bare Bare for a commercial, but I knew immediately that there was potential to flesh it out into a song, which is in Assamese and it has a cool North African/Arabic sound to it, layered with Malian guitar riffs. A few years ago, I heard Tinarewen, the blues band from Mali and fell in love with their sound. Dhima, which features Ila Arun, has that desert music vibe to it — part Rajasthani, part Arabic, part Malian, while Voyage, the title track features Midon and Mbappe and has a unique marriage of the sound of a cigar box guitar and pakhawaj.
Q. How do you plan to release it?
A. The album will be available digitally. I will also release a three song EP (extended play) of my trio with Gino Banks and Sheldon D’Silva recorded last year in Mumbai.
Q. You sing, compose and produce music. What’s the most challenging aspect of creating music for you?
A. Ideation and composing. Capturing an idea is akin to trying to catch a butterfly—the more you chase it, it runs away. One has to completely surrender and wait for it to arrive. Producing also has its set of challenges. It requires great stamina and patience, things I used to lack, but have now become my greatest assets.