Indian Fusion Music

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In the 1960s, classical Indian music entered a new phase when leading Indian musicians like Pandit Ravi Shankar Ustad Ali Akbar Khan began to give performances abroad and started teaching instrumental music to Western students. The renowned Indian filmmaker, Satyajit Ray, also brought classical Indian music to the attention of Westerners through the music scores of some of his early films, which were composed by Ravi Shankar and Vilayat Khan. In the course of time collaborations ensued between Indians musicians and Western musicians and a new kind of experimentation on fusion music began. Pandit Ravi Shankar was one of the earliest musicians to have collaborated with western musicians. He joined hands with the renowned violinist Yehudi Menuhin and produced a number of East-West albums. In recent years, Pandit Ravi Shankar has collaborated with the American minimalist composer, Philip Glass, on Passages. Ravi Shankar was also present at the music extravaganza known as “Woodstock”. In subsequent years, the Sarod maestro, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, and the tabla maestros, Ustad Alla Rakha and Ustad Zakir Hussain, also worked with Western musicians. Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia brought out an experimental album called the Eternity, which incorporates many western elements alongside North Indian Classical. The Grammy Award winner and creator of the Mohan Veena, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, did a historic jugalbandi with a Chinese Erhu Player, Jei Bing Chen to become the first ever Indian to strike a jugalbandi with a Chinese artiste in the thousands of years of history of India and China. Vishwa also combined with the ace American Dobro guitar player Jerry Douglas, with the American country music singer Taj Mahal and a rare combination with the Arabian Oudh player Simon Shaheen. Other successful collaborations over the years have been between Ustad Sultan Khan (on the Sarangi) and Marco Guinar (on the Spanish guitar) and Roy Cooder and L. Shankar and L. Subramaniam (both violinists).

The growing popularity of Fusion Music, both vocal and instrumental, indicates that multiculturalism and globalisation are influencing tastes and creativity in music worldwide. National boundaries or limitations of their own music and culture no longer circumscribe musicians, who are keen to experiment and explore new horizons.

In the recent times, the Indian mandolin virtuoso, U. Srinivasan, produced an album called Dream, in collaboration with the Candian guitarist Michael Brook. Pakistan-born Adnan Sami was the first person to play Indian classical music on the electric piano. Recently, a renowned Indian tabla maestro Talvin Singh has bagged UK’s prestigious Technics Mercury Music Prize for his album OK, which represents a fusion of Indian classical music and contemporary British dance rhythms. Talvin has also played with starts like Madonna and Bjork. Talvin has planned two more music albums: Soundz of the Asian Underground and Soundz of the Asian Overground. In the vocal music, the fusion album The Colonial Cousins of Hariharan and Lindsey Levie became an instant hit in India and abroad. The music wizard, A.R.Rahman, who had produced an album along with late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, came up with an album Ekam Satyam with Michael Jackson in 1999. In the new millennium, Rahman plans to release another album Bombay Dreams, which is a musical jugalbandi with Andrew Lloyd Weber. A.R.Rahman is already well known for his album Vande Matram and film scores of Roja, Bombay and Earth.


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