Hindustani classical music and Jazz fuse together at this Mumbai concert

Updated: Jan 19, 2017, 10:24 IST | Krutika Behrawala

Tomorrow, catch a trio showcase a confluence of Hindustani classical music and Jazz at an open-air concert

The members of Trio Benares (from left) Prashant Mishra, Deobrat Mishra and Roger Hanschel perform at a concert in Germany; (below) at a ghat in Varanasi

In October 2014, Stadtgarten, a city park that doubles up as a music venue in Cologne, Germany, came alive with sounds of the sitar, tabla and saxophone, as three artistes took to the stage. While Deobrat Mishra, belonging to the Benares Gharana, played the sitar, his nephew, Prashant Mishra joined in with the tabla. Completing the troika was German saxophonist Roger Hanschel. The concert led to the birth of Trio Benares, a group that presents a confluence of Hindustani classical music with Jazz. Tomorrow, they debut in Mumbai with an open-air concert organised by Goethe Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai.

The world has witnessed collaborations between Indian classical music and Jazz for many decades. “It might have started in the ’60s with Pandit Ravi Shankar opening himself up to Western musicians. In the ’70s, for example, Ali Akbar Khan played with the American saxophonist John Handy. John McLaughlin also works a lot with Indian musicians. Later in the ’80s, Charlie Mariano played a lot with the Karnataka College of Percussion,” recalls 52-year-old Roger, who discovered his love for Indian classical music in the early ’80s, when he heard Ustad Bismillah Khan play the shehnai.

“However, I was dissatisfied with the little knowledge of the music I had. So, I decided to spend time in Varanasi, where Bismillah Khan lived, to get in touch with the music directly,” he says. Here, he met the Mishras for the first time in 2013 and ended up forming Trio Benares.

He elaborates on the challenges of fusing the two traditions, “Gauging the rhythmical complexity of Indian classical music remains a challenge for me. For them, it is a challenge to follow my compositions. The idea is not just to add Indian classical music to Jazz but transfer aspects of the other tradition into your own without losing your identity.”

At the concert, the group will present compositions from their award-winning album, Assi Ghat, named after a famous ghat in Varanasi that stands at the confluence of Ganga and Asi rivers.

The album comprises seven compositions, including the traditional Bhairavi raag and a composition by Roger titled, Charlie’s Reverberations. “Roger and I have written the songs,” says 40-year-old Deobrat, adding, “In the concert, we will also add some traditional songs from Benares. All instruments are played without any electronic additions.”

Meanwhile, 26-year-old Prashant, who started learning the tabla at the age of five, uses it to add rhythms to the compositions. When we ask about the advice he receives from his uncle, he shares, “From him, I learnt how to communicate together in music.”

Giving us a glimpse into their jamming process, Deobrat shares, “We don’t look at it like we’re coming from different styles. We think more about where to go together musically. Since we all come from a different music traditions, our musical notations vary, of course. So, we learn new songs by ear and play together until we have reached an understanding.” The group has begun writing new songs for their second album to be recorded next year.

On: Friday 20, 7 pm,
At: Amphitheatre, Bandra Fort.
RSVP: www.eventbrite.com

Know the artistes

Prashant Mishra, Deobrat Mishra and Roger Hanschel

Deobrat Mishra

Born in 1976, Deobrat represents the 11th generation of the Benares Gharana. As a child, he learnt tabla from his mother, Pramila Mishra (granddaughter of the well-known tabla player Pandit Baiju Mishra of Benares). When he was all of five, he started taking sitar lessons and within six months, he gave his first performance on stage. Since 1994, he has been touring throughout Europe with his composer-father Pandit Shivnath Mishra. In 2012, the Mishras created history of conducting an orchestra of 108 sitar players in Varanasi along with 43 tabla and flute players, performing music created by Deobrat’s father, .

Prashant Mishra
Considered one of the best young tabla players of the Benares Gharana, Prashant started learning the instrument from a family member of Biru Mishra of Varanasi. Presently, he is learning it from Chakkan Lal Mishra (student of great tabla player Anokhelal Mishra). He bagged the first prize in a tabla competition organised by Sangeet Natak Academy, Uttar Pradesh, in 2004. He has performed with his uncle, Deobrat, at various concerts.

Roger Hanschel
Roger began to play the saxophone when he was 11. He soon developed a fascination for Jazz and improvised music. Over the years, he has been part of several ensembles and music groups, including Kölner Saxophon Mafia in 1987. The ensemble received four German Record Prizes as well as the SWR (Southern German Radio) Jazz Prize in 1999.

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