Esperanto is touring the US from the
first week of April. Gopal and Geetha Navale, founders of the
fusion band, also run Guruskool, an informal
music school near Bangalore.
The band leaves
Bangalore on April 2. "We will perform in the
Seattle area and then go to Portland, where we meet songwriter
and guitarist Morgan Phillips," says Gopal. The
band will play at a jazz club in New York, and
also perform on the West Coast.
In a pre-tour interview,
Gopal and Geetha
bare their thoughts.
Gopal: This is a language
formed by combining various languages of the world ... we
want to evolve a musical Esperanto, a common language so that
some of the great musical traditions of the world can meet, exchange
and explore new frontiers.
Geetha: My journey in the world of
music began in Hyderabad when I was nine. I owe everything to
my mother, who was very stern and disciplined. She made
sure that I practised at least for an hour every day, even if
the sky was falling down! Those were painful days ... how I
used to sob. I hated my practice sessions, but looking back , I
am so happy that it all happened the way it did.
My guru the late J Anjaneyulu was vice-principal
of the music college in Hyderabad. He was a Vishwamitra lookalike,
with a silky white, flowing beard, and a round red vermillion mark
on his forehead. He zoomed in on his Bullet motorbike exactly at
4.30 in the morning for ten years, without missing even a single
class. I remember how I used to shiver as soon as I heard the rumble
of the bike. Being a purist from the Vijayanagaram school,
he trained me rigorously on the veena.
I had a tremendous capacity to memorise
at that time, and within one year I was able to learn 10 swarajatis,
20 varnas and a few kritis. Looking back, even I find it hard
to believe... The very year after I started my music lessons,
my guru took me to Tiruvayaru to play with him.
Geetha: My first experience of jazz
music came after my marriage to Gopal. Till then I didn't
know that such a form existed. It sounded very harsh
on my ears... I asked Gopal why everybody was playing off
Gopal took me to all the concerts happening about
town, and broadened my horizon. I started enjoying all genres,
from folk to jazz, Karnatak to Hindustani, rock to raga, not to
forget heavy metal. I enjoy listening to this noise, or
whatever you may call it.
I like to experiment with different kinds of
music and blend my classical style with all genres. I
believe that culture is not evolving in isolation.
Hindustani music soothes me. I like the veena
playing of Balachander and E Gayatri.
Geetha: I had a great experience teaching
jazz musicians the Indian ragas, and the different calculations in
the talas. They were astounded at the depth of our classical
music. They have decided to come back and learn more.
The world has a lot to learn from Indian
music in rhythm and melody. Rich Indian music now has an open
window to the world and can enrich itself by absorbing the
nuances of harmony and the use of new timbres. This is now
visible in Tamil pop, and credit must go to A R Rahman, Suresh
Peters and many others.
My guru for the last ten years is R K
Suryanarayana, the legendary veena maestro. Under his
guidance, I have matured as a performing artiste. He has
introduced me to modern styles of playing and also original new
compositions..... I have played with him in the album Tillana
Guchcha released last year.
The veena is a unique instrument, with vast
possibilities in both bass and treble. It's high time
it got recognition like the sitar. I perform where the crowd is not so Karnatak, so that the
instrument creates an interest among new audiences, and so
that Indians can rediscover the beauty of Indian
On whether Guruskool
attracts only those who relate somewhat remotely to the Indian
Guruskool is a movement towards the 'fountainhead'.
It aims to create an ambience where music can
flower without any constraints. It
is a greenhouse for music, where instruments and rehearsal
studios help the artiste practise, experiment and
There is not much risk of abandoning the Indian
musical experience. We try to enrich traditions by absorbing
the experience of other great cultures. An example: a US-based
jazz musician, who came to Guruskool to learn
the tabla, worked out more than 50 chords using
the seven notes of raga Mayamalavagowla. A
melody played in this raga, backed by the harmonies of these chords,
would multiply its possibilities without sacrificing
its original beauty.
On the Freedom Jam
Gopal: This is a free
musical platform set
up in Bangalore by Guruskool, where any musician is free to
perform, regardless of genre. We don't edit or impose our
preferences on them. It gives an outlet to the creative
energies of musicians, who often can't perform on
the regular circuit which invites only established
performers, or encourages imitations and cover versions.
We welcome originality in any form.
In these jams we have observed a lack of
regular participation by Indian classical musicians. We have had a
performance of a Karnataka folk rhythm ensemble, and it drew great applause from
the 1,000-odd cosmopolitan audience. Raghupathy Dixit, who
experiments with classical violinists like Bhaskar, and Geetha on
the veena, are regulars who are well appreciated. But by and large,
most of the participation is in heavy metal, rock, blues and
other Westernised genres.
On why most rock and
pop musicians are alienated from the other kinds of music around
Gopal: Could it be a matter of identification of anything
westernised as more progressive, more hep, more lucrative? This is
what our education generally seems to indicate anyway. Most young
people's ambition centres on learning computers, and either going to
the US or working for multinationals. Most people are completely
swept off their feet by these market forces which push society
to a situation where they can sell more goods regardless of
consquences like monoculture (Pizza Huts, KFC chains only, no more
neighbourhood benne masales) or pollution (plastic plastic
The tonal colours of traditional music, being far removed from
the dictionary of ad agencies, don't appeal
to the impressionable youth, who after
all are more interested in impressing the opposite sex, working
towards money and security. The
ad/marketing juggernaut doesn't associate any of this with
Only when maturity dawns -- and one thinks of oneself
-- does the beauty and depth of traditional forms become
perceptible. Such forms evolve out of the artistry of a thousand
generations. Usually by then one's hair has turned grey and the
'josh' to follow one's deams is stifled by the need to make
ends meet, or by the plain insecurity of human existence.
On money and
Somehow sufficient money has always
been available, though it is never in surplus. It comes
mostly from individuals and occasional corporate sponsors. More
money would mean more recordings, shows, classes.
On the star
Gopal: We do not believe in the star syndrome,
which is just a creation of market forces to translate
music into money. It is detrimental to the cause of artistic
expression as it benefits only a few at the cost of many.
But for the record -- the group Thermal & a
Quarter, which has achieved success with its debut CD, and
the hugely popular metal bands Threnody and Krypyos are a few of the
staying acts that have emerged.
Want updates on The Music Magazine's latest
stories? Send us your e-mail ID, details of genres you are
interested in, and any other information you
think is relevant. We plan to alert you to new stuff
on your favourite magazine
Top | Home
Press Ctrl D to bookmark The Music
*For fans of Indian music, there is
no better resource on the Web --
*Well researched -- India
*Fantastic site -- Hitbox
*Web's best --
*Superb coverage... worth tuning in to --
*Classy -- Deccan Herald