How did playing the saxophone and learning Indian music happen for you?
Prior to coming Leeds College of Music I had received a poor formal education in a state school in Haringey, so I was keen to learn something real. The Jazz teachers were really poor and I ended up failing my first year, and was ready to go home, as I also received no funding to study.
I then met Dharambir Singh and my fortunes changed considerably. There was not a specific moment at which I felt I was being trained to be an Indian Classical Musician, the process simply evolved. It was a new experience for me and somehow my dedication allowed something to blossom.
I listened, I learned, I copied and eventually I transformed the traditional form of Indian Classical raga from perceived material into a living sound.
We know it’s unusual to be prescribed a raga to play – how do you feel about that?
In preparing to play ragas on stage, I normally remain open to playing a few different ragas. To prescribe and prepare one specific raga is less common for me. As a performer any chance to challenge my usual way of working is great. I have noticed my prep has been very different and I’m happy to see how it goes.
How much do you think an artist’s mood affects their playing?
As a pro musician we train to cope with any challenging situation, this may mean our mood isn’t ideally suited to the stage all the time. As a band leader I try and make my musicians feel relaxed and ready for the stage. Improvisers tend to put a great emphasis on getting “in the mood”, feeling the music is key to connecting with the listener and the audience are keen to get close to this inner experience of creating on the spot.
What obstacles have you faced as an Indian Classical Saxophonist?
For me the biggest obstacle faced as a Classical saxophonist was being able to play enough concerts every year. Having toured USA playing Classical music for extended periods I noticed my connection to the music improved greatly with more on stage moments. As improvisers we need to try out new approaches and push our relationship to raga through connecting to audiences.
How do you feel about next week’s gig?
Having grown up in Tottenham, and spent many days in Wood Green, it’s really cool to “Come home” after 25 years and play a concert in my own manor. I love playing on stage and it’s good to be able to bring some serious classical music to Karamel in Wood Green.
Thank you for being so open with us and it’s great to have you back in Wood Green! We’re all really looking forward to ‘Ahir Bhairav’ on Wednesday 18th March at the Karamel!