World music exponent Prem Joshua talks about fusion and more
World music exponent Prem Joshua misses the sweat and dust in the genre he embraced 25 years ago
Prem Joshua in a performance
Prem Joshua, the World Music connoisseur is German but he made India his home since 1991. He derives energy from the devotional parts of the country and as expected, his music gushed ubiquitously — by the temple of Pushkar to the river in Hampi. An intense flute and saxophone player, Joshua decided to learn sitar during his stay in India from Ustad Usman Khan. The music of Pandit Ravi Shankar inspired him. Fresh off an open-air gig in the city, he shares stories of his voyage. Excerpts from a chat:
When you started in 1991, fusion was new. But over the years, it gained different dimensions. What are your thoughts?
In 1991, East-West fusion music wasn't entirely new but it was certainly different. In my case, coming overland from Europe to India for the first time in 1977, with my own musical background of Rock and Jazz, it was an immediate love affair and direct encounter with India and her music. I stayed on and studied sitar and bansuri (flute) here, my international band was founded here, my first albums were released here, I was pioneering a new sound from here - being spread from India into the world. Fusion music has never been an artificial mind concept for me, it has always been a natural process of passion, inspiration, hard work, collaborating with talented Indian and international musicians.
Do you like the fusion that is happening today?
Nowadays, a lot of noise calls itself fusion. You can find any flashy sample of ethnic instruments on keyboards and sound banks. Fusion has become cheap and air-conditioned. It lacks the sweat and dust. On the other side, India has brought forth a new generation of truly talented musicians who easily move between influences from Indian Classical, Jazz and other genres.
You had run out of money on your first trip to India. How did you survive those days?
The real journey began there. It is a long story. The simple people of India never let me down even for a minute. It was an amazing lesson in trust. I was only 18 then. Maybe, this is one of the reason I love India this much.
Where are you based now? It is difficult to locate where you are.
My location pin is usually exactly where my heart beats. It keeps changing. You are right, I keep moving a lot for concerts. Currently, I am touring for concerts but my base is usually in Goa or Mumbai. I also like spending time in Italy.
It has been a while you worked on an album, any records in the pipeline?What can people expect next from you in terms of sound experiments?
My last release, Kashi, was in 2014. I have already begun work for new album, which is likely to release in 2017. But it may take more time since I am busy with concerts. As a composer, singer and multi-instrumentalist, let me concentrate on playing sitar, bamboo flutes and saxophone. My talented band members will add their instruments.
You recently played at Hampi; the venue suits your music perfectly, doesn't it?
A venue near a river sounds magical but don't worry, we brought the musical river right into the concrete courtyard of Phoenix Mall in Mumbai. All we wish for is a responsive audience.
Tell us about your early memories of Mumbai.
They say either you love or hate Mumbai. I always loved it! Maybe there are a million reasons to hate it but I will always find a million and one reasons to love it. In 1977, Bombay was a quiet city. You could cross the streets even without looking. There were still horse carts in town.
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