Virtuoso percussionist Trilok Gurtu hopes his collaborative project with an Israeli orchestra will be liked enough for him to play in his home country more
Israeli orchestra, Castles in Time has 24 instrumentalists containing woodwinds, brass, strings, electric guitars, bass guitar, drum set, percussions, synthesisers, harp, singers working with analogue effects, a computer player, and a conductor
Percussion maestro and composer Trilok Gurtu, hailed as one of percussion arts’ greatest innovators of all time, is known for his work with jazz giants such as John Mclaughlin, Don Cherry, Pharaoh Sanders, Dave Holland, Jan Garbarek, as well as Indian greats like Ustad Zakir Hussain, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, Sultan Khan. He will perform in February with an Israeli orchestra for the first time in India.
Castles in Time, the Israeli orchestra was formed in 2015, and originally comprises 24 instrumentalists. In 2017, at the Mekudeshet Festival in Jerusalem, Gurtu and the orchestra collaborated for an improvisational jazz fusion set—Harmonies in Time. The 90-minute-long composition will now travel to the city, with 11 members of the orchestra. After performing in Mumbai, Gurtu and the orchestra will be travelling to Delhi. “Matan [Daskal, co-founder of the orchestra] knows my music quite well,” says Gurtu, “and what I do, and asked me if I was interested. So I went to Israel a couple of times and it clicked.” Naveen Deshpande, founder and director of the events agency Mixtape, heard Harmonies in Time and collaborated with the Israeli Embassy to bring them here.
Harmonies in Time is a relationship between a soloist player (Gurtu) as an individual, and the tribe (the orchestra). “It researches different time forms, prehistory in music,” says Daskal over an e-mail interview, “It translates Indian kaida compositions written for the human voice and the tabla into orchestral instruments. It contains complex polyrhythmic [simultaneous combination of two contrasting rhythms] sequences, electro-acoustic textures, and vast soundscapes.”
The orchestra owes Gurtu the addition of live composition to their repertoire. “When we started our collaboration in 2017,” continues Daskal, “it was clear to me that aside from the written notation scores, we must be able to interact through improvisation with Trilok, since he is such an improvisation master.” Adds Gurtu, “Improvisation is our Indian culture and heritage; It’s not anything new. And, I always use percussion in context.
I can introduce an aarti or a bhajan while doing sounds or even electronic music. I am not limited or bound by anybody. I use sounds that I like and will play whatever is there in front of me. I am not limited to instruments, I will even use my voice. I have created drums, percussion instruments, and used water buckets—all five elements are used.” Gurtu, who is based in Germany, feels most Indians don’t know him. “I’m grateful that I can play for the people of my country and I hope that they like this new experience,” he says. “That will make me feel like returning and playing more.”
WHAT: Harmonies in Time
WHEN: February 9, 7.30 PM onwards
WHERE: Tata Theatre, NCPA
PRICE: Rs 944 onwards to book: ncpamumbai.com