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Prasanna's Carnatic Convergence Concept Produces Potent Panethnic Potion

By Published: October 6, 2003

I personally feel that 'exotic', is in several ways, a Euro or American-centric term. To me, 'Jazz' or Classical music is as exotic or unexotic as Carnatic music or Zulu music or anything else, depending on which side of the street you're on.

The music of India has long crossed over into western pop, rock and jazz styles. Every few years, the press will note a 'resurgence' in this trend, which in fact, appears to have continued steadily since the days of George Harrison's fascination with Ravi Shankar. Jazz has incorporated Indian influences for many years as well, and much has featured the work of guitarists as diverse as Sean Lane, Pat Martino, John McLaughlin and Carlos Santana, all of whom have made that musical journey from West to East. Very few are like Prasanna , who embarked outward from the land of musical mystery, born into that world, becoming extremely proficient with Indian classical traditions relating to composition and time, while absorbing, along a parallel but integrated track, the practices and systems of western classical and jazz music.

An interesting attribute of the world of Indian classical music is that it actually has a system, like professional golf or tennis, where players are grouped into levels and ranked. At 32, Prasanna is the only musician who performs the classical music of India on electric guitar at the highest professional level. Prasanna enjoys the benefit of parallel, sometimes intertwining career tracks; that is, some concerts feature him performing solely Indian classical music, some only jazz and for others, a repertoire drawn from both. Regarding the classical, he performs Carnatic music, or the classical music of southern India, which is differentiated from the classical music of northern India (the kind popularized by Ravi Shankar or Ali Akbar Khan) by the fact that the pieces are composed, analogous to western classical music, like cello suites or string quartets. The thing that differentiates Carnatic music from western classical music is the element that drew Prasanna to jazz-and that in turn, will draw jazz listeners to him - improvisation.

Prasanna plays guitar, quite simply like nobody on the planet. Talk about being able to identify a guy in three notes! Prasanna extrudes incredible fretless and sitar sounds from his array of electric axes- the fact that the fret is there as some sort of guideline or boundary ceases to matter due to his transparently fluid technique. He consciously executes quarter flat, quarter sharp or whatever else microtones, frequently incorporating slurring techniques rendering his left hand a wide ranging blur, all while incorporating western ideas into eastern virtuosity- all on a conventional fretted Les Paul. 'Alternate' tunings seem equally effortless for him, probably because such tunings are recognized as different 'classical' tunings in India. Such are the trappings of western musical thinking. These techniques lend newfound improvisational validity to and bend the ear toward even 'staple' rock phrases, let alone the sophisticated jazz phraseology he's capable of tossing off.

What's most important about all this technique is that it lends the playing, let alone the writing, a transporting quality- rare is the player on any instrument that can so change your headspace and your heart rate in two bars. Once familiar with his playing, you'll be able to identify it within a bar or two of music. If you haven't heard him yet, this interview should foster your curiosity. If you have, it'll certainly shed light on just how it's all happening.

Allaboutjazz: If you don't mind, please tell us how old you are, and where you are from. It adds perspective to your bio

Prasanna: I am 32, from Chennai, India.

AAJ: Who were your first influences, as a musician, and more specifically, on guitar?

P: The great Tamil film composer Illayaraja was my first influence as a musician.

AAJ: Was there an evolution in influences, or was there a point when you feel individual influences stopped?

P: Until around age 13, I was primarily listening to, and playing Tamil film music. By around 1983 or so, due to TV broadcasts of the Grammys etc, there was Michael Jackson- Thriller was a big influence at that time), Donna Summer, Tina Turner and a lot more pop music all around. So, I started playing all that stuff by ear along with film music.

AAJ: Can you explain how you started?

P: After playing a lot of film music and western pop, I wanted to get into more 'guitar' oriented music - 60's and 70's rock basically! I started performing in many cover bands in South India - played lots and lots of Deep Purple, Dire Straits, Santana, Scorpions, Led Zeppelin and started winning several semi-professional rock competitions all over India with my band. I was about 15 when all this was starting to 'snowball'. On a parallel track, I was studying Carnatic classical music on the guitar,which was hardly considered to be the 'right' instrument for this thousands-of-years-old traditional music, but I kept going at it. If I have to point one big influence at that time, it was Carlos Santana.

AAJ: As you went on, what else were you into?

P: I got into more progressive rock music like Rush, Jethro Tull, ELP and stuff and started playing those, finally leading into Steely Dan. That music sort of changed my life. I was now getting into something which was a lot of fun harmonically. I couldn't understand conceptually what was happening in all those incredible guitar solos of everyone from Denny Dias to Elliot Randall to Larry Carlton to other Dan guitarists, and in the horn arrangements etcetera, but was trying to play them note for note. I started to really hear and understand at some level, chord substitutions, and of course this new-found harmonic curiosity was eventually going to lead me into jazz in a big way.

AAJ: Explain what fostered your love for jazz and fusion also during this period.

P: Steely Dan, Weather Report, and Chick Corea's fusion works sort of laid the foundation for me to get into straight ahead jazz, though I must admit that it took a little while for me to get into the real trip of jazz.

AAJ: Can you expand on the period before coming to the US and the whole IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) experience?

P: I graduated from IIT with a degree in Naval Architecture in 1992. IIT is one of the world's top engineering schools. For the record, around 250,000 people take the entrance test every year to get into one of only 3500 seats or so in all. IIT graduates almost always end up getting very good scholarships to get advanced degrees at major prestigious schools in the US, etcetera. So, at some level, constantly being exposed to the highest levels of merit-based competition definitely helped build my character and resolve. Interestingly, that resolve turned out to be to opt for a life in music. Incidentally, I don't like the word 'career' so much when it comes to music.

AAJ: What musical experiences in India precipitated your attendance at Berklee?

P: By the time I chose to come to Berklee, I was quite well established as a carnatic musician and was performing at the top level in India. From a jazz standpoint, I wanted to get a lot deeper into the art form and Berklee was an obvious choice.

AAJ: When did you attend Berklee? Why did you pick it?

P: I first came to Berklee in 1994. I picked it because a lot of my 'heroes' went there. I looked at Berklee as a place for me to be immersed in music amidst people from all over the world, which I was sure would such an enjoyable learning experience.

AAJ: Was that your time of most intense growth period as a musician? If not what was?

P: To a large extent, yes! Going to Berklee was a life-changing experience for me, not only because of the wealth of music knowledge I gained, but also because I was now beginning to realize what my musical karma was emerging out to be. I was starting to realize that Carnatic music is virtually unknown among even the most advanced and well-exposed musicians, let alone listeners. I guess improvising on Charlie Parker standards using Carnatic ragas was interesting for me but I also got some strange vibes from certain jazz musicians that probably thought I was off the latch! In fact, that inspired me to get deeper and deeper into Jazz and Classical music, while at the same time get deeper and deeper into Carnatic music. I had to really believe in my mission and hone my own style of composition and guitar playing, not mindful of all the deterrents, and eventually it just became a journey of discovery and great fun. Along the way, I was able to carry a lot of good musicians with me and was able to be myself increasingly.

AAJ: You seem quite comfortable with the intricacies of music theory and its application to improvisation and composition. How much of that element do you bring into the compositional process?

P: Quite a bit, actually. Composition is a very integral part of my musical existence. The immortal compositions of great Carnatic composers like Tyagaraja, Dikshitar , Syama Sastri and others are great models in structural design, motivic development etc. This helped me relate to and understand at some level, the compositional process of the great composers of western classical music, particularly in the larger works. Similarly, the depth of improvisational potential in carnatic music and jazz are equally inspiring. Having also come from a very math and science-oriented background, the intellect, rigor and application of mind, to me are very essential in music making along with passion and heart - Mind, Body, Soul continuum, I guess!

AAJ: Does the amount of theory used vary based on the composition and the goals of the composition?

P: May be or maybe not. To me, there is really no such thing as 'theory'. Great music is both an art and science in equal measure. I sincerely believe that a musician has to know exactly what he's doing, in clear terms first, to be able to eventually transcend that state and go the next and more 'cosmic' state of just 'hearing' what he does, by which time the knowledge is truly internalized. Coltrane, Bartok, Stravinsky are all great examples of twentieth century masters in this regard!

AAJ: How heavily have you studied classical music?

P: Since I studied Composition in Berklee, I got a chance to get into classical music in-depth to some extent. I learned a lot when I had to analyze Beethoven and Bartok String Quartets, for example. I had an inspiring teacher in John Bavicchi, among many other great teachers at Berklee. Classical music is a huge ocean and I am just starting to drink a few sips here and there, and it is rich in all the musical nutrients I would constantly need in my musical life.

AAJ: How heavily have you studied applications of exotic vocabularies, such as so-called exotic scales and alternate tunings,in your music?

P: I personally feel that 'exotic', is in several ways, a Euro or American-centric term. To me, 'Jazz' or Classical music is as exotic or unexotic as Carnatic music or Zulu music or anything else, depending on which side of the street you're on. To me, Carnatic music, Classical music and Jazz are like the primordial Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva triangle in terms of architectural design, and so many kinds of great music, from many cultures around the world, constantly converge and diverge into and out of this, and the equilibrium itself is in a constant state of flux. So, I try my best to absorb the macros or the spirit of the music, as well as the micros, the scales, rhythms and other structural components, of all good music that I come across.

AAJ: What were the earliest recording projects you did?

P: My earliest recordings were my traditional solo Carnatic albums - the first called Guitar Goes Classical was recorded in 1993. In fact, 1993 was the year when four different Carnatic albums of mine were released in India. Other early recording projects were session work on movie soundtracks with the well-known Indian film composer A.R.Rahman.

AAJ: Tell us about your Peaceful cd and what circumstances came together to facilitate the writing and recording of your fist foray into the jazz world.

P: My first real 'solo record' outside of traditional Carnatic music was Peaceful in 2001. I wouldn't call it a jazz record, although there are a couple of solo jazz guitar pieces in it. In fact, looking back, I am unable to put a finger on what this record is all about since its very diverse. The only thing I know is that I had great fun doing this.

AAJ: How much of the record is composed and how much improvised, other than the obvious parts? By this I mean, do any of the tunes come out of jams? Or are they all written out?

P: Some of the tracks on the record are solo guitar improvised spontaneously with no written sketches at all. There are three carnatic compositions - one, I rearranged incorporating elements of Calypso/Salsa and the other in a jazz/rock vein and one played in a pure traditional form, unaccompanied. The title track is the only elaborate composition of mine in this record, which is fully arranged and produced. There is one song called 'The Nightsky', sung in English, that I wrote and sang. The rest of the record is unaccompanied solo guitar.

AAJ: Tell us about some of the musicians you used for those sessions.

P: I had some of my friends in India, like bassist Keith Peters, mridangam player J. Vaidhyanathan and ghatam player Karthick record with me on some tracks. I played all guitars, keyboards, and did the synth and drum programming on some tracks. I also sang on one tune.

AAJ: Please tell us what you hoped to get across with your debut.

P: To communicate what I'd call my musical present, and make a personal statement in some way, as a human being, artist, guitarist and composer.

AAJ: How was that first project done? By this I mean, was it independently produced and financed? Was it a studio or home project?

P: Yes. I put it out on my own label and financed it myself. I used a recording studio.

AAJ: Please tell us your take on your work on the Aka Moon Guitars project and the whole Aka Moon experience?

P: Playing with Aka Moon is both a joy and a great learning experience. Aka Moon's music is yet more proof of what I have always been saying and doing in my music - Carnatic music is a treasure house for those who seek its wealth.

AAJ: Who are these guys?

P: Aka Moon is basically a trio with Fabrizio Cassol on alto sax, who is also the composer, Michel Hatzigeorgiu on electric bass and Stephane Galland on drums. They work with a lot of other musicians from all over the world and bring them into their Aka Moon family, so to speak.

AAJ: Why do you think so few people know about them?

P: It is actually not fully true. From what I have seen, Aka Moon is quite big in Belgium and is also quite well known in other western European countries.

AAJ: How did they find out about you?

P: The Carnatic connection, I guess. But when I first met Fabrizio, we hit home at many levels since we were taking about Webern and Carnatic rhythms and Coltrane and I could see a personal synergy developing.

AAJ: Tell us about Fabrizio Cassol's special compositional methodologies and how you fit into that process. Also tell us about what you see are some of the commonalities between Aka Moon's compositional process and Carnatic music.

P: Fabrizio's larger compositional design is certainly coming out of Carnatic music. But the interlocking and vertical build-up of the parts is quite African, the harmonic language/ improvisational style is clearly Jazz, but the architecture to me, is also very Classically oriented. Counterpoint and orchestration are very central to Fabrizio's approach. All these things that I said about Fabrizio's style are part of my approach to composition too, so I can relate to his compositions at many levels and understand and approach it from different resource points.

Fabrizio also takes melodic design elements from Carnatic ragas, though in a less rigorous way than in the rhythmic treatment. The idea of using long cycles to convey the full phrasing potential of a melody is very clearly coming from carnatic music. Time cycles of Carnatic compositions, for example could be as long as 64/4. Rhythmic subdivisions like 5 over 4, or 3 over 5, in 4 speeds over an 18 beat cycle played at a slow tempo, like a quarter note = 40 are not rare at all in Carnatic music. Aka Moon uses many of these concepts in their music. Aka Moon's music gives me a vehicle to bring in other extremely sophisticated concepts of Carnatic music like the concepts of 'Sruti Bedham' (tonic shift or ragas) and 'Graha Bedham' (time shifts) into its fold and they are very appreciative when I do this.

AAJ: Tell us what Stephane Galland brings to the table at the drum set.

P: Lots of fun, mischief and incredible musicianship! Stephane is one of the most special drummers in the world. One has to play with him to realize how great he is! Michel, the bassist is in a league of his own. Frankly, all three members of Aka Moon are in an elite class of their own.

AAJ: Tell us about the special relationship you and a co-guitarist in that group, David Gilmore , share.

P: David is always a joy to listen to and even more a joy to play with, and chill out with. We stay in touch quite often and I look forward to roping David into some of my other projects in the future.

AAJ: Tell us about the Aka Moon touring that was done before and after the recording.

P: We played the Middelheim Jazz Festival in Belgium before the recording. Guitars was released in April 2002. We toured Europe that same month to promote the CD, and had a blast playing some great venues in Belgium, Holland and France.

AAJ: Will you be gigging with the band on this recording in the future? Is this an ongoing project?

P: I will be performing with Aka Moon and Joe Lovano in North Sea Jazz Festival this year. It will be a sextet with myself, the Aka Moon trio, Fabian Fiorini on Piano, Geoffrey De Masur on Trombone and our very special guest will be saxophonist Joe Lovano.

As far as I know, Aka Moon and I should be working together on an on-going basis. We have several projects in mind. I plan to take Aka Moon Guitars to India sometime when the right situation comes about. It would be great to also have Aka Moon play my compositions in some project. We'll see what the future has in store for collaborations.

AAJ: Tell us about your gigs in India with Alphonso Johnson and Kenwood Dennard and also your work with Alphonso and Airto Moreira.

P: I invited Alphonso and Kenwood to join me for a concert in Chennai, India in Jan 2000. It was at the Open Air Theatre in IIT (my alma mater). We had a great time playing together for the first time to an audience of almost 6000 people at the stadium. The material is usually mine and they sound great on it.

I met Airto Moreira in LA, where Alphonso and I suggested we do some jamming. There was enough chemistry there, so we went out on the road as 'Quantum', doing two sold out nights at the Yardbird Suite in Edmonton, Canada in May 2002. We recorded the shows on multi-track to see if there's some magic somewhere that can be put out, but we had some technical problems with the recording. Since then, we have been finding a way to tour again, but each of us have so many other projects going on at the same time. We hope it will happen soon.

AAJ: Will you work with these guys in the future?

P: Of course! I am right now in a state of flux as far as getting any one band together since all these great musicians add so much to my music but at the same time, everybody is busy. In the last year or so, I have had so many great musicians like Alphonso, Airto, Kenwood, Larry Coryell, Steve Smith, Kai Eckhardt, Ralph Humphrey and many others play my material with me and they all put a different spin on it, which is really cool. I plan to start recording some of my material in this genre, and I think that will suggest some options to work on a good touring band for longer tours and other things.

AAJ: How many US dates have you played with these guys?

P: A few concerts here and there in different places in North America, but more importantly, they've been at good venues and with great audiences, so the vibe has been very good in every sense.

AAJ: Did you play anywhere else in Europe as a unit with Alphonso and /or Airto and Kenwood?

P: Not yet! Hopefully soon!

AAJ: How do you split your personality with bands internationally? Do you try to coordinate it so that you can do a Carnatic gig along with the fusion, or do you even think in those terms?

P: My life in Carnatic music goes on a parallel but integrated track. I do lots of tours- notably in the US, Canada, Europe and of course India, playing Carnatic concerts. I just got back from a tour of the Middle East playing in Qatar. I've gotten to play prestigious venues and festivals many times and the audiences have been great everywhere. There are many 'two-set' concerts I have done and will continue to do - a traditional carnatic first set and a Jazz/Fusion band as second set. People love this and its also very stimulating for me to do these kinds of concerts. I also like to do duo concerts. I did one with Larry Coryell last year. I'll be doing one with Victor Wooten in California this September and one with Steve Smith in Spokane in Sept.

AAJ: Please tell us about some of the incredible classical Indian musicians you have worked with and will continue to work with.

P: I have enjoyed working with several top level carnatic musicians ranging from my guru, A. Kanyakumari, a great Carnatic violinist, to people like violinist Dr. L. Subramaniam to mridangam masters like Dr. T. K. Murthy, Prof. Trichy Sankaran, to thavil maestro Haridwaramangalam A.K.Palanivel etc, to Ghatam master 'Vikku' Vinayakram, and a host of others. I have also worked with accomplished Hindustani musicians like flautist HariPrasad Chaurasia, vocalist Shubha Mudgal, tabla players like Fazal Qureshi, Aneesh Pradhan and many others.

AAJ: Tell us how the explosion in worldwide awareness of Indian musical culture has affected your thing. Do you get any more or less attention for tour of festival appearances?

P: The worldwide awareness of Indian musical culture tends to be restricted to Hindustani music mostly. Carnatic music is still a relatively unknown form of music. Most people tend to associate Indian music with Sitar and Tabla. While I am quite proud of the fact that these two beautiful instruments and the tradition they represent- Hindustani music has become universal- I can't help feeling that Carnatic music never got and may never ever get that kind of recognition. I can definitely understand the various dynamics that shape this scenario and I am only concerned about providing access to Carnatic music to as many people as possible and leaving it to them to embrace it or not.

So, in all fairness, I have had to really struggle to explain what I do, where I come from, why I am not playing the Sitar etc. Adding to the list of perceived paradoxes', I play Carnatic music on the electric guitar and I also play Jazz, which are rather unusual among Indian classical artists. In the last few years, I have been fortunate to see a growing following of people all over the world for my music, including my traditional Carnatic music, and this gives me so much encouragement to pursue the path of excellence to the best of my abilities.

AAJ: Changing the discussion to your technique, please tell us about what goes into it- especially your incredible fretless, or fretless- sounding anyway, technique -how that started and how it continues into today, with now what sounds to be a technically transparent facility. In short, how do make it sound like there are no frets on the instrument even though there are? Also, tell us about the quarter-tones/half-tones/microtonal aspect of your playing and how you make it fit/not fit with western harmonic concepts-and then jazz concepts.

P: Interestingly, I would be able to play most of the gamakas only on a fretted guitar and not on a fretless guitar. The other day, I tried David Fuiczynski 's fretless-by the way, he has just started studying with me-and I found that the Carnatic gamakas were not really coming out that precisely on a fretless.

I would look at what I play more as a vocabulary rather than technique. Carnatic music is sophisticated and complex melodically, because of the gamakas that give life to the ragas and compositions. I prefer to call it just gamakas, as it should be called. Microtones, quarter-tones etcetera is terminology that tends to sound very Eurocentric, and doesn't really apply to Carnatic music.

The octave is divided into 16 pitches, unlike the 12 in western music. There are 72 parent ragas in Carnatic music which are seven note scales in the ascent and descent. 36 of them are with the natural 4th and 36 with the #4th. The various permutations and combinations of scale design possibilities out of this gives rise to more than 22,000 different ragas. Since several of these ragas can be very similar except for minute differences, the single most important distinguishing factor is the gamakas. These become the all-important and distinctive 'phraseology' for each of these ragas. Therefore the gamakas are very highly developed and with very precise, minute color shadings, and are essential to bring out the character of each raga.

So, whiIe I improvise on a particular scale-for example a Lydian flat 7 scale over a dominant seventh chord, I use the corresponding raga and play with the gamakas of the raga. That brings out a completely different color(Note: the Lydian Flat 7 is the same scale as Vachaspati raga), in contrast to playing Lydian flat 7 as a 'scale'. I also constantly change between ragas to suit the chord changes and many times, constantly shift between playing carnatic ragas and other jazz phraseology, like bebop vocabulary, to make it even less literal and more fun for me.

AAJ: What aspects of your compositional style would you point listeners to? How would you attempt describing your own compositional style?

P: I try to find a balance between meticulous written parts and interpretative sections in most of my compositions. Many of them take Carnatic ragas as source material melodically and harmonically, and Carnatic tala calculations, which are the mathematical groupings/sub-divisions etcetera, as rhythmic material. They are also in varied time cycles. Again, I hate to use the term 'odd-time' because these are very natural from the culture I am coming from. I also enjoy writing counterpoint. Chord changes are also staple stuff in my music, but then it all depends on the genre I am writing for.

AAJ: Now tell us about your latest conceptual focus. What events transpired that have brought it into focus.

P: Of late, I am very heavily influenced by African music and an off-shoot of that is my interest in the concept of creating separation between the various parts rhythmically. The result of it is that much of my new compositions seem to have very specific and lyrical bass lines, which are quite displaced from the downbeat of the drums. I love bass lines, by the way. To me, a great bass line makes a song so much fun! I am also having fun writing music that has only a pulse and no time signature. Lots of new music like drum n' bass, trance etc seem to influence my writing and thinking too.

AAJ: In terms of harmonic territory, are there particular sources that you would point interested people towards? What books or recordings would you particularly advise students of harmony, improvisation and time concepts to seek out?

P: My harmonic approach is something that I have been consciously working very hard over the last few years to make it more of a system. In short, much of my harmonic vocabulary is based out of carnatic ragas and even mathematical ideas. I sometimes use extreme dissonances and bi-tonality but compensate for it melodically and vice-versa. I also use pandiatonicism a lot to create an illusion of harmonic movement, particularly when the melodic material is in a major raga. I think its very important to get one's hear honed to modern harmony in terms of colors - bright, dark and the varying shades among them, rather than function. In modern music, it really doesn't matter what chord follows what as long as one is able to perceive a coloristic movement.

AAJ: : Are there some elements of improvisation that are particularly fruitful for you, concepts that you keep revisiting and/or reinventing that keep your playing and your lines cutting edge and fresh?

P: When I improvise, I mix and match between very linear and very angular phrasings. The linear part is coming out of Carnatic music consciousness and the angular part, with wider intervals, comes out of a jazz sensibility. One thing I consciously did was to not memorize any licks, even if they're my own. I kind of really like to get into pure improvisation and let the moment dictate what's going on. Even if I succeed rarely, it's worth it. Of course, I practice scales, arpeggios and other stuff to keep my fingers in good shape and keep learning the fingerboard. But going beyond that, I think improvisation stems more from life than technique.

AAJ: Any sideman work you'd like to hip the audience to? Or perhaps coming down the road?

P: I love to do sideman work. To me, the best way to learn about myself is to play other artists' music. It's a lot of fun. I do some sideman work here and there but I'd like to do a lot more.

AAJ: What aspects of your own playing style would you point listeners to? How would you attempt describing your own playing style?

P: My playing style is a result of what I would like to communicate to the listener through my music. I don't know how else to really describe my style.

AAJ: Do you have other concepts for other solo projects? Tell us about how the compositional approach will vary between them.

P: From time to time, I get some commissions to write for a more classical ensemble and when that happens, I get into a more rigorous compositional routine. One thing feeds the other and a musician, to me, is always in a constant state of artistic torment, I guess!

AAJ: Do you have any kind of a long-term musical career plan?

P: Sure, I do. But the main long-term plan I have is to continue to enjoy making music and make a conscious effort to involve people - listeners, musicians etcetera, into my world! People are precious to my aesthetic of music making and I owe it to them to let keep pushing.

AAJ: How do you feel about the effects of the internet on the music scene?

P: It's the greatest thing to have happened to music in a long time.

AAJ: With all you've got going on, how do you decide on which project to do next? Is there a lot of work you decline?

P: Interestingly, I don't decline that many projects. I usually get projects which I really enjoy. I am in a great situation right now, where I am very busy doing several projects around the year and yet am able to spend quite a bit of time at home and practice, or write and do other things away from music, like spending time with my wife.

AAJ: What do you think needs to happen for you and you projects to gain a bit more recognition?

P: If I knew that answer, you wouldn't be asking me this question today!

AAJ: How much unreleased music do you have written or demoed that you'd want to release?

P: Enough to fill up half a dozen CDs, I guess!

AAJ: What music holds your most extreme interest these days, and what of it may influence your next project or recording?

P: Well, I don't listen to music 24/7/365, so anything I listen to seems to have an effect on me. I am trying to listen to more African music and also Reggae at this point. I guess music which has great bass lines like Reggae, Funk, and Disco appeal to me instantly, at this present time, since my compositions tend to be quite bass line-oriented of late. Electronica has also been of interest. In fact, my new CD that's just been recorded is primarily that. Carnatic music, Jazz and Classical music are, of course, staples.

AAJ: What's in your cd case at the moment?

P: A few. Salif Keita, the Wassolou women of Africa, Bach's Goldberg Variations, Coltrane's Live at the Village Vanguard, Dolphy's Out to Lunch are a few of the things I've been listening to in the last few days.

AAJ: Any other musicians you'd like to comment on, or whose playing you particularly respect?

P: Too many to list, I guess. I grow everyday in my music only because there are so many great musicians in this world that I am lucky to hear and enjoy everyday.

AAJ: Any musicians you would particularly like to work with that you have not?

P: Again, too many to list. Wayne Shorter, for sure. Steely Dan, for sure. The Jenda drummers from Kerala, Roy Haynes, folk musicians from Tamil Nadu, Chick Corea, Bobby McFerrin, Scofield, Singers from Mali, the Emerson String Quartet ... if only I had my way.

AAJ: Do you have any desire to work in more of a prog or pop vein?

P: Sure! Pop music is infinitely malleable and ductile. There's always room for good music.

AAJ: To wrap up, please tell us your musical plans, or projects in the pipeline, for 2003 and beyond.

P: I have just finished an album, which is trilingual-English, Sanskrit and Swahili. It's a lot of electronica and ambient stuff mixed in with lots of Carnatic music, some African, some Celtic, some drum n'bass and elements of classical music too. It was a lot of fun doing this record. I am now trying to find a good label to release it.

I have filmed an instructional guitar video on applications of carnatic music in Jazz imprvosation. I look forward to editing the footage soon and releasing it. It's a very special project and I think it will be well received by Jazz and guitar aficionados. I also have plans of putting out my compositions in the Jazz/Fusion idiom on a record soon - all the stuff that I have been playing live for many years and other material. Also, I plan to get a book out soon. I may do an orchestral project in Europe next year. There are so many projects in the pipeline- it's going to be exciting!


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